Welcome to the the elephant journal advice column, where the mindful life questions have a voice.
Dear Licia ,
I saw your post about wanting questions for an advice column and had one I thought you might have some good insights into: Parenting when you’re feeling awful. I’ve been struggling with a**-kicking and exhausting migraines lately, but am trying to keep things together for the kids despite how I’m feeling. Often, if I have a headache, the first thing to go is my patience. Any thoughts?
The Mother of all Migraines
There is nothing more dibilatating than a migraine—except maybe having a migraine with small children in the house. This question makes me think the time where I was newly pregnant with my second child and at home with my very active, very mobile, 19 month year old son. This would not have been as much of a hardship had I not been so incredibly ill with morning sickness, back pain, general tiredness and malaise.
There were days where I would wake up to the boy staring me down at 5am asking for milk, cereal and general attention. Having slept what felt like two hours the early days of this pregnancy felt like a champagne hangover I had in college that literally left me moaning in my bed for eight hours.
In this sad state of affairs, I had to get creative and fast—nothing was going over the head of this kid—he needed attention and needed it now.
So what I can up with was this: the couch was our new playground and books, coloring, eye spy and toddler karoke were our new best friends. And while I still felt awful and it took all the energy in the world for me to particpate it got us through the day and my son was none the wiser.
So, Mother, my advice to you is this—find your safe haven and build your life around that place. Explain to the kid(s) the parameters around what is allowable in this place and make it conducive to what you can handle with these awful headaches (I told my son during my first trimester that we were aboard a ship called the SS Couch and that the family room around us was the ocean and his for swimming in but I couldn’t swim so he was responsible for fetching all things entertainment). He was delighted to be “in-charge” in this way and actually became quite independent from this exercise.
I imagine for migraines there will be a lot of super spy darkness and silently hiding in imaginary CIA sting operations…
As for the patience, it is much easier for me to keep my cool when I have control over my sad state and surroundings. I am less likely to remember to breathe and keep from yelling out loud if I feel awful and am surrounded at the park with nine million toddlers also screaming, etc. so in keeping this in mind I would plan out for the week options for what worked if I felt good versus what I needed to do if I felt bad—I always had a back up plan.
I also find that breathing helps above all else with everything. As soon as I am about to lose my cool—I try (not always successful—currently at about an 80% success rate on this one) to start to breathe and count to 10. It sounds almost too simple to be true but it does help and my kids also see me trying to maintain so hey, setting a good example – win!
The good news: It works (for us it worked for in and out of weeks to almost 2 months – I was so sick!) and it ended up being mostly fun. More fun than trying to exert myself in a way that would make me twice as miserable when I did not feel well. Out of it also came a love affair of reading picture books for hours and hours at a time and having my son “read” them to me as well while I closed my eyes to keep the room from spinning.
I hope this gives you some good ideas and helps in battling this (hopefully!) temporary phase of migraines and mommying.
I wish you all the best but mostly I hope you feel better soon!
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