Balancing Mama-Care with Other-Care — Part 1

I was commiserating with a friend earlier about the struggle with the time change and how our kids just seemed off this week. Upon further reflection, I realized the part about my kids isn’t all of the problem. Yes, bedtime has been more difficult than usual because they can’t fall asleep. Mornings feel like war, and I’m afraid to ask how many days they’ve been late to school since Gil has been dropping them off. But the reality is, this week has been hard because I’m the one who’s off.

The time-change has been part of it, but this has been building for weeks. Caring for many of my basic needs hasn’t been happening lately. Or has it? Do I even know what qualifies as taking care of myself anymore? I like to think I do, but I need to step it up. I can’t function at the level required lately if I’m not taking care of myself.

This post is mostly going to be some history and will focus on how I got to this crash-and-burn point. I’m sort of streaming rather than tidying up my writing and making it concise, so bear with me. Hopefully further posts will become more succinct.

I have a pattern where I go balls to the wall when something needs to get done. This isn’t necessarily bad in itself, but I wear myself down to the point of getting sick. Here’s what’s been going on and how that’s played out recently: Piers and the PANDAS situations — I’ve been researching, managing meds and making sure the antibiotics are taken regularly and correctly. I’ve been coordinating with the doctor, the nurse, the pharmacist and the owner of our local health food shop. I’ve had to make sure that I don’t forget his probiotics, but they must be taken an hour or so AFTER the antibiotic, for whatever reason I don’t fully understand but I’ve been doing it.

We’ve overhauled his diet and cut all food dyes, gluten and most dairy, so food-prep alone has been tough. I feel like I live at the grocery store and twice this week I’ve been there before 6am. I’ve been tracking his symptoms, coordinating with his teacher and spending ungodly amounts of time telling him all the things he CAN’T have. And because I feel bad for him because we live in a world where everywhere we turn, someone is showing kindness by handing out candy that’s loaded with food dye and all the things that exacerbate his symptoms, I’ve been trying to make treats that he CAN have.

Have I mentioned how challenged I am in the kitchen? There’s also the importance of keeping his seasonal allergies under control since poor sleep, clogged head, all that can make his symptoms worse. Thankfully, removing gluten and most dairy has helped his allergies tremendously. Still, it’s one more thing I’ve had to stay more on top of.

Piers is also EXTREMELY strong-willed, though he’s settling down a lot thankfully, but to say this experience is hard and draining is a massive understatement.

Gil — He’s been doing the Whole30 diet? The short version is that you eliminate everything fun for thirty day — sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten, additives, etc. You eat mostly lean meat, vegetables, fruit, and fat. In some ways this has helped because he’s been cooking a lot, especially the meat which I hate to cook, but he’s been in his own funk because once you take away the sugar, gluten, alcohol and processed junk, there’s not a whole lot left to ingest, and preparing food is a process — nothing quick. The idea is that getting the most common allergens out for thirty days allows you to test what you’re sensitive to — even if you never realized it before. It’s interesting. I’ve always had food sensitivities, but I’ve never tested it systematically. I’ve considered doing Whole30 myself, but I can’t add another thing to my plate at the moment, plus he and I agreed that one of us needs to be in a good mood. AND, under-consuming is one of my many issues. More on that to come… He just finished the thirty days which is awesome, but now he’s stumbling around aimlessly, and I have no idea what he can and can’t eat.

Wallace — My fiery red-headed kindergartner is going through his own trying phase. He announces daily that he HATES phonics. Everything has to be just so or a meltdown is likely to ensue. And since I’ve been in major research mode on this whole PANDAS thing, let’s be real. Piers and Wallace both have symptoms but I swear Wallace has more than Piers. I spent last year with Piers in Kindergarten convinced that we needed to have him evaluated for dyslexia (I’m still not convinced he doesn’t have it), but Wallace has taken word/letter reversing and writing backwards to the next level. Another story for another day… Wallace has been eating the same as the rest of us at home, but I haven’t been as strict with him as I have with Piers when we’re out because really, isn’t one kid fighting you for a red dumb-dumb more than enough? Let’s all just agree. IT IS.

None of what I’m dealing with is all that out of the ordinary for parents in the same season of life as Gil and me. Why, though, do I seem to crash and burn so regularly? I’m not sure. I think part of it is that I am quick to offer help, but I’m not as skilled at asking for help in ways that actually make my situation easier. Does that last sentence even make sense?

I need to figure out what would be helpful, find people who can do those tasks and be specific when I do ask. This thing with Piers has been really hard to discuss, and when I do I often walk away feeling worse rather than better. I can’t exactly delegate the task of researching and making sure I’m comfortable with his treatment plan. I’m the only one who can do that. Yes, I can collaborate with doctors and professionals that I trust, but I have to remember that people (and I’m speaking about friends, not his treatment team) are very different.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: I have a friend who I adore, but she doesn’t know the whole situation and history with Piers, nor is it her area of expertise. I had a discussion with her yesterday and shared something that I was trying to figure out. She offered up the biggest band-aided solution ever, one I would NEVER try, not because I’m stubborn, but because I’ve researched extensively and it’s absolutely not a solution and would likely hinder his healing rather than help it. So frustrating!

I guess the other part is that this is all relatively new, so I’m still figuring out whose voice to trust and who knows nothing about neurological stuff and is simply offering up solutions — nice, but I have to be more discerning. Fine, but because this is a big thing in my life and I think about it all the time and because I’m me I need to talk about it. Wow. That’s a mouthful. This wasn’t remotely what I planned to write when I sat down, but this is what emerged, so I’m going with it. I’ll continue in another post.

How do you care for others (kids, parents, friends, patients, clients) while making sure you take care of yourself? 

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9 thoughts on “Balancing Mama-Care with Other-Care — Part 1

  1. LOVED reading your post! (I always do!) I love how your writing flows so well, and how down-to-earth and transparent you are about your challenges.

    You ask, “How do you care for others (kids, parents, friends, patients, clients) while making sure you take care of yourself?” I feel like I’m dog paddling every day, you know? Plus I depend on three heavy-duty medications for my bipolar one disorder to keep me out of bed and functioning…and sedation is a side effect for all of them. Still, I’m highly motivated to do what I need to do because of my fear of relapse. There’s nothing like trauma from having multiple hospitalizations for this evil illness. I never, ever want to go back. So I’m just juggling and doing what I need to do, and luckily my husband of 17 years is a true partner and helps me. It’s *not* all rosy between us, but we’re in it for the long-term, and he’s a wonderful father to our girls.

    I’m off to catch up and read your part two!!! 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Balancing Self-Care With Other-Care — Part 2, Time Management | Grief Happens

  3. Whew! Just reading what you’re dealing with exhausts me. I’m pretty sure my youngest has dyslexia. Now that he is about to turn 21, he also thinks so too. However, I never pushed for him to be tested, and the teachers all assured me he was fine. Go with the mom gut feeling–it’s always right. My son speaks backward as well. For example, he will say we are going late instead of what he really means–going early–that type of thing.

    We had a 5-minute rule, that sometimes happened every 5 minutes. I would tell my kids that I needed minutes and that they could do something quiet during the 5 minutes. It didn’t always work, but I learned to sort of take care of myself in order to slog along, taking care of everyone else.

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    • Interesting on “speaking backwards.” I’m pretty sure I need to bring it up at our next appt. I’m more concerned that Wallace seems to be regressing. I’m not a pushy mom at all with my kids and their schoolwork. The stuff they require of kindergarteners is a bit much these days IMO. But I just feel like something isn’t exactly connecting. He doesn’t seem particularly phased by it, but he did mention yesterday that his teacher keeps reminding him to write the correct way. I just not sure he’s clear on what that is…

      Oh and yes, this mom needs a lot of 5 minute breaks. Very important!!! Thanks for chiming in. It’s always helpful to hear from parents who have been there and survived.

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      • I volunteered at the elementary school my kids attended. One thing I helped with was an early in the year, and a mid year assessment of all the kindergartners. Yes! They are expected to know far more than was required by my generation. Does this early rush make them more intelligent?

        Seriously, I don’t like the public school system at times. I had two kids who excelled and one who struggled. All teaching was geared toward the average student. Requiring kindergartners to know the entire alphabet, along with the phonetics and counting to 100 is, in my opinion, just a little more than what is average. It bothers me because it sets the child to feel like a failure if they don’t meet up to the new standards.

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  4. You ALWAYS put a smile on my face! I very much value your opinion, so feel free to offer away!!!

    And btw, I’m having a time-out in my office because my kids have been THAT unruly this afternoon. Oh how I try to not scream and yell, but I failed miserably today.

    I totally agree with what you said about schools expecting too much out of kindergartners. It makes me so sad that Wallace has to even deal with phonics and sight words and legit school crap at his age. But alas, I sure as heck am not in a position to homeschool so I forge on and refuse to make him do homework. WTF?! I find it nuts that 5yos have homework. They get out of school and get into all kinds of creative trouble…I mean, they play…

    Good point on the dyslexia — not being able to diagnose it at five years old. Wallace is right-handed. Piers is left-handed and 18mths older. He wrote backwards last year but only reverses a letter here and there now. I blamed a lot of his on being left-handed, but now that Wallace is doing the same thing, I’m all — what are we missing?!! There’s more on this, but I’ll put it in another post. The short: I think Gil has undiagnosed dyslexia. Again, long story.

    I should probably make a point to deal with one issue at a time. I guess I kind of get used to being in crisis mode. It’s like as soon as things started coming together with Piers, I can’t just be — I’m obsessing about Wallace having dyslexia. Geez, see why I need self-care?!!

    I might have to pick your brain on the dyslexia at some point. I will say this: Piers teacher last year said it wasn’t a big deal, all kids do it. My SIL said the same thing & she’s been teaching K & 1st grade for 10+ years. Wallace’s teacher wasn’t concerned when we had a conference in October. I also mentioned it to Piers’ 1st grade teacher at his conference again this year — all the same thing — he’ll grown out of it, and Piers is reading better and appears to be growing out of the letter-reversing. However, last night I had a wretched breakdown on my best friend from high school/college roommate about various things going on in my life. She’s been teaching kindergarten since 1997, and I had been telling her about the backwards writing and again she said the same thing — it happens a lot and most kids grown out of it. THEN, I sent her pictures. Her response: “I haven’t really seen much of that…I’ll see what I can find out for you. It’s probably worth looking into and at least start keeping good records.” Ugh. I mean, good that she’s gonna help me, but I just have Mama gut stuff going off in every direction, and I’m so stressed out these days that I don’t think my gut is as reliable as it has been in the past.

    Okay, enough. And Whole30 sure as hell isn’t happening for me right now!!! Thank you again!! I adore you!

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  5. I’m not sure I understood what taking care of myself was when mine were little. My oldest boy was dyslexic, had behavioral problems AND was severely ADHD. He almost killed me. Fortunately the others weren’t as challenging but they each had their own issues. Raising kids is not for the faint of heart!

    I will say that at five years old, you really can’t diagnose dyslexia…yet. One of my daughters wrote backwards (mirror vision) and it freaked me out!!! I was convinced she was also dyslexic. Turns lots of kids do that (is Wallace left handed?) and she grew out of it just like her doctor said she would.

    Personally, I think they put WAY too much on our kids WAY too young. The stuff they give them in kindergarten I didn’t get until 2nd grade. Pushing too much too early can really have negative impact on the development of our kids. Sometimes just playing is enough learning for any child.

    Okay – enough of my opinions (btw…opinions are like assholes…everyone has one. Sorry…couldn’t resist.) Sounds like you’re on the right track and are figuring out exactly what each of yours needs.

    I will give one tiny piece of advice…STAY AWAY FROM A WHOLE 30 UNTIL SOME OF THIS IS RESOLVED!!!! It will definitely make you…uh…dangerous.

    Hugs and let me know if I can do anything to help – even virtually.

    Sherry

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    • That’s true for me as well — not realizing I need help. I mean, I know I wrote about needing help here which seems as though the awareness is there… but I always wait too long. But maybe the problem is that when I do ask for help I seem too stable and not severe enough, or maybe I ask the wrong people. I’m not great at telling or showing the severity of things until they’re really bad. So in that regard…I guess I’m pretty high-functioning and DON’T recognize that I need help. Sigh. Thank you for your kind words. You helped me sort through even more of this.

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