I’ve been struggling with Mommy Guilt for years now. In our family, there’s always been the never ending doctor appointments for each of us, my chronic pain, fatigue and wondering if we should attempt any extracurricular activities. And on top of this, I have to make time for my own self care. It’s not an option any more. I’ve got to carve out the time for nutritious food and yoga or I’ll wind up on my back feeling like I’m of no use to any one.
Being a mom with chronic illness and pain is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live with. The mommy guilt is never ending. It’s hard for me to watch the families around me who are able to participate or at least just get their kids to the plethora of supplemental activities in our area.
It’s harder still to watch the happy pictures on my social media feed of happy families who simply get to do life without lots of forethought. Just like I used do to before cervical dystonia entered my life as a very unwanted houseguest in 2010, and ulcerative colitis in 2018.
In our family we have been blessed that as a retiree with a pension, my husband has been able to take over much of the care for our son and get him where he needs to be. My cervical dystonia diagnosis has also meant getting off the long wait for social services in Florida to get much needed assistance, and I’m profoundly grateful for that. God has shown his provision for our family, without a doubt.
When I was homeschooling, the anxiety began as I considered the school year calendar. For awhile I needed to access the pool at my health club 2 or 3 times a week to calm my spasming muscles. I didn’t know how I was supposed to manage that at the end of the day when I was typically exhausted and out of spoons. And there were the church and small group activities…of course you have to show up to feel part of but how does that work when you’re constantly leveled with fatigue? And then there were the 12 step recovery meetings that I really needed more than anything but was unable to get to.
These days, I find a lot of recovery and chronic illness support online. I know that “in person” is always best but am not sure what the alternative is in this season of my life.
Right now I don’t know how it’s all going to come together. It is labor intensive for the rest of my family. I’m working on better time management practices and organization. I have to continually pace everything so that I don’t overtax myself. I plan around the reality that some days my IBD is going to flare or my muscles are going to be spasming so much I don’t want to get out of bed, much less leave the house.
Some Tips for Coping with Mommy Guilt and Chronic Pain
Spiritual Disciplines – My journey with chronic pain has really developed my interest in prayer, meditation and the spiritual disciplines. Years ago in recovery rooms I learned that we only have a daily reprieve from our disease based on our spiritual condition. Taking that daily time with God helps the day to flow better, and I’m learning to continuously work on practicing the presence of God and developing a habit of unceasing prayer.
Self care – As moms, we tend to put ourselves last. I did it for years. In hindsight, I think my lack of self care set the stage for my autoimmune problems. I’ve learned (a little late in life) that when chronic pain or illness is a part of our lives, we have to make that time for our own wellness a priority. Self care isn’t selfish. Simplify your life as much as you can to minimize stress. For example, use your crockpot or instant pot for an easy dinner and to save spoons at the end of the day. Have your kids help clean the house. If you need a pajama day, it’s perfectly okay. And take full advantage of the convenience of online shopping.
Find what you love and just do it – I blog because I like it. Writing is a great release for me and I’ve loved learning all the technical ins and outs of blogging. It’s empowering to know that my brain still works. I also love yoga. When I could do little else besides lay on the couch and read, yoga gave me my physical life back and something to strive for. For you it might be quilting, crocheting or gentle gardening. Whatever it is for you, it’s a great mental distraction from the dailiness of chronic pain.
Communication – Talk with your family about your condition and how it impacts you without making them feel guilty or overwhelming them. You’ll have children who are more sensitive and patient. That being said, it is hard to watch them sacrifice over and over again.
Let go of Mommy Guilt – You’re a good mom (preaching to myself here.) You are enough. Do the best you can. Embrace life’s little moments as they come to you no matter where you are. Whether you’re on the couch or out and about, your children love you no matter what and appreciate what you do for them.
How do you find balance as a mom who lives with chronic illness?