chronic illness

Parenting a Toddler with Chronic Illness

I would probably consider this post part III of my Identity Crisis series as being a mom with chronic illnessbut it has taken me so long to get around to it that I chose a different title (click here to read Part I about being a woman with chronic illness and click here to read part II about being a wife with chronic illness).  I think because I have finally come to the understanding that I don’t have a clue about how to find balance between motherhood and chronic illness when it comes to parenting a toddler!

Abby is now 19 months old and is WIDE OPEN. She tends to start everything a little early so the terrible 2’s are getting a head start in our household! Don’t get me wrong – she is an amazing and loving little girl but she can be so stubborn (like her mama) so it is causing some battles. Lately its seems that as my pain levels go up, my energy levels go down just as her energy stays up all the time!

And in all of her new learning (such as new words and new skills), she is also learning to test limits. I know that when I am flaring my emotions are in hyper-drive and my patience is hard to come by. So how on earth do you find balance? Is it possible? How do you keep a toddler entertained during a flare? How do you disciple with love and patience?

I am by no means an expert and do not claim to be. I am merely a mom with chronic illness learning as I go. So don’t expect to find any miracle cures to all toddler woes here! But what I have learned recently is that in order to take care of her I have to take care of me.

I have really struggled with how Abby will adjust to having a sick mom lately especially since being on temporary disability. Will she grow up thinking resenting it? Will she wish she had a different mommy? I have let this eat at me and I hate it. I have let chronic illness determine what kind of mom I will be and I refuse to let it happen for one more day. Chronic illness will impact every area of my life. There is no denying that. It is a part of who I am but it is not who I am. I am a mom with chronic illness but first and foremost I am a MOM. And that means the world to me.

So as much as I have wrestled the last two weeks being home on temporary medical leave, I have learned that in order to be the best mom I can be for Abby, it starts with taking care of me. The answer isn’t going to come from Happiest Toddler on the Block or Dr. Phil but my taking care of myself and my health, I can then be the best mom I can be for her and in the present, it means taking an absence from work. It means resting when I need to or asking for help for common chores. This allows me to have energy for her when she comes home from daycare. This allows me to respond to her toddler challenges with patience. This allows me to be fully present as much as possible and enjoy our time together so it won’t pass me by.

The toddler stage definitely comes with its challenges (as does every stage) but what I want most is to be able to take it all in – the good and the bad – as I know all too soon it will be over.

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10 comments on “Parenting a Toddler with Chronic Illness

  1. Khara says:

    Chronic illness or not I think this is something that every mother struggles with. Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? I am glad that you are finding a good balance for you and Abby. Good for you.

    • Jamee says:

      Thank Khara! My perfectionist tendencies seem to impact all areas of life and I think its been part of the hardest part of dealing with chronic illness. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in my questioning!

  2. Kim says:

    I have been struggling with the same things for so long. But I think its finally settled in that its just another hurdle that I will get over. What Ive decided is that I have to accept the bad days and make the good days GREAT. My 5 year old remembers the fun mom and while he has his days when he gets upset with me for not being able to do things, I always make up for them. Sometimes its something as simple as coloring together or cuddling up for a movie. My little one will be 2 next month and only knows the sick me. Last week was my breaking point. This week I kept my expectations low. No super big activites with the boys, no super time consuming meals. Ive tried to spend as much low key time with the boys as possible. Doing things they want to do. Try not to be so hard on yourself! I know its easier said than done. She will not resent you. I like to think that even if my boys see me struggle at times, they will also see me get back up. She will see how strong of a woman you are and she will be proud of you. Sending lots of hugs

    • Jamee says:

      Thanks Kim! I truly appreciate the encouragement! I have decided that accepting the bad days and making the good days great is going to be my new motto! Thank you for sharing your strength!

  3. Baffled says:

    Things that might help: try and find a baby sitting group where you can exchange hours (i.e. doesn’t cost anything), hire a kid from high school to come in for a few hours in the afternoon to help out with whatever even if it is just sitting and reading books with your child while you take a nap, find a playgroup so that your child will be entertained by other children while you look on adoringly.

    Being a mom is difficult enough when well. I can’t imagine trying to do this with CFS. I would have to have permanent help in the house. I’m lucky I didn’t get sick until my son was 17. He got to practice his driving skills by taking me to doctor appointments. Now I’m teaching him how to cook so that he can help out in the kitchen. I look at it as giving him life skills that he will need when he finally moves out.

  4. Judy Jeute says:

    You must, must, must remember that everyone was put in your path for a reason, including your special daughter. You are teaching her daily how to become a strong, independent woman even with a few major bumps in the road! Compassion and empathy are lessons taught in the home, and seem to have somehow been lost in this world today (maybe we’re all too worried about being tough?)… and I sincerely hope that our children are the ones who are going to bring it back! It sounds to me like you are doing a fantastic job.

  5. Chaplain Donna says:

    I think the fears you have about your child accepting you are the same for almost every parent. We want to make sure our children are raised correctly, we want to make sure we love them enough we want to make sure we educate them and feed the right. We want everything to be perfect! I found peace in realizing that we are not perfect. We can only do the best we can do and this will be more than enough for your lovely little one. They want to know you care and this takes a simple “l love you” when a tear is in their eye. It sounds like you have a great plan and I know things will be more than okay!

  6. Best of 2010 | A New Kind of Normal says:

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