Hand holding cellphone telling her friend that shes okay. Behind the cell phone is a backpack, ballet slippers, and karate gi.

Balancing Parenting and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Normal” parenting life - you know, being a parent withoutrheumatoid arthritis - is tough enough regardless of how old your children are. The energy relegated to just worrying about them is staggering. Then when you add in the actual time and energy required to be a parent, some days you are ready to throw in the towel before your aching feet ever hit the floor in the morning. Balancing parenting and RA can feel so overwhelming. As a parent of 3 young children, I’ve barely accomplished much more than to merely keep my head above water.

How can we do better at balancing parenting and RA?

Limit extra activities

In part because of my rheumatoid arthritis, my husband and I try to limit our children’s “extra activities” to a reasonable amount. Shuffling kids from activity to activity is difficult under the best of circumstances. And sometimes, no matter how well you think you have it planned, you end up with a day like I had about a month ago that if I’m being honest, nearly killed me.

In ONE day, we had my son’s First Communion and my daughter’s first ballet recital. In addition to the First Communion party (at my house) the following day. Shuffling the kids - hair, makeup, costume, suit, tie, and all back and forth from event “practice” to pictures, and back again - had me dreaming of a very, very, long vacation.

Know this: even with limited activities, things always have a way of blowing up all at the same time. I can’t imagine what life would be like if we gave in and let the kids sign up for every single activity they wanted to do. Limit extra activities so that even when they blow up (which they will inevitably do) you can still sort of manage it.

Have a back-up plan

If you are the type of person who has back-up plans for your back-up plans, then this is your jam. Foster as many positive relationships as you can in your life so that, if needed, you can call in the troops. Ideally, you will have a very reliable someone (or, if you are lucky, several someones) who can swoop in and take over the reins on flare days (weeks or even months).

Often for me, flare days can sneak up when you least expect it. You know the feeling, pretty much as soon as you open your eyes, you just know that it will be a flare day. Have a back-up plan for the day so that the day will still be able to continue on (hopefully with minimal disruption) for your kiddos. I know it takes a great deal of effort to really foster great relationships with those around us but, if you are in need of help, you will be grateful that you did.

Learn to let a few things go

There was a book series that was popular years ago called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. And I think the author was really onto something, especially for those of us with RA. Know this: even without RA, parenting and life will never be perfect. And that is okay.

For whatever reason, Pinterest or other social media outlets make it seem that we have to give the “picture perfect” childhood to our children. When really, all we really need to do is make sure our children grow up to be loving, responsible, and contributing members of society. I know, we all want the best for our kids, I get it. But sometimes you just need to channel your inner Elsa and just, “Let it goooooo!”

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