Tips for spending time with your kids without spending all your energy.read more
There’s a certain amount of guilt that comes with parenting when you discover you are ill. Being too tired to walk, to play, as symptoms of multiple sclerosis, can make you feel like you are failing as a parent. You try to keep your normal routine – working to provide for your family and then working more at home, can create additional challenges and guilt.
I struggled hard with guilt at the beginning of my diagnosis until one day my friend Jess, said “Jamie, enough.” She sent me a post about “Parenting from the Couch.” More importantly, she made me realize that I was giving it my all, trying to balance a career, family and dealing with my illness and there’s no time or place to feel guilty about that.
You learn to accept this as you continue through your MS journey. For me, life was about adapting, thanks to being a special education educator. Those who can adapt, situation-to-situation, are the survivors. It’s science. Keeping that in mind, I would recommend letting go of the guilt and getting creative with your parenting techniques. The level of creativity while parenting from the couch will vary depending on how progressed you are, how many children you have, how much help you have, and even how much money you have. Keep that all in mind.
From my time being sick and being a mom, here are some things I’ve learned that I hope will help you along the way.
Incorporate Illness (Yes, Illness) into Play
I’m so tired all the time that often playing with my children just doesn’t always seem like an option. Luckily for me, and for other parents living with MS, kids are crafty. They ask me to lie on the floor and build me into a city landscape with their building blocks. The principal at school told them that when mommy isn’t feeling well they should crawl onto the couch and do all kinds of crazy things with my hair and then pose with me. I happily, albeit embarrassingly, oblige. While I’m resting I also do my best to play with them – and I encourage them to draw, color or do puzzles. And of course, there are always books! Make sure you are stocked – books are lifesavers.
Food is a No-Brainer
Food is a biggie with kids. When I’m relapsing and home alone with my kids, I encourage them to eat healthy but easy meals they can put together on their own, like cereal. If we can splurge for take out for dinner and get delivery, I’ll do it. In the end, it saves me so much energy and the children see it as a treat.
Build Your Support Team
Everyone should have a go-to team for back up. I don’t have a whole entourage of a support system, but I have at least one person who I can always count on – my mother-in-law. Find someone who understands the challenges you’re up against, who can help and pitch in with the kids when you need to rest. Rest is what you need to heal.
I’m honest and open with my children about my illness. They know I wish I could get up and play with them like other parents can, and I always let them know how blessed I feel on the days that I’m still able to physically play with them. On the days I can’t, we remain grateful and get creative in how we spend time together. No guilt allowed. We make it work. It is amazing how good the children are when I am at my worst. How much they chip in and try to help. Kids rise to the occasion, and as MS thrivers – so do we.
If you have any tips on parenting from the couch, especially as to how that changes across the spectrum, or stories about that guilt you feel while parenting with a sickness, please share with us on Facebook. I find comfort in knowing others struggle with the same issues as me, and still overcome being tired, with nothing less than joy and love in their hearts. You inspire me. Always.