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Mothering and Chronic Migraine

Chronic illness affects your whole life. Obviously. Before chronic migraine, I was a perfect mom. OK, I jest!!!! But, chronic migraine has definitely changed my mothering.

Mothering in our society is kind of weird, anyway. We don't get to take credit for when the kids do well - they got there by hard work and sacrifice, after all. But, when they screw up; well, that must be because of their Mom. Or, at least that's how I feel. All the time.

I have two kids: Lydia is 23 and Chris just turned 21 (the first picture is of Lydia and Jenna, Chris's fiance; the second is of me and Chris). But, these aren't the only kids I've mothered through the years. Elizabeth and Jesi are my two daughters from another mother - they lived with us for several months and we are still emotionally close. We've had a summer student from Algeria, two exchange students, and we now have a high school boy staying with us for the last 7 months. So, yeah, mothering, it's a thing I do.

When my kids were younger than 10, I was still working and Patrick was doing the homeschooling. We worked so hard at parenting. I was crazy busy working as a full-time physician who delivered babies but we had flexible schedules to hang out with kids. I tried to be there for my kids but give them enough independence to try things on their own. We wanted to teach them lots of things, but encourage them to learn on their own. You get the idea. We were trying to be perfect.

And then, in 2006, everything went to hell in a hand basket. I had to quit working because of my chronic migraine. Patrick started working. We moved into a smaller house. We decided to keep homeschooling to keep some consistency. Besides, we had just found out that Chris was dyslexic and needed extra help to learn to read.

So, now, here I was, trying to be a good mom while I was in pain. And we were uncertain for about a year about our income situation. I prayed a lot. For peace. For some kind of order in our lives. For a new way to be a mom.

I had always been the organized parent, but I was also the parent who was out of the house. Now, I was with the kids all day every day. So, we all had to get used to the challenges of walking all over each other. And, I had a couple of days a week where I wasn't very functional at all.

How did we manage it? I'm not completely sure. I do know that I learned to lower my expectations. The kids didn't need to have clean rooms, just closed doors. We spent lots of time reading together and sitting on the sofa. The homeschooling got done. Lydia made it in to college and Chris made it into 11th grade in high school on the strength of their homeschooling educations.

There's a lot more to mothering than educating. I made sure they could do their laundry and cook and clean. But, there's a lot of emotional work of mothering that's hard to do when you have chronic illness. The supervising of your child's emotional development, for example, is important. I don't think we understand how important it is to keep talking to our kids in their high school years. I didn't do it as well as I'd have liked and I had some catching up to do in my daughter's college years.

I grew up believing that my job was to get my kids to follow in my footsteps in religion. Well, that hasn't happened. In fact, our entire family is in the process of deconstructing our religious faith. Hard to feel like a good mama on this front, but we muddle through. I now believe that our job as parents is to be as open and honest as we can with our kids about our own faith journeys and to help them along theirs. (And remember that their journeys are very shaped by developmental stage.)

If I could go back and live my life without chronic pain, I absolutely would! Yes, I think I could be a better mom now that I know a few things about mothering despite chronic migraine. But, overall, I think we managed OK.

I'm not a perfect mom. My kids are not perfect. But we all love each other and support each other and that goes a heck of a long way!



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