Practical Solutions for Parents
In my last blog, I eluded to parenting while managing your own chronic health conditions primarily from an emotional slant. Many readers dealing with this scenario stated there is a lack of resources for those whom are “parenting amidst the pain.” This is a follow up blog about practical solutions for making the physical aspects of parenting a bit easier to hopefully start filling in the resource gap.
I did not physically birth my daughter, so I cannot reflect on what it’s like becoming pregnant or going through childbirth – but the physical toll when I became a mom was high regardless of the path getting there. The daily living tasks that began to wear on my body quickly were: carrying her, carrying her stuff, giving her baths, buckling the seatbelt of the car seats and strollers, and playing on floor with her. I am sure you can all recall tasks or events when you realized that your RA was affecting the physical aspects of parenting.
Conserve your energy for carrying your child not all the baggage. Invest in a good backpack. This is helpful to those with newborns as well. A backpack distributes the weight of your belongings more evenly than when using a shoulder bag/traditional diaper bag. Even better, check out hiking backpacks as they provide a hip strap that can be utilized to ensure your stronger hip joints will take the brunt of the weight rather than your smaller back joints. Remember to clean it out once in a while to lighten the load, as items accumulate quickly and add unnecessary weight to your bags.
Find a lightweight, simplistic stroller model. Everyone has different needs so the two main common features I would pay attention to are the belts/buckles/latches and how it folds. Try it out – determine if you can imagine yourself (and your fingers) activating the belts/ buckles/latches over and over again. Repetitive actions can cause stress to your body over time. Also, imagine what it will be like to carry the stroller after it folds. Do the wheels end up still rolling when it is folded or will you still have to carry the entire stroller to your car or final destination (train, home, etc.)?
Children can often require you to twist, turn and bend your body quickly and in ways that may be affecting your joints. Therefore, try to keep in mind that it is easier on the body to push a child in a stroller (along with hanging the bags on the stroller handles) while commuting to appointments or daycare/work than trying to carry your child and all of your bags. Strollers can be used even with older toddlers until they are able to comfortably walking with you. The more you roll, the more energy you conserve for later when you get home.
Bathing children in the bathtub can be brutal on your knees and back. Invest in a small gardening kneepad that you can place next to the tub to alleviate the pressure on your knees while you are kneeling. Also, a footstool doubles as a great seat for once your child needs to get dressed or wants to play on the floor. Other seating options for you might be a pillow, seat cushion, or even a folding stadium seat (ie. seat with a back, usually sold at outdoors stores).
The one thing any parent knows is that life never stops and neither do you, well until your child is sleeping that is. I have found great value in living an active lifestyle with my daughter. It is good for both of us to get outside for a walk or hike or swim. It can provide an opportunity for your child to get their energy out while learning about their natural world, while helping your joints get the movement they need to stay as healthy as possible.
Living with chronic health conditions is not always easy. However, I find that when I make small adjustments to my daily physical responsibilities, I conserve my energy and joints and tend to enjoy more of the fun moments that parenting brings.