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Auntie needs to rest

Auntie Needs to Rest

“Auntie’s tired” or “Auntie needs to rest” are two things that I really hate saying. But I have to say them more often than not when I’m babysitting my nieces (14-month-old twins and a four-year-old)–especially the four-year-old, who has boundless amounts of energy. Auntie, however, does not have boundless energy, mostly due to RA fatigue and pain.

Despite my RA limitations, I do often push myself and test my limits when I’m taking care of my niece. She’ll beg me for a piggyback ride and as I silently groan as she climbs onto my back, I can also hear her giggling and shrieking with happiness in my ear as we start to run around the house. How can I say no? Or how can I say no to playing kickball, racing back and forth in the yard, or going on long walks to hunt for pretty fall leaves? I don’t want to say no.

Even “calm” activities such as drawing or painting or playing with puzzles can prove to be quite tiring for me. Kids are exhausting, and my niece is especially so because she’s full of energy and life and curiosity. She bounces from one thing to the next which is a delight to experience but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with her. And I feel guilty about that because I want to keep up with her and I want to take her hand in mine and run around and play with her. Or have an impromptu dance party with her in the living room. Or walk to the park and go down the slide 20 times in a row. The sad reality is, my body won’t always let me do those things and I have to say “no.” The hardest part of saying no is that she doesn’t understand why I can’t do things. It’s frustrating and sad to have your sweet, bubbly little niece tugging at your hand or arm while exclaiming, “Get up, Auntie! Get up! Let’s GO!” But sometimes Auntie just really wants to stay lying on the couch.

Helping my sister take care of the twin babies is a whole other story. She’s exhausted and frazzled just being the mother of twins (and the busy four-year-old) and she doesn’t have RA or deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. I try to help her the best I can, by changing diapers, helping with feedings, rocking and soothing fussy babies to sleep. But while a four-year-old has trouble understanding “Auntie’s tired,” twin babies definitely can’t understand. So I often have to fight through the fatigue and pain to chase after a baby crawling around the corner about to get into the dog’s food and water dish, or keep pacing the floor trying to get a cranky baby to fall asleep.

I feel very fortunate to live close to my sister’s family so that I can see them often and be a significant part of my nieces’ lives. I love being an auntie–even with all of the fussing, screaming, dirty diapers, crying fits, and exhausting, not-so-fun aspects of the “job.” The good parts definitely outweigh the challenging ones, but even the good parts of childcare–rocking a sweet baby to sleep, chasing after hilarious toddlers, making up silly songs with a pre-schooler–take a lot of physical and mental strength and energy.

As a single, childless person just babysitting little kids on a weekly basis, I’ve experienced and realized how difficult and challenging it is taking care of children when you have chronic pain. I can’t imagine what it must be like being a parent while having RA. To those of you out there who are doing it, I respect and admire you. You give me much inspiration and hope if/when I end up having my own kids.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Sarah
    5 years ago

    I feel the same way about my niece and nephew. But I have discovered kids understand more than we know. My niece, Shelby, is awesome. (So is Kevin, my nephew. Coolest people on Earth.) Like all little kids they have a lot of energy and want to run and play. When Shelby was about 3 or 4, she wanted to make a sheet fort under the table. And, of course, run up and down stairs to get pillows and then another trip to get art supplies to decorate our fort. I could only do so much, so I told her my bones hurt and sometimes that’s hard for me. That was it. I didn’t say anything else. But, she not only got it, but remembered it. She would do things like climb on the couch to play games or cards. She would climb up and say, “We’ll do this up here so you don’t have to get on the floor because of your bones.”. She wanted something from the craft room upstairs, and told me she would go get it so I didn’t have to walk up the stairs. One time, when she was about 4, we were having a race outside with my other sister and her dad. I couldn’t go that fast, so she slowed down,turned her head back to me and said, “Come on, Tiss! I’ll help you!”. Just a few months after that, we were playing on the front porch at Mom and Dad’s. (I am afraid to be alone with either of them for more than a few minutes because I also have a seizure disorder.) I had a seizure out there. Mom told me as soon as Shelby saw me falling back and laying on the concrete seizing, before Mom had a chance to say anything, Shelby ran in and got a pillow so I wouldn’t hurt my head. When I came out of it, she helped me inside and made me special tea in her special tea cups to make me better. As much as I hate it when she sees me in pain or having a seizure, it is amazing how she reacts. When my little sister’s friend was in her final days of cancer and sleeping or resting on her bed, Shelby would go over, pull up a chair and start talking to her. “Hi, Lindsey. It’s Shelby.” She would just sit there and talk; tell her about her strawberry patch in the back yard, a book her kindergarten teacher read to the class, singing in the children’s choir at church, anything. Even though Lindsey couldn’t talk back or was sleeping, Shelby would just sit next to her and quietly hold her hand. So even though children don’t understand everything, they pick up on more than we might know.

  • Connie Rifenburg
    5 years ago

    What beautiful stories – both of you. Angela, you had me laughing and thinking of my own (great niece)with her endless energy and Sarah, I had to wipe away the tears as I read the kindness of your little niece and her reaction to your ‘bones’ and your seizure as well as your sister’s friend.

    You are right that children don’t understand everything, but it is a blessing to us that they can love us even with our limitations. Two of my grandchildren are teens now, & #3 is a busy boy of 8. I was lucky to have enjoyed most of their younger years before my RA.

    But my great niece has been a special blessing to me since her father is a single dad with custody. I’ve been involved with her since she was just days old. I’m the go-to babysitter, and having been a single mom, I understand a lot of his single-parent issues.

    Isabella, my great niece, has given me more than I could ever give to her in these past 9 yrs. We somehow have a kindred spirit, and altho I’ve had to say no, or cancel a sleepover now and then due to my health, she and her dad have returned understanding back to me in their own unique way – like the time they did a special “drive-by” milkshake delivery. Just to say it was OK that I had to cancel..the shake was to make me feel better.

    Sometimes we see our limitations too closely, but children are a lot more adaptable than we know. And I’m so very grateful to be an Auntie too.

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