Chronic Pain Has Changed Me as a Parent But I’m Trying to Rebuild My Life
By Alison Tedford
Photo © tampatra/Twenty20
Jan 13, 2020
My son has seen a lot of things in his 12 years. Most of the hard stuff is because of my chronic pain.
I have a joint condition that makes my life uncomfortable. Because of it, he’s seen happy days when pain is low and hard days when pain is high. He’s seen me at my parenting best when I come up short of my own expectations. He’s seen how pain can change me from the warm and cheery mom he loves to a puddle of sad wrapped in a burrito of blankets.
I’m not proud of everything he’s seen, but I am proud of some things.
Chronic pain is a real struggle for many people. Read another parent's perspective here.
He’s seen me ask for help
My son knows he doesn’t have to do everything himself when he’s an adult because I’ve shown him it’s OK to ask for help. Some days I can do everything and some days I can do some of what needs to be done. Other days I can do nothing at all. Thankfully, we have a close-knit community of people who love us who pitch in when they can. We try to reciprocate that support when we can.
He’s seen me reinforce boundaries
My son has heard me say no and he’s learned you don’t have to say yes just because someone wants you to.
I’ve modelled that you can decline or refuse gracefully, kindly and compassionately. When you have chronic pain you need to prioritize your energy expenditures and if you say yes to everything you will burn out or suffer more pain than is necessary.
He’s seen me rebuild my life
When the way we lived wasn’t working for my pain, he watched me launch a business, tinker with it and restructure it to meet my needs.
He witnessed that you can walk away from something you spent a lot of time building and build something different. I wanted to demonstrate that new things can be equally good or better and that change can be good.
He’s seen me self-advocate
I have to negotiate my accessibility needs in some situations, like if I need a seat or an elevator. Or whether I need to dictate instead of hand write. My son has watched me educate people about my condition and try to maintain a sense of humour about it, even if I'm repeating myself for the millionth time.
He’s seen me stand up for myself on days my legs aren’t strong enough and challenge the assumptions of people who don’t understand you don’t have to be old to have a disability.
He’s seen me let go of perfectionism
I have always been a perfectionist. I want things done just so and I have impossibly high standards for myself. But when I’m hurting, "good" and "done" are better than perfect.
My son has seen me try and do my best, and he's seen me giving myself permission to understand that is enough. I hope he’s learned he doesn’t have to be perfect either.
He’s seen me release the mom guilt
He knows I can’t do all the mom things I would like to do and he understands. I learned that If I do something I really shouldn’t do, I’m not modelling that we should honour our bodies and taking care of ourselves.
I am just as worthy of care as any other member of my family. That doesn’t change just because I’m the mom.
I’m not the mom I expected to be because of chronic pain. Even if I’m not the mom I wanted to be, I would like to think that I’m still a “good” mom. My son has seen a lot in his 12 years, sure, but whether I’m warm and cheery or a puddle of sad, he knows I’m doing my best and that I love him.
And I can be proud of that.
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