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.