RA has made me a better mom
When my symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis first began, and while I was getting diagnosed, the greatest fear that haunted me was that I wouldn’t be the mom I needed to be.
It would be physically impossible for my husband to keep the house in order to the same level that I used to –he works full time, and when he gets home he helps take care of the kids until they go to bed. All the house work happens late at night, and he sacrifices precious sleep to do the things I used to take care of.
It was hard for me to not feel guilt for this. I worried that my kids would suffer from my lack of housekeeping.
To add to my guilt, there was a period of time when all I could do in a day was get out of bed, change diapers on the couch, and turn on the TV and live on the couch for the rest of the day. We bought ready food because I couldn’t make lunches.
There were also days when I brought the kids into bed with me.
I used to be on the floor with them, playing and rough housing. I couldn’t do that anymore. And the guilt consumed me.
But hindsight is 20/20, and as I’ve slowly regained my strength, I’ve realized that my habits have changed –for the better.
Some things I’m grateful are in the past –over processed foods and being confined to the couch for example.
But losing my physical health taught me valuable lessons about being a mom. And I hope that those changes remain with me.
On the days we watched TV for the most of the day, I spent invaluable time just snuggling with my kids. When Bryan went down for his nap, I stayed on the couch with Emmy, and held her while she slept. Every single day. Since I couldn’t breastfeed her anymore, this was the one on one time we got with each other, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
When I brought the kids in bed with me, we read stories and invented new games like “the sleepover game.” We made a tent under the covers and played peekaboo. At the time I always felt bad because I worried the kids would get bored, but they were always happy. My memories of our time in bed are of full belly laughter, plenty of snuggles, and endless smiles.
During those months, and still now, household work is out of the question. No chores means an empty to do list. An empty to do list means 100% undivided attention on my kids. Even if I couldn’t be on the floor with them, I still interacted with them. They brought toys to me on the couch. They sat next to me and we played patty cake and tickle games. I got to watch my kids play and bond together, and witness every moment of their blossoming relationship over the course of those months.
On weekends Max would tell me to stay in bed and get up to take care of the kids. I felt awful about not getting up with everyone else, but my body was so weak, so exhausted. Later in the morning, he would bring the kids in to me and we would all sit in bed, they would give me hugs and kisses, and we didn’t worry about anything else. We were just together, as a family.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that RA has made me a better mom. I’ve learned to focus on my kids in a way that I really don’t believe I could have without being so sick. I had to learn to let go of some of those things that felt like they mattered so much, but I’ve learned we can survive without. And not just survive, but still thrive. Things I didn’t even realize were keeping me from once in a lifetime moments with my kids. They’ll never be this young again, and spending this concentrated time with them this year is a gift I’ll treasure forever.
It isn’t necessarily reasonable to expect to always be able to live like this. As I’ve rehabilitated, it’s important I’m not sedentary. And I’m so very grateful to be able to practice some of my hobbies again –like baking and sewing. And every little bit of tidying up I can do in a day helps my husband out. But there are some things I want to become a permanent part of my daily life. Instead of using TV time as a distraction so I can accomplish something else, I want to keep using it as an opportunity to snuggle. I want to hold my kids and be in the moment, without creating a mental list of things that need to get done. I want to sit in bed and read them stories, just because it’s fun. I want to stay in the habit of living in the moment with my children.