Parenting with pain can feel like a thankless task. Even without the daily struggle of chronic pain, parenting is one of the most challenging parts of family life. We have focused in the past on the parent’s perspective and how to get through the day with pain, but many older children want to support a parent in pain. This Mother’s Day, instead of the flowers or the card, give Mom a gift she can appreciate all year-round: your support.
Mother’s Day – ideas for support
Give the gift of listening
Chronic pain can be an isolating condition. Many who suffer feel like those around them don’t understand. Truthfully, if you do not have chronic pain it can be challenging to understand this invisible illness. Take the time to check in with Mom every day to see how she feels. Ask, then listen to what she says.
Turn back time
Mornings can be difficult for chronic pain patients. Chronic pain makes sleep challenging, and joints can be stiff and creaky in the morning. Instead of relying on Mom to get up and get everybody moving, this Mother’s Day vow to take the initiative to get yourself up, rouse your siblings, and make your own lunch. Giving this time as a gift can help Mom make it through the rest of the day, with time (and energy) to spare later on.
Take a load off
If you are reluctant to do your chores or have to be reminded multiple times to complete regular tasks, take matters into your own hands and set up reminders on your phone or on a calendar you see every day. Another component to chronic pain is stress. Believe it or not, your mom doesn’t want to remind you ten times to do your chores. Take that stress off her shoulders by managing your own chores.
Go one further and manage some of Mom’s chores, too. Vacuum without being asked or clear the table and do the dishes right away. This unsolicited assistance goes a long way towards supporting a parent in pain.
Mother’s Day – it’s for you
There is another side to parenting with chronic pain, and that is the overwhelming guilt that many parents with chronic pain feel. Sarah Erdreich is a parent living with chronic pain, mothering a small child who she cannot help with, even the smallest tasks:
“I can’t dress her by myself, or tie her shoes. I can’t make the appropriate hand motions to accompany “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” write out the alphabet, or brush her hair. But all that feels like mere window dressing for what I really can’t do: feel at all confident that I can take care of my child alone for more than an hour. On the few occasions that I’ve had to, the time passed in a blur that left me incapacitated and in tears.”
Sarah’s sense of guilt is overwhelming. Older children of parents with chronic pain may be able to step back a bit and see that their parents are actually doing the best they can. Many parents with chronic pain will push themselves harder to be a part of their children’s lives, only to be faced with debilitating rebound pain.
The point is this – understand that your parent’s life is truly all about you, and they will always do what they can. Knowing this may help you to see that sometimes they simply cannot do and be the 100% parent they want to be. Attempting to see it from their perspective, as a parent struggling with caring for themselves so they can care for their children, may make their challenges more clear.
It’s also important to note that a parent in pain is doing the very best they can. They may miss the school play so that they can sit down to dinner with you afterwards. Even though they miss your curtain call, they are with you in spirit and want to hear all about it afterwards.
Mother’s Day – talk it out
Older kids with concerns should approach their parents in pain and have an open conversation. If they have questions about the pain condition or concerns about the future, a long, heartfelt talk over tea and cookies might help both parent and child to feel more at ease.
The other plus is that conversation is a great way to build relationships that does not require activity. Other ways to have special conversations include:
- Make these conversations a bedtime ritual, with story time extending well into teenage years. Teens can select young adult novels and take turns reading out loud. Bonus: if the book is a movie, this reading ritual turns into movie night.
- Try “roses and thorns” at the dinner table. Everyone goes around and offers one rose (something good about their day) and one “thorn” (something they did not like or would change). Often this will become a very supportive, loving place to ask questions and feel heard.
- Sunny days outside can become relaxing moments with the family. Set up a comfortable seating area with pillows and chairs and bring out drinks and snacks. This can be a great afterschool way to connect and wind down.
- Invite Mom for a leisurely walk when she is feeling up to it. Nature is de-stressing and relaxing, and activity is good for chronic pain.
It can be confusing to watch a parent in pain. Sometimes they will make plans with you and suddenly have to cancel due to a painful flare-up. It is appropriate to share your disappointment, but try to turn it around and re-schedule or do something else less active. Your understanding and desire to be with them no matter how they are feeling is the most supportive and loving thing you can do for a parent in pain.
This Mother’s Day, how can you support your parent in pain?