This one is for all the mothers out there who I know that are struggling with chronic pain and illness while being a mummy and who don’t feel like they’re measuring up to other mummies out there.
You are amazing!
You blow my mind!
I don’t know how you manage, except that you don’t have a choice. Being a mom didn’t come with sick days or vacation time and you’re on call 24/7, and despite all the feminism movement out there, in the majority of households, it’s the mom who takes care of the children when the kids get sick, because it’s mum who is home with the children.
When I was thinking about this piece, I thought about how different my life was compared to my children and I also thought about how different my children’s lives were compared to small children today. My kids range in age: 25, 22, 19 & 18, all girls. Just got the youngest started in college, but they still all live at home. It’s cheaper, they won’t have huge college loans and I’m hoping once they all move out, they won’t be staring at the kind of debt I was. That aside, when they were small, our days were spent split up between playing games, coloring/art, learning activities and going outside to the park and them playing together as a group.
I am on social media a lot because of my writing, keeping up with various chronic pain and illness groups and I listen to a lot of young mums who are struggling in this New Modern Era of activities for the kids. I listen to my friends and family who aren’t chronically ill, who have young kids, who are running their small kids from dance, to cheerleading, to horseback riding lessons, to soccer, to gymnastics to rugby, to cello lessons and piano lessons, to acting lessons and voice lessons, etc., etc. The list could go on in a house of multiple children, with each child having several activities and one or more parent running helter-skelter to get them back and forth after school and back home, by which time it is usually late in the evening and then there is dinner and homework, shower and bed. It’s a pretty ruthless schedule for both parents and children even if you a stay-at-home parent; if you have a parent with chronic illness/pain, it’s brutal.
What can make everything worse is social media, where everything is depicted as perfect and where friends, instead of helping one another, tear one another down. Examples: I’ve seen mothers who are struggling with chronic illness/pain, who are trying to get their kids to soccer practice and gymnastics, who come home and are exhausted, and instead of making dinner tear open some chicken nuggets and mac & cheese. They post about their day with the kids, dinner included and how they managed to get everything done and are finally able to relax, watch their favorite show with a glass of wine, and instead of checking the box labelled victory, parents are everywhere are criticizing about dinner. It’s not organic. How could you feed your little athlete that? Aren’t you worried about the chemicals? Shame on you! A few posts later, I get a chuckle where mum retaliates: Actually, the chicken nuggets are organic. And the mac and cheese are by Annie’s which is also organic. Yeah, it might be store-bought and processed, but it’s about as close to home-made as they’re going to get tonight, so bugger off. This not an exact quote, but you get the idea. Meanwhile, I’m mentally cheering her on, because we’ve all done it. We’re not all the epitome of health and organic good for you, as much as we’d like to put out a good, home-cooked meal for our kids, there are nights we just can’t. Instead of bullying our fellow parents about it, we should be saying, “You know what, you did your best. It’s okay.” Even if we were not plagued by chronic illness/pain, we’re just plain busy and life gets in the way, so we do the best we can. Taking short-cuts don’t make us bad Mums or Dads. Not having our kids in all the sports and activities, don’t make us a bad Mum or Dad, it just makes us a good parent, knowing our limit, because if we know our limit, we can give our children the attention they need.
I think social media is brutal, not only for teenagers, and younger children but for adults too. We see these perfect lives, where our friends who may or may not have these chronic illnesses are in this race to do all these things for their kids and then document it by the millisecond. Everyone has a grinning face in the snap-shot, but after that photo is taken, do you know what happens? I do. I grimace. I go lie down. I go to take my medicine. I think it is important to remember that when you take a picture, everyone is putting their best face forward. And if they’re like me, they’re using a filter- you’re seeing things literally through rose-tinted glasses; what you are seeing on social media is staged and you aren’t a bad parent if you can’t do it all. Parenting isn’t about doing it all anyway. It’s about doing your best for your child. Giving all your love to your child. Those are the kind of things your child will remember. Forget the race and be kind to yourself. Tear open the Chicken Nuggets and Mac and Cheese (Organic of course) and sit down with a glass of wine, turn on a movie and snuggle on the couch with the kids and enjoy some relaxation time with the kids. These are the moments you want to remember.