After the newness of adding a baby to the family moves from fairytale to reality, the word parenting has to move from an abstract thought to an action verb.
Parenting is a daunting task for any new couple, particularly moms who tend to be the primary caregiver. Never does a mother’s awareness of her own mortality come to the forefront of her consciousness than when she is pregnant and when she brings home a new baby. It is a particularly scary task for moms with chronic illness. Her mortality is a clearer picture, rather than a simple “what would happen to my baby if something bad happened to me?”
The chronic illness I understand and live with is diabetes, however as I talk about living with diabetes as my obstacle, the same is true for many chronic illnesses like asthma, chronic kidney disease, hypertension or heart disease. If you live with a different disorder, take these same ideas and exchange the health maintenance activity with your own. The key is to incorporate your additional requirements for managing your health into your life rather than limiting your life because of your health obstacle.
Here are some helpful tips for parenting at different child ages while managing diabetes:
When your baby is a newborn:
Having my son probably had the most profound impact on how I managed my diabetes. As I gazed into those beautiful brown eyes, I realized that the best thing I could do for him was to take care of myself.
The most difficult thing for me to do when I brought my new baby home from the hospital was deciding when to take a shower. Sure it sounds like that shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it was. Trying to predict when my baby took a nap long enough for me to jump into the shower seemed monumental. Greeting my husband, when he came home from work, in the same t-shirt and sweat pants that he kissed me goodbye in was growing old. The fact that my body was returning to it’s hormonal normal and that had an impact on my insulin requirements caused me to have to test my blood sugar a little more often.
After I decided no one would steal my baby while I showered, I wrote down a schedule of events and testing requirements that I had to do. Actually writing them down, helped me get into a routine that kept me healthy and didn’t interfere in caring for my new baby.
When your child is in elementary school
Elementary school is a fun time and it can be nerve racking too, especially if you work outside of the home. I found that starting my day at 5:30 am was imperative. It allowed me time to think, plan and prepare my day before the rush of my son and husband also getting ready for school and work. It allowed me to review my son’s schedule of events: field trips, hot lunch or bag lunch, after school activities… It allowed me time to check the family calendar for any dinner commitments my husband made. It also allowed me time to review what my day at work had in store for me. I could then take out meat to thaw for dinner, pack after school sports snack, and pack my brief case or finish any last minute work I had brought home. It was a time to evaluate whether I had enough testing supplies, lunch or midday snacks for my refrigerator at work so that I could pack them as well.
Planning ahead is the key to success.
When your child is in middle and high school
While the child is older and you presumably need to physically do less, it is a bigger emotional step toward separation from your child into adulthood. In order to do as the adage suggests, “we are raising adults not children”, we need to back off on some of the preparing we did as parents for the children so that they can begin their own routine.
Use the time to teach your child how to prepare and fine tune your own health maintenance schedule. Sleep in a little later; add a beauty ritual.
When the adult you have raised goes off to college
Now that you’ve figured this diabetes management while parenting thing all out, now there’s no child to raise and just you to think about-well, kinda…at least that’s where you hope to get!
So now, really do that-perfect that health management schedule the way you would have if you didn’t have to ________. Rekindle that couple’s relationship with your husband that you used to have pre-baby.