Posted in Chronic Pain, Motherhood, Questions

Parenting and Chronic Pain


When I check the searches to my site, this one stands out: How Can I be a Good Mother When I Suffer from Chronic Pain? This is a question that I ask myself almost daily but I realize that I am not alone here. There are thousands and even millions of young mothers trying to make sense of motherhood and chronic pain and while they shouldn’t really go together, they often do. I used to believe that we were a minority group but it turns out that there are millions who parents out there who live with the reality of chronic pain on a daily basis.

 

Parenting is hard but parenting with you live with chronic pain is really hard. Parenting means you draw attention from yourself and give it to your children because they need you. That is really hard when you are in pain daily but the sad reality is that you are not the only one suffering from the affects of your pain. Children whose parents suffer from chronic pain have many questions and are often insecure about the future. The best thing a parent can do is be open with children about pain and while this is difficult, it is a necessity to make your child feel at ease. 

 

I am a mother to a toddler and a preteen. My toddler understands that mommy hurts and I find that on the days that I am most stressed out with pain, he knows because he starts to act out. For example, the other night, I had an ice pack under neck because I was having excruciating pain in my neck and shoulder muscles. The pain was so bad that I was near tears. My toddler looked at me with the saddest eyes, laid down next to me and wanted to be held. I did not know how to respond but I knew he understood and one of the things I have learned is that I can’t hide my pain from my kids. I hugged my toddler, told him that mommy’s ouchie would go away soon and that I would play when him when the ouchie was gone. 

 

My ten year old has questions about how the future and whether things will get worse for me. I tell him that I am doing everything I can so that I do not get worse. He worries about our schedules and routines and often asks what he can do to help. He wants to know who will take care of his brother and him and wants to know that someone will. For me, my honesty holds more clout than my telling him that “I don’t know” or that “I will be better tomorrow” when he knows that may not be true. 

 

I don’t know what my response will be when they get older and if my condition worsens. I just know that life for them isn’t easy because I am not healthy. I also know that they understand empathy and a lot of their peers don’t and never will. I know that they know honesty and openness and they know how to be caring and sensitive. The best a parent can do is share their good days with their children because those are days that help them get through when bad pain days come. It is also important that parents stay on top of their children’s moods and behaviors because children are equally affected when a parent suffers from chronic pain. 

 

I have dealt with chronic pain for a number of years now and I know how challenging it makes parenting. I often find myself irritable and crabby and it does not make me a pleasant person. That is why I have learned the importance of being honest with my children and not making promises that I cannot keep. Hiding my pain is not good for any of us. I also see my ten year old trying to turn into my caregiver and that is where I have to draw the line and I think that is where every parent has to draw the line. As parents, we need to be the responsible parties for our health and for our children’s security. That means we have to continue to be parents with chronic pain who pay particular attention to how our children are affected.

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16 thoughts on “Parenting and Chronic Pain

  1. Hey girl!I hope your neck pain has lightened up. Back and neck pain is just awful. Great post about parenting. Relate to so much having four guys of my own. One of my guys has been asking a lot of questions in regard to whether he will ever suffer from a chronic illness. This one is tough. They are such prayer warriors too. Always praying and asking all the time if I feel better. This one is tough too but allows me to share with them the strength and courage God gives me. I have a couple of awards and words for you at my blog. I know you've already received the awards. But I couldn't not include you in my awards list. You are amazing!

  2. "I also see my ten year old trying to turn into my caregiver and that is where I have to draw the line …"While I understand your concern over having fibro and RA as you try to raise your children, this sentence gave me pause. Why would you "draw the line" at allowing your 10-year-old to be a caregiver? I agree that if you were to take advantage of his care for you, or expect him to handle more than he reasonably should, then there's a "line" which should not be crossed. But if he offers his help out of concern and compassion for you, or if you occasionally ask for his help (as you would anyone else, when you need it), what's wrong with that? Allowing your boy to show his compassion and concern for you is a wonderful example for him as he grows older. Just as your toddler cuddles you instinctively when you hurt, so does the older child try to take care of you. I hope, Lana, that you don't brush off such things, trying to "be strong." RA and fibro are hard enough without rejecting the few offers of empathy and compassion we get from day to day. And having the opportunity to show those emotions and act upon them helps children to grow into kinder, gentler adults.

  3. Kelli – thanks for stopping by. Still dealing with the neck, shoulder and back pain – the changes in weather can do a number on our symptoms. Kids are smart and the best thing we can do is be honest and tell them the truth. Wren – I don’t mind that ten year old helps and I encourage him to help out with his brother and household tasks but I do not want him to take care of me. That is really what it comes down and I am lucky to have such a kind and compassion child who would do anything for his brother and me but I do not want him to have to take on more than a child should. I agree with what you are saying and I know that you really understand this considering you raised your daughter while dealing with the similar pain. Thanks for always offering your wisdom for the last couple of years; it means and has helped more than you know.Phoenix – It can be difficult but my children know more empathy than most adults. They are kind and compassionate and I am very proud of them for that despite the circumstances. I cannot change my diagnoses but I can allow my children the truth – that is all any parent can offer.

  4. I thought this post was really excellent, I so appreciate you writing it 🙂 As a 24 year-old woman looking forward, I find myself having the same worries you spoke about. How can I be a mom while I'm in so much pain? Thanks for showing that motherhood is still possible and enjoyable – and not only that, but that illness can contribute to creating even better and more empathetic little people. xoxo-Maya (www.lovingwithchronicillness.blogspot.com)

  5. Well said Lana. My boys are now 16 & 17 and my daughter is 24 with 2 children of her own. But I have been there! One of the hardest things I remember is not being able to get down on the floor and play or be able to carry them as they got a little older. My daughter learned when she was just a baby that for me to pick her up she had to hold on tight around my neck. Our children are so adaptive and caring and show great empathy for us and others around them. And yes, always answering with the truth is very important! Peace and blessings to you all!PS i could stay all day and listen to the music – love it!

  6. I struggle with this so often and want so badly to put on a brave face for my kids so they don't remember me always hurting. But they question why I take a hot bath sometimes twice a day or can't get off the couch. I love what you posted about this, you made me feel so much better!

  7. Maya- You would be surprised how strong you are and how strong being a mother makes you. I touched on the issue of wanting children in another post titled “Fibromyalgia and Pregnancy.” Take a look at it – it goes into the anxieties of deciding whether to have children with chronic illness. And you – Maya – have such a giving a heart and that will make a wonderful mother some day so don’t let your health discourage you. Cindy – Thank you. You are absolutely right about children being empathic, sympathetic, caring and adaptive. So glad you like the music.Rachel – Sometimes a brave face does keep smart children from knowing and your kids will not remember that you hurt. What they will remember is how you taught them kindness and strength all at once. When they ask questions, tell them the truth and reassure them that you are doing everything you can be their mother in the best way that you know how. Parenting is not perfect and it is different in every home so cut your some slack. It takes a lot to get past the perceptions of being super moms and super women. In your kids eyes, you are perfect no matter what.

  8. I agree Lana, young mothers should not have to fight chronic pain while raising a family. I honestly don't know how all of you do it. However, in my opinion, having to battle with chronic pain does not keep you from being a good mother/parent. While it most certainly limits your physical activities worth your children, it can't keep you from loving and teaching them. In fact, they are learning lessons in life, at an early age, that some kids never do learn. I agree that we don't need our young kids turning into caregivers, but the fact that you have a 10 year old more concerned about his mother's health than how am I going to get to football practice speaks volumes in his maturity level.

  9. Thank you Terry for these kind words. My ten year old is mature beyond his years and while, I love that about him, I sometimes hate that my health is the reason He is an amazing son and big brother and I know that because I see how my toddler’s face lights up when his brother enters the room. I am grateful for wisdom that my health has given us all but at the same time; it does make me sad to watch my son try to be older than he really is. I know half of that is how raised him and the other half is my health so I am proud.

  10. I know this is late, 2yrs to be exact, but I just found this page now. Lol! Lana, I like what you wrote about being open and honest with our children about our pains and difficulties. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 12 yrs ago when I was 28. I was a single mom of an 8yr old with ADHD at the time. I never wanted to burden my son with my illness, but when the symptoms took over my body and left me numb and immobile for days at a time from the neck down, what other choice did I have? We shared such a close bond even before my illness and all he wanted to do at that time was to stay home and take care of me instead of running around outside with his friends. He worried so much about me, but did a good job of keeping it to himself. I hated the feeling of his childhood being stolen from him. He always felt bad leaving me alone, but there were times I made sure he got out to enjoy being a kid with the rest of his peers. I did notice though that through all of this, my son became such a kind, unselfish, giving, caring, and sensitive young man. His teachers and everyone he came in contact with had nothing but great things to say about him all the time. He was constantly being showered with praises, love, and affection every day. As he grew older, I became stronger and learned better how to cope with my physical difficulties. I did take him to see a therapist once a week all through his school years, to give him a male outlet, to confide in and help him sort out his feelings about his daily struggles with ADHD and mom’s Fibro. He turned out to be a pretty intelligent young man with all the tools he needs to be independent and resourceful. I still hear all the good things about him from people all over, his friend’s parents, his coworkers, current girlfriend and other business associates of his. I too have been seeing a therapist since he started his own. In some ways it forced my son to grow up and mature too fast, but now as I see him out on his own, I am comfortable knowing that he has the skills he needs and he’s very capable of taking care of himself and others. Yes, another trait he acquired, caregiver to everyone. Now that he’s able to express to me how he felt all those years ago, he still doesn’t blame me, he realizes that I didn’t choose to live this way and knows that I would’ve done anything to ensure that he knew he was very much loved.

    Now I have a highly spirited 2yr old son, still single and struggling every day to make the best of every ounce of energy I have for him. I struggle with the guilt of knowing what my physical abilities did to me 12 yrs ago and here I am trying to raise another one on my own with more physical difficulties and much less strength than I had with my first son. I actually went into this last pregnancy with the intentions of being married and raising him together, but at 3 months, his father left us for a much younger woman, who was only a few years older than his older daughter from a past relationship. He knew how hard it was going to be for me with my medical issues, he always reassured me that he would always be there for me, for us, no matter what, he wouldn’t leave us for anything, he loved us too much to ever hurt us like that. Well, he couldn’t get out fast enough, once our son was born, he knew he had responsibilities, but didn’t want them. Instead he wanted his freedom. I’ve been raising my son the entire time since he’s been born completely on my own, the first 3 months of his life, his daddy spent running out the door with new excuses daily, new shifts at work, “promotions” at work demanding more of his time, and the kicker, frequent “business trips”!! He never spent a day home with his son. He was too busy trying to keep up with his little girlfriend, oops I mean girlfriends! The night our son was born he couldn’t wait to rush out and say he was going home to get a few things to spend the night at the hospital. When all the time I spent putting stuff together for myself, he very well could have too! Instead he ran into the arms of one of the two younger girls he was cheating on me with! I’m just now finally able to start getting stronger for my sons and myself. I was petrified facing being a single parent again after 18yrs. at the age of 38! I never thought then that I would be this strong and capable of handling this all on my own, but I am and believe me, every day is a struggle, but it’s well worth it. Without the negative influences of his womanizing father, I have a better chance at raising another confident, well adjusted, sensitive, kind, caring, unselfish young man who is respectful of women and knows he is loved and can show love in return. I am doing everything I can to better myself, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Yes, that man took a toll on me and my 20 yr old son as well, but we’re much better than that and with this new found strength and knowledge, we will move forward and surround ourselves with only positive healthy people who aren’t afraid to truly love and be loved.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Thank you for coming by and taking the time to read my blog post. You definately have been through a lot. I also feel that you will be fine this time around. You have given yourself the necessarily tools to be sick and to be independent at the same time. Motherhood teaches us alot but mostly it teaches how strong we can be in face of adversity. So continue to hold your help up high lady because life has handled your lemons and you have made the sweetest lemonade. You have an amazing son there so do not feel too guilty about being sick because he has turned into an amazing young man who has learned kindness and compassionate and like you, he has become stronger in the face of adversity. Read through the other comments under this post and you will see that you are alone. Gentle hugs to you and I hope that you will continue to enjoy reading my blog.

  11. I am 31, a mom to a 2, 4, & 11 year old with sever ADHD. I have many health issues including multiple chronic pain 1s, & anxiety. It all ads up to a great combo of course as we all understand. So glad I stumbled across this!

    1. Definitely not an easy road but you are not alone in this battle.There are millions of parents out there dealing with the same thing.

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