Being a parent is tough— add a chronic pain condition to the mix and it can feel down right impossible. I am here to tell you that some days it does feel impossible, and I have to call in for backup–but over the past two years, I have developed some strategies for coping and surviving my toughest days while still being a present mom to my son.
1). Develop an outdoor/exercise routine— I am a routine girl–always have been. Even on the days I do NOT feel like going outside; I will still take my son for a walk around our neighborhood. Exercise has been proven to help with chronic pain, so I figure I should at least give myself a few minutes a day outside with a gentle walk If its a bad day, I will give myself 10 minutes of walking–and if I do not feel any better, we turn around and come home. On other days, after 10 mins, the pain may have subsided a bit and will allow me to finish our walk. The exercise and routine is good for ME but also WONDERFUL for my son.
My son is 21 months and LOVES being outside. We live in an area of the country that is fairly hot, so we have to do all our “outside time” early in the morning to avoid the scorching heat and humidity that can easily aggravate a migraine. When we return from our walk I will allow my son to play outside for a few minutes. Usually with sidewalk chalk or bouncing the ball around. I AVOID NOISY LOUD TOYS on days when I am having very high pain–it can exerastibate an attack very quickly! If it is an extremely hot day and my pain is rising quickly–we play in the garage for no more than 20 mins then come inside to cool down.
2). Easy meals/snacks– Meals…ugh..I feel like meals are one of the hardest parts of my day when I am having a bad attack. My son actually LOVES smoothies, so I will sometimes make he and I a smoothie on the days when I am feeling very nauseous. He thinks he is getting a treat, but actually I’m hiding lots of yummy veggies in his smoothie! 🙂
There are a few store bought items that I keep on hand if I am having a particularly bad day and JUST cant even put a sandwich together here are a few of my favorites:
TIP: Muffin Tin Snack Tray–If you search on pinterest you can find LOTS of ideas for healthy snacks. Here is one page that I particularly love! My son is still a little young to be left unattended with a snack tray–BUT I do put them together for him to have and bring them out during the day so he can choose what he would like to snack on. It helps me by not having to THINK too much during an attack (hello brain fog), and allows his toddler self to make choices (WHICH he loves!)Mothers Morning Out/Preschool
3) Mothers Morning Out/Preschool– I am currently a SAHM–with my health and little job prospects in our area–staying at home is my best option right now for our family AND my health. If you can afford it I would HIGHLY recommend a Mother’s Morning Out program. Often these are run through churches or community organizations and are VERY affordable. Being that my child is an only child, he doesn’t have any brothers or sisters to play with. And I am often feeling too crummy to get him to any sort of play group. So this option works well for my family. He goes two days a week for 3 hours. This has helped me TREMENDOUSLY! On days I feel ok, I can run errands—on days I feel horrible I can drop him off and come home and climb back in bed for a few hours. If you can make it work with your budget I would look into this. Just to give you an idea of cost, our church charges $115 a month for the two days a week–thats WAY cheaper than hiring a babysitter! All in all this has worked out well for our family because it gives me time to rest and provide some self care AND lets our son get some socialization with other children his age!
4) Quite indoor activities– Its a rainy or HOT day and we are stuck in doors ALL day—and my head is POUNDING—what do we do all day! Here is a list of things that I have found are perfect for this situation:
Going to the library and letting him pick out a few new books
Watching an educational show on TV (a few of our favs- Peppa Pig, Hey Duggie, Daniel Tiger, Bluey, The Twirly Woos, Booba (netflix); Little Baby Bum nursery rhymes (netflix/hulu)
Playing quietly on the floor with my son- cars, trucks, airplanes
Painting with water—we LOVE these Melissa and Doug Books–
TIP: AVOID and HIDE ALL TOYS WITH SOUNDS AND FLASHING LIGHTS!!!!!!! I have learned this the hard way! I will often tell my son that we will play with those toys OUTSIDE on another day, or when his dad gets home from work!
5) Nap when they nap–This phrase was repeated over and over again when my son was a newborn–but I have found it is equally effective now! Whenever my son goes down for a nap–I take a nap or rest. The dishes/laundry/housework can wait–your child needs you to be at the best you possibly can be–so allow yourself some grace and REST whenever possible!
TIP: Children are essentially little adults–so talking with your child about your chronic illness can be very beneficial. Since my son is so young, its a bit harder to explain to him the ins and outs of why Momma doesn’t feel well–but he knows it–Kids are so instinctive and can pick up on the subtle things you do (or don’t do ) when you are having an attack. This article , put together by the American Migraine Foundation gives some great talking points for talking to your children about your chronic condition.
All in all, having a chronic pain condition, makes parenting complicated; BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE! You just have to be more strategic about your energy and how many spoons you want to use up for the day. Some days, I admit, the most I can do is lay on the couch–AND THAT IS OK! Other days when I feel good, I will take my son to the park or to a local play group. The thing with chronic migraine is no matter what you do RIGHT, you sometimes JUST get an attack–and you have to be prepared for how to manage that and care for your children. Ill also admit that there are days that I know something is SO special and important to him that I will push aside my pain, slap on my sunnies and just do it—because that is what being a parent is ALL about–sacrifice.