“Mommy, will you play with me?”
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“I’m sorry honey, Mommy isn’t feeling well right now. Maybe in a little bit.”
Unfortunately, this conversation repeats itself multiple times every single day in my home, and it breaks my heart.
Hey y’all, Tiffany here.
Phillip and I have two children – a 5 year old girl and a 2 year old boy.
And I have severe Crohn’s disease, along with fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, arthritis, migraines, and whole host of other health issues.
I’ve had to be admitted to the hospital close to 40 times in our 6 ½ years of marriage.
I’ve never known motherhood without being sick, but I was a teacher for several years until my health forced me to stop. There are so many moms who spent their first years as mothers perfectly healthy, only to be struck down with illness later on.
It is so easy to become discouraged. To feel like a failure as a mother. To weep when all you want to do is spend time with your children doing the things you used to be able to do, but no longer can.
It’s a grieving process, in a way. You have to mourn the “death” of the healthy, active person that you once were. At some point, however, you need to move forward with the “new” you.
Here are six ways, from this “professionally sick” mom, that you can still feel like a good mother in spite of your health complications.
Start Counting Your Spoons
If you haven’t heard of the Spoon Theory, you need to stop right now and go read it.
Seriously, go read it, then come back.
Did you read it yet?
You need to recognize that you now have a finite number of spoons each day. You need to pace yourself and use them wisely.
You may have to choose between using spoons to clean the house or using spoons to take your kids to the park. And that is okay.
If you do too much one day, then you’re going to not have enough spoons to do anything the next day (or even the next week!).
Think of it like running a marathon. At the beginning, you have a lot of energy, but you don’t sprint! You pace yourself, so that you don’t run out at the end. If you sprint, then you’re going to die halfway through the marathon.
Do people judge the marathoner for pacing themselves at the beginning? No! In fact, they applaud their wisdom in not burning themselves out at the beginning of the race.
And if you don’t believe me, this is backed up by scripture!
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
This applies to you as well. Use wisdom with your limited energy resources so that you can be there for your children on a regular basis, instead of coming in spurts that use up all your spoons for the rest of the week.
One of the most difficult things we mothers with health issues face is having to ask for help. It can feel like admitting you’re a failure as a mom when you have to ask another mom for help (especially when that mom seems like they can do it all!).
But remember, your spoons are limited. If someone has offered help in the past, take them up on it! Give them a call and say, “Hey, I am not feeling well today. Can you ___?”
Here are some things that people can do to help:
- Double whatever they’re making for dinner to share with you
- Grab some things for you at the grocery store while they’re already running errands
- Invite your kids along when they take their own to the park
- Send over their teenager to “babysit” while you take a nap
- Trade services (I trade math tutoring for yard work, cleaning, or babysitting)
Find Educational Screen Time Options
As much as we try to limit how much television our children watch, there are some days where you physically cannot parent much.
I give you permission to turn on the TV.
Seriously, there are some days where you can barely get out of bed. We call those “cozy days.” The kids stay in their PJs, build forts, and watch TV.
I try really hard to find educational TV shows for my children to watch. I’m kind of a snob about it, actually. (Honestly, not even Sesame Street is educational enough for me!)
If you aren’t sure where to start, here’s a list I’ve made of my favorite educational TV shows.
Set a Timer
When my children ask me to play with them, and I know that I am not feeling the best that day, I try to always say yes.
To help me conserve my spoons, though, I set a timer on my phone. Depending on how many spoons I have that day, it may only be three minutes, and it may be playing Barbies on my bed together. But my kids will remember that I said yes.
And if you are struggling to feel good about yourself when the timer has ended, take the time to go over this huge list of over 150 songs, talks, scriptures, and more to raise your spirits.
Along with the difficult days, you are also going to have good days! When you do have a good day, make sure to take advantage of it. Don’t overspend your spoons, but try to be proactive throughout the day.
I find it helpful if I use those days to plan for the days that will be difficult. If I feel well enough to make dinner, I double the recipe and stick half of it in the freezer for later. (Get a list of my favorite make-ahead meals here.)
I also try to find tools that will help me on the difficult days. My Instant Pot and crockpot are my favorite kitchen appliances at the moment. I like to prepare gallon-size bags of crockpot freezer meals, and I have my favorite easy Instant Pot recipes that are my go-to for difficult days.
And despite what Pinterest and social media tell you, it is okay if you give your kids goldfish or fruit snacks, instead of organically-grown fruits cut into shapes and laid out in the shape of a Picasso painting on a hand-painted plate.
Find Ways to Play
Pinterest is full of ideas on things you can do/play with your children from the couch or bed! Some are a bit age-dependent (you can’t play Monopoly with your 3 year old!), but you can find things to do at every age level.
At the end of the day, what’s most important is that your children know they are loved. Hopefully these tips will help you demonstrate that. But just remember, you are enough. Just the way you are.