There are all sorts of parenting styles including parenting with fibromyalgia. But what is it? Here are some insights to what parenting with fibromyalgia is, how to cope with it, and how to connect with others. Oh! And there’s an online course for parenting with fibromyalgia that will be available soon!
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How Fibro Parenting came about
During the summer one year, I unintentionally coined a phrase while posting a photo to Instagram. The photo was of my kids and me snuggled up together watching a movie. If you looked at the photo without knowing the background, it would seem to be just another perfect moment in a perfect life. In fact, it was far from a perfect moment. In reality, I was coping with a terrible flare that had me bound to the couch in complete misery. When my kids saw me on the couch, they wanted to join me to watch the movie. My youngest son loves photos, so he asked that I take a photo of us snuggling.
In the caption of us snuggling, I tagged the photo #FibroParenting. I am not sure what prompted me to use that particular tag. I suppose it came from seeing other tags from various parenting styles such as breastfeeding, helicopter parenting, indulgent, and others. Where are the tags regarding chronic illness parenting? It’s not like it doesn’t exist. It does. And it’s more common than one would think. I mean – this is what I’m doing, right? Parenting with fibro? So, why not fibro parenting?
What exactly IS Fibro Parenting?
The creation of that hashtag has made me reflect more and more about my parenting style. It’s not the usual parenting, but then again, what is ‘usual parenting’? My belief is that each and every parent/guardian can be classified by their parenting style. And in expressing this belief, each style is catering to some primary need, drive, or other reason. For me, in my life, my parenting style is catering to fibromyalgia. I live with it day to day. Some days are worse than others, but there is never a day without pain which makes me grateful for the brief painless moments sprinkled throughout the day. It has varying symptoms that wax and wane hour by hour requiring constant adjustments throughout each day.
Fibro parenting is making adjustments along the way and the creativity that manifests in those periods of adjustments.
That’s what fibro parenting is – making adjustments along the way. And the creativity that manifests in those periods of adjustments? Just another aspect to fibro parenting. Fibro parents have to be ready for unexpected flare-ups and changes in symptoms, and then shift gears in response, all within a moment’s notice. Questions about our illness get asked by our kids, and most of the time we don’t have any more of a clue about it than they do. But we can’t tell them that because it will only cause anxiety and worry for them. Instead, we think of a suitable answer for the current situation, and sell it to them. It doesn’t get more creative than that.
We can’t do it alone. Period.
And we can’t do it alone. We need the help of our kids, spouses, partners and other fibro parents. This is the reason I created the Facebook group Fibro Parenting. A place for all fibro parents to come together and give each other the encouragement and support we need to keep pushing forward. We share stories of victories, struggles, laughter, advice, and more. It’s a judgement-free zone where anything parenting and fibromyalgia goes.
Recently, I asked the other fibro parents in the group, “What does fibro parenting mean to you?” There were no right or wrong answers. We just let the creativity flow with whatever came to mind. There were a few good responses, but I believe Crystal’s response summed it up for all of us.
In trying to develop some sort of educated, realistic answer to “What does the term fibro parenting or being a fibro parent mean to you?”, I’ve found it difficult because there are multiple layers to answering this. There are so many facets: the parent others see that don’t know I’m ‘sick’ and the parents that do; the parent I want my kids to have vs. the one I am fighting to be better than; [and] the parent my parents see vs the parent I can realistically be. Me having fibromyalgia has changed my life and [my kids’] lives in more ways than I could reasonably list here. Honestly, most days I feel robbed of my ability to be the mom I want to be. And I feel that my kids get short-changed because I am not able to be what I know I could be. They don’t understand how some days are so much better than others. The inconsistency has to be frightening and cause anxiety. My kids want to know I will be alright, and they shouldn’t have to worry about mommy at such a young age. But, somewhere in the depths, I still look for the good that could possibly be birthed from my suffering and their loss. That is what I am trying to focus on because I know that my struggle is not in vain, and honestly, it’s because of them that I keep fighting. I want to be an example of faith and hope and endurance.
Crystal, Fibro Parent
Strength of Fibro Parenting
Crystal’s response resonates the truth each of us feel at some point in our parenting. We mourn for the loss of our kids’ “normal” mom, and we entertain thoughts of what our kids could have instead of a broken parent. We think, “our kids deserve better, more, than what could possibly be given from ourselves.” And that is where we need to shift our thoughts.
In our illness is where our strength lies, and many of us have faced days where strength is the last thing we possess. But despite our failing bodies, unwavering pain, and the darkness that threatens to consume us, the spirit of love we have for our children allows us to push onward and upwards. And not just for ourselves, but for our children.
I’ve said time and again that I would not be who I am and where I am if it were not for my children and fibromyalgia. My children have taught me many strengths including standing up for myself and others, compassion, empathy, and a plethora of other positive traits. At the same time, fibromyalgia has further strengthened these qualities. I would not change the path I have taken to get where I am right now.
Fibro parenting has been the basis of my writing since the creation of my blog, Being Fibro Mom, in 2013. Of course, that was years before I thought of the phrase, but it’s always been there. It’s always been about helping fibromyalgia sufferers thrive in their life with their family, and to embrace the life of parenting with fibromyalgia. It’s why I write and strive to connect with others.
Fibro Parenting Course Online
During the Spring of 2017, I will be releasing a fibro parenting course online. It will cover everything about being a parent living with fibromyalgia from the common struggles fibromyalgia creates in our everyday family life to the solutions for each of those struggles. The online course will also address the boundaries fibromyalgia creates, and how to acknowledge and stay within those boundaries.
This article was original published in the January 2017 edition of The Fibromyalgia Magazine.
Join Fibro Parenting!
Do you want to join the fibro parenting* conversations? Join us in our closed Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/fibroparenting/