One of the things I most detest about chronic illness is that it keeps me from doing things with my 5 year-old daughter, Zoey. I hate watching from the window as she and Demetri walk up the street, hand in hand, to go sledding. I hate telling her I can’t take her out on her scooter because I can’t walk more than a couple short blocks. I hate saying no to a craft project because it involves a trip to the craft store and I just don’t have the energy. I want to be a mom who says, YES, let’s go build the biggest snowman ever! YES, I’ll take you for a bike ride! YES, we can break out the glitter, the felt, and the glue gun and not care if we spill everything all over the floor! YES, you can go to every single birthday party you are invited to because I have the energy to buy gifts and to drive you! Yes yes yes!
But I’m not that mom. Coming to terms with being unwell involves coming to terms with my limitations as a parent. It’s painful to not be able to give your child everything she wants. And I don’t mean in terms of toys and clothes and knock-off American Girl dolls. It’s heart breaking to not be able to give your child all the attention and experiences she wants and deserves. My kid is lucky. She has a virtual team of people who love her — who take her places and teach her things and listen to all that she says with incredible attention, patience, and interest (even when it involves detailed theories about ferret poop).
I am not always that person. And I am learning to be okay with that. I am working on acknowledging and taking care of the unwell parts of me. I am taking myself out of the picture when I need to because of pain and fatigue. Even when I think I need to keep pushingpushingpushing because the guilt and sadness and not-being-enough-ness will flood in if I stop. Removing myself when my body and mind are overwhelmed is part of a strategy in fighting off Mean-Yelling-Snappish mom. My goal is to be the best mom I can be when I am around — Attentive-Engaged-Patient-Funny Mom.
Being my best mom self involves me spending special time with Zoey every single day. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s 2 hours. Sometimes it’s an entire lovely morning. I’m holding on to the thought that quality, not quantity matter most. I’m telling myself that it doesn’t matter what we do, but how we do it together. Sometimes I pull her into my lap and we read. Sometimes we lay on the floor in a puddle of winter sun and build legos. Sometimes we draw. And sometimes we throw raucous dance parties and the dog goes into hiding because she just can’t handle our amazing dance moves.
Yesterday was a day I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get in that special time. In the morning I went to the doctor and got a cortisone shot in each foot in hopes that it will allow me to walk more than 3 blocks total in a day. (ohmygosh it was painful and way more bloody than I expected. Just had to share.) A few hours after I got home, I wasn’t able to walk at all. Touching my feet to the floor (or any surface) was excruciatingly painful. I was crawling to the bathroom. I called the doctor who told me this wasn’t normal and offered to write me a prescription for pain meds. Which I would have to go pick up in person at his 3rd floor office in a building with a BROKEN elevator and a parking garage ACROSS THE STREET. So, I said, “Um, I’m CRAWLING to the bathroom.” And he said, “Huh.” So I didn’t get the prescription.
Later in the afternoon, my parents brought Zoey home. After she showed me some art work and we talked a bit, I could feel that oh-my-god-I’m-in-pain-and-it’s-making-me-snippish-and-mean feeling coming on. So I was smart and went for the TV. There was a time when I wouldn’t have done this. I would have tried to power through and turned into Mean Mommy. I gave myself props for knowing I needed to lay down with my feet up because my head was spinning and I just couldn’t be Attentive Awesome Mom in that moment.
I rested for an hour and then crawled back out to the couch. The TV went off and I asked Zoey what she most wanted to do. She said that she most wanted to model her new sneaker for me and show me how fast they were. So: we passed an amazing 45 minutes with me lying on the couch lacing up her shoes just right and tying them in perfect double knots while she patted my head and stroked my arm. Then I timed her running the loop through the living room, into the kitchen, out into the hallway, and back into the living room. After she finished each lap she would bound over and re-tuck the blankets under my chin.
We didn’t do anything special–like a museum, or a hike, or bike riding. But we both felt cared for and paid attention to and loved. We felt connected. And in those 45 minutes I was an awesome mom. There weren’t “no’s” or “yes’s” or “can’t’s”. There was only us being us the best way we could. And oh my gosh, it was enough.
What do you think about quantity vs. quality? What makes you feel you are enough?