How do you be a mommy and have fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome? Well, that is a big question! And one I am going to try and answer in this blog post. My answers will stem from my personal experience which may be very different than yours, but hopefully you will be able to relate to my tips for today.
First of all, I got sick BEFORE I became a mom. I could barely take care of myself in the first two years of illness. I never would have been able to care for little ones during that time. I am so thankful that it happened in this order. I can see how devastating a fibromyalgia diagnosis would be in the middle of trying to raise a family. It would change everything, including relationships with your kids. There was a time when I didn’t know if I could ever handle being a mother because I was so sick, but God has blessed us more than I ever imagined. When we decided to have children, we knew full well that fibro/cfs would be a big part of parenthood and we felt prepared to handle things in spite of the illness.
Family is Priority.
I choose to “save” my energy for my family by saying no to other things in my life. I want my kids to have the best of me, not the leftovers. I guess this could apply to anyone, but illness forces me to make a conscious decision. I choose to spend my limited energy and try to focus on the people that matter most to me. I was telling a friend the other day, that I am constantly calculating my schedule. I am rationing my energy and trying to save some for the busy times. I try to schedule a “rest” time in my day, sometime after lunch, while kids are napping or reading, so that I can get refueled for the dinner, bath, and bedtime hours because those are the most hectic parts of the day. I don’t want to be so spent that I can’t participate in these routines. I only have these little people at home with me for a short season of life and I am doing my best to make the most of it.
Plan, Plan, Plan.
You all know how I am a little addicted to lists! I love them! I take some time at the beginning of each day and write myself a list of things that need to be done. I prioritize and start with the most pressing thing first. You can’t count on having energy later in the day to get things done. You never know when the energy will give out and a crash will come so, making a list and planning allows me some freedom to choose where my energy is most needed. Dinner hour is always a challenge for any mother. So, I have a little tip for you. I had a seasoned mother tell me that when your head hits the pillow at night, you should already know what you are having for dinner the next day. Dinner time is not a surprise – it happens every single day, so don’t let it sneak up on you. If you aren’t prepared then this can be the most stressful part of the day. And we all know what stress does to our bodies! Little ones are cranky when they are hungry. So, be prepared and get ahead of the game. This makes it easier on everyone in the whole family.
Ask for help or hire help.
I have extremely helpful parents and a husband who also is willing to jump in when I need him. They don’t know when I am in a flare. I have to tell them. Yes, at times it seems ridiculous (it’s not), but I have to just spell it out. “I am not doing well today. I need your help. Here is how you can help me the most. Is that something you can do for me?” Don’t beat around the bush. Nothing is more frustrating than assuming your loved ones know how you are feeling. They don’t. Most of the time my husband and parents are more than willing and able to assist me when all I can do is lay on the couch. When they aren’t able to help, well then, nothing gets done and that is just gonna be OK for today. If you can afford to hire some help, my opinion is that it is money wisely spent. Cleaning is the one thing that zaps every last piece of energy out of me. When Christmas, birthday, mother’s day, etc… rolls around I will often ask for the funds or gift certificates for someone to help me clean house. It’s not that I don’t like to clean, I think I am quite good at it, it just robs me of my day and then I have nothing left to give my family. Keeping up with the day to day clutter and everyday dishes/laundry/food prep for seven people is a fulltime job by itself. Hiring assistance for the deep weekly or monthly cleaning gives me a whole day’s worth of energy back. Totally worth it.
Sleep and rest.
Make sleep a priority. Not getting enough sleep not only affects my symptoms, but it makes me grouchy. Have you heard the expression, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? 🙂 Well, I believe it is so true that the mom often sets the tone for the whole house. When I don’t get enough sleep, I am grouchy and don’t feel well and then my whole family is affected. I know we all have sleep issues, but I am saying that what we are able to control, should be made a priority.
Prioritize Good Health.
As moms, we often put our own health on the back burner because we are so focused on taking care of everyone else. With chronic illness, we cannot afford to do that! I know there is little about fibro that we can control, but there are some things we can do in pursuit of wellness. We need to make sure we are taking our meds, supplements, and vitamins to keep us the best we can possibly be in spite of the illness. Also, eating right and exercising when we are able are ways we can take care of our bodies. We need to get yearly physical exams and follow ups with our physician concerning medications and blood work. We have some important people depending on us and making our health a priority will only help us be better for our kids!
Letting go of ideals.
Ah, this is a tough one. It’s hard for me. I want so badly to give mothering everything I’ve got. To do it well. To do it right! But I can’t do it the way I want to do it, so I have to let go of the ideal. This is actually a good thing, another blessing in disguise. Having to surrender my mothering because of illness has taught me a valuable lesson. I can’t do it all on my own. Healthy or sick, I shouldn’t be striving to do it all in my own strength anyway. Trusting God daily to show me how to be the best mother that I can be. Asking for practical wisdom and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading as I guide these little people into adulthood. It’s a privilege. And I am stubborn enough to try to do this in my own power – to be the perfect mom and have all the answers. But being sick keeps me from this self righteous attitude. And in hindsight, I am grateful for it.
My list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that God is control of it all. He sees our struggles. He knows how often we feel like failures, how hard we are trying, how it hurts us to not be the mother we desire to be, and how lonely it can feel when we don’t have the support that we want and some days we feel like we just can’t do it. Bring it all to God and lay it at His feet. He hears us, He loves us, He knows our pain. He doesn’t promise to take it away, but He does promise grace that is sufficient to get us through the tough times. Take it all to Him it prayer.
I know our day to day lives are unpredictable and I also know that between all of us who are reading this blog there are great differences along the spectrum of these syndromes. This illness shows up differently in each individual person that it attacks, but I hope that if you are a struggling fibromyalgia mom that you found something useful here today. If you have any other tips or stories you want to share with us about motherhood and illness, please do!
Thanks for reading! Blessings!