The Mommy Race

The Mommy Race

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 rock!

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.

Liza Zoellick

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.


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Authored by: Liza Zoellick

Liza is a chronic pain warrior from Houston who has been chronicling her journey through chronic pain and illness on her blog: She is a frequent and valued contributor to the National Pain Report.

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I applaud all you moms out there doing what you can for your loved children. I’m a dad and children are grown and on their own and at the time they were home my wife and I did not have chronic pain. We both do now and at times almost unbearable. We deal with the usual bias of doctors ,pharmacists , etc. and sometime I wish I could trade my pain with them for a time maybe six months and think may change their attitude. It sure changed mine and have lived with chronic pain for 10 years. The first 7 years were tolerable and I had a life.
In the last 3 years my meds have been reduced from 50mg of hydrcodine to 10 and I await another surgery and the fusion on one surgery is pressing on a nerve and my sciatica is shooting thru the roof. Most days I have lighting bolts shooting down my legs.
I know a moms love and bond is so special my 81 year old mom gives me the mom love that helps to make it more bearable in my heart.
So again victory to you moms who love your children and do the best you can. Your have me as a cheerleader rooting you on.

Adam Selene

Being able to help the kids, make dinner, etc, is awesome, I find the pain almost overwhelming when trying to cook, but bottom line, you are still parenting Kudos for the extra effort !!

Jess Agee

I wanted to add that this article is really great & I really hope it helps some mom’s who go to bed wondering if they’re good enough! Personally I look back & often still wonder if I was good enough!? I mostly have people looking in from the outside judging me because I can’t work and do the things I once could before this PAIN! The pain that wasn’t my fault, the pain that makes me not be able to do the things I enjoy like taking a simple walk, going to the mall or shopping with my mom. Doing things with my own daughter, that I dreamed about when I had her. Taking my Autistic Son to concerts bc he lives for music, taking my 17 yrs old to amusement parks bc he’s a thrill seeker, going to the ocean which none of my kids nor I has seen. My husband has bf we met. Going on family vacations, working & being a productive part of society.. the list goes on. Does people really think we want this life!? I’d trade if I could, but than again I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I’d love to have my life back bf that horrible cervical spinal fusion in 07’ but all I can do is move forward & realize I’m doing my best & hope I was good enough. My 3 wonderful now young adults/ teen seems to think so. That’s what really matters at the end of the day, plus I have a bond that so many working families don’t/ can’t have with their children bc they’re working so hard, so I feel lucky to have been able to have spent so much time with my children. I have to look at the positive things & realize I did the best I could. I may go to bed at night thinking I wasn’t good enough & that’s normal. In my heart I know that I did & I hope you all can realize what us moms in Chronic Pain or who live with Chronic illnesses have to go through on a daily just to get out of bed & do the things we can to get through the day. One day at a time! Remember you’re good enough! This article helped me, I hope it helps someone else. Thank you again Liza for this article!

Jess Agee

Liza, thank you so much for this article! My kids are grown too & live at home. My oldest is 21 & is Autistic, he is a wonderful young man, my daughter is 19 & my 17 yr old works & he’s attending the career center in our area. They’re all doing great. I’ve been living in chronic pain since 07’ my kids we’re basically all toddlers at the time I had the surgery that decided my fate for the rest of my life. It was a cervical spinal fusion that lead to nerve damage,eventually fibromyalgia / CFS, brain fog ( cognitive dysfunction ),ADD , cervical arthritis, DDD , two more herniated disc above the plate in my neck, osteoarthritis in my hips, knees & possibly my hands & wrist. I have major anxiety ,depression & sleep issues. Everything hurts from my head to my toes. I have digestive issues as well. I remember when I had that surgery in 07’ like it was yesterday even though my memory is horrible from the fibromyalgia/ CFS ( fibro fog ). Also my ADD doesn’t help matters any. I was lucky enough to have my husband around right after the surgery to help with the kids. He had to go back to work & I was still in pain and under-medicated ( still am )I was in severe pain for that yr after the surgery. As hard as it was , I still had an Autistic child and 2 other children to take care of. I may not have been a single mom ,but my husband worked 2nd shift & slept a lot when he was home, when he wasn’t sleeping he was helping with dinner ,driving to the store & many appointments for me & our son with Autism. I never had my license for many reasons. So while I had a lot on my plate my husband did as well, come to find out later my husband had Crohns, Bipolar Disorder & he’s getting tested because he more than likely has lupus & has for years. I would go to bed every single night thinking about how bad of a mom & wife I was! How my kids are missing out on so much bc of my pain & seeing my pain was hard for them.

Maureen M.

HI Liza, yet another awesome post! Thank you for bringing to light the struggles of being a chronically ill mama. I was a single mom from the time my daughter was age 4 (she’s 37 with her own children now). My pain journey began when she was in elementary school. I injured my back lifting a patient (I was a nurse) and had my 1st lumbar fusion a year later. I developed Chronic pain and CRPS. It was in the early 90’s. My life as a mom and a nurse became extremely challenging. I was on disability for 2 yrs which meant living on a whole lot less. Her friends went on school trips that she couldn’t go on since I could barely afford groceries. Our ‘big deal dinner night out’ meant driving through McDonalds or Taco Bell. It truly became a big deal for us to be able to do that! Fast forward… I got back to work but pain ruled my life and everything I did outside of work. I struggled with learning how to accept and navigate it. I became known as ‘Maureen with the bad back’. My limitations were becoming evident to all. All of this effected her over time and she rebelled in her late teens. We were ‘2 peas in a pod’ before then and had an awesome life living in beautiful healthy San Diego! but my Pain Condition and ongoing limitations changed that, to this day. She distances herself from me and has been tired of hearing about my issues since. She moved 3000 miles from me. I will never understand her in that regard but that is what my life in pain has done to me and to her.
To this day she will say that I was the best mom (and Dad) ever! and taught her so much about appreciating the little things in life.
I see her passing on my teachings to her own kids now. But, pain interrupted a more beautiful thing between mom and child. I’ve gone on to having had a total of 4 spine surgeries after a woman speeding and on her cell slammed into my car in 2004, broke my original fusion and changed my life forever.
It is what it is and I continue to keep smiling and do my best.


I so remember I was working picking up my daughter taking her everywhere one day 13 yrs old I said drive the car I just can’t she sure learned quick taking her to Isralie outings gymnastics ECT ECT .. As I was placed in lite duty otj.. Weekend s off great hours back to work after EVERY back neck surgeries.. Hardly slept fighting all the time I so get it . now in PT for back .. I am fighting yr kids are probably younger it started when mine was 11 . I did not have a back or neck surgeries until all my options were out .but I fight everyday . it will never end .. Right now today I cancelled a trip next month to Cuba .. I am only focusing on me and my beautiful Daughter I have no time for toxic negative ppl .. Gd is good I have faith i don’t focus on chronic pain I actually look forward towards PT I FEEL sore but I also feel great results .. I love and live for my girls. Making them happy makes me happy .. Don’t worry mommy thing will get better

Amen sister! I admire you beyond belief. You “always” put it straight from the heart. I needed to hear what you had to say, your timing couldn’t have been any better!
Prayers and hugs to you Liza 💕

Amen girl. I think social media is pretty much a plague on our society specifically and on human decency in general. Some blogs, yes, are helpful or at least try to be. But, by and large, social media is a breeding ground for bias, prejudice, hate, and judgement of our fellowmen…which is NOT our job. I raised two daughters the best way I knew how while struggling with treatment Resistant depression (hospitalizations,ECT, deep brain stim surgery), migraine, and then chronic pain arrived on the scene. (But, mistakes were made, many my fault and I pray for forgiveness daily.) I guess migraine wasn’t considered chronic pain in those days. And, I beat myself up continuously for my perceived and real shortcomings. I still do at times. I questioned God throughout my life about Why me? But, I believe anyone who struggles does that, i.e. all of us. My heart goes out to you and all the mommas who do the best they can, most of the time, to raise their children with love, compassion toward themselves and others, and a strong sense of right and wrong. I struggle with all the same issues (without migraine now, thank you menopause) and especially now seeing the myriad ills our society is faced with… I’ll spare you the list. It’s Sunday morning, and before I go to church, I want to thank God for his mercy and love as well as for all the mommas especially my Momma! out there raising the leaders, caretakers, and maybe even doctors of tommorow. Exit, stage left, tissue in hand.