Parenting with Chronic RA Fatigue
Being a parent is a tiring job, and often, life with a chronic illness often comes with fatigue. Both together can be a recipe for complete exhaustion and feelings of defeat. Fatigue is an unrelenting feeling of tiredness or weariness that often does not improve with rest. Some describe fatigue as being “tired to the core” or “bone tired”. Fatigue can be a symptom of a chronic illness, a complication of a condition, a medication or treatment side-effect, or due to constant stress. Fatigue on its own can be incredibly challenging to manage, however, when adding a child or family responsibilities to the mix, it can feel like an insurmountable battle.
Challenges of parenting with a chronic illness
Parenting with a chronic illness comes with its own challenges, such as feelings of guilt for not being the parent you envisioned yourself being, constant unpredictability, fear of the future, and more. For many, physical limitations may have been expected, depending on the nature of their condition or its treatment, but others may be completely unprepared for chronic fatigue and how it might impact their daily functioning.
Combatting condition-related fatigue while parenting
While fatigue may seem unbeatable at times, there are strategies for managing it that parents might find useful. Here are some ways to combat fatigue:
- Get moving when you can: It may not always seem feasible to exercise, especially when you’re not feeling great or have physical limitations. However, a little bit of low-effort exercise as often as you can may help provide you with a boost of energy. It may even be possible to allow your child to join in on your exercise, such as a walk around the block or hike with your dog when you’re feeling able. This may allow you to get the exercise you need, while providing a special bonding activity for you and your child.
- Provide good fuel to your body: What we eat has a large impact on how we feel. Trying to cut back on sugar and processed foods, and drinking plenty of water may help improve energy levels. Practicing and sticking to a healthy, balanced diet is also a great way to teach your children about the importance of healthy eating. Eating well together may help you stay on track, as well as teach your child an important lifelong lesson.
- Attempt to stay on a routine: Although life with a chronic illness (and children themselves) can lead to unpredictability, attempting to stay on a routine may help improve sleep and stability. Both of which may help you fill up your tank and keep moving forward. Working with your child on developing a daily routine, especially a bedtime routine, and sticking to a schedule as best as possible, may help you both stay on track, get good rest, and feel energized and prepared to take on each day.
- Give yourself a few human minutes each day: As small as it may seem, taking a couple of minutes every day away from your kids to take a hot shower, put on some clothes, brush your hair, or do anything else that makes you feel like more like a human being and less of a crazed parent might make all the difference when it comes to resetting your mind and body.
- Practice self-care: Along the same idea as the few human minutes, it’s also important to practice self-care. Rejuvenating our minds can help reenergize our whole being and body. It may seem hard to practice self-care while being a parent, however, the two don’t have to be exclusive. While it’s great to have activities that you do on your own, like yoga or an exercise routine, it’s just as beneficial to participate in activities that bring you joy that you can share with your child. For example, reading a favorite book together, binge watching a show, or playing a board game are all things that might fall under your definition of self-care, while still involving your kids.
- Enlist support: No parent can do everything completely on their own, especially when living with a chronic, demanding condition. Creating open lines of communication with those you trust may be helpful in creating a support network that can step in when you’re in need. For example, if you know that you won’t be able to play catch outside for an hour every day, you might be able to ask a spouse/partner, friend, or other family member to step in for you if they’re nearby. If your child goes to an activity with others they know, you might be able to tell another, trusted parent what you’re going through in the event that you need to skip a game and need help with coordinating a ride home. There is no shame in asking others for help when you’re in need so that you can get rest or prevent yourself from overexertion that may take days to recover from.
Navigating life as a parent and with fatigue are two challenging tasks on their own, but can feel overwhelming together. There is no right or wrong way to parent, just like there’s no right or wrong way to manage fatigue. Let us know if you have any suggestions for parenting while managing fatigue that help you get through each day.