When Mommy is Chronically Ill

We moms do it all—plan the family meals, keep track of the social calendar, pick out Christmas presents for the in-laws….the list goes on. But what happens when Mommy is sick….everyday….for years? I have a chronic illness, which definitely brings its own set of challenges to motherhood. Fortunately, over the years I have learned to adjust the way I do things in order to get what I need to done and not be bedridden by the end of the day. Psst: you need not have a chronic illness to benefit from these tips—they could prove useful for anyone who only has a finite amount of energy and time (so, pretty much all moms!)

My chronic illness leaves me with more pain and exhaustion than a late night in Tigerland ever did.

Unfortunately, though, the motherly to-dos don’t seem to pause when I need a rest–certain stuff just has to get done. Now, I am not talking about deep scrubbing the baseboards and cleaning exterior windows all Cinderella style. I am just talking basic daily tasks to ensure that my family doesn’t starve, that they have clean clothes to wear, and that my 18-month-old is fed, played with, and in pretty good condition at the end of the day. So how do I get everything done when I am always in pain, exhausted, and average about 3 doctor appointments a week? Mommy modifications. Simply put, I’ve adjusted my daily life to maximize my time and energy. First step: hire a nanny, a chef, and a housekeeper. Just kidding—despite my avid couponing, that isn’t in the budget for most of us! But here is my secret sauce….

First of all, I have adjusted my daily routine around my health issues. My energy is usually highest in the mornings, and this is also the time of the day that my pain is at its lowest. So I try to get as much of my tasks done in the morning (whenever this is okay with my toddler!) While my son eats breakfast in his high chair, I chop and dump food into the crockpot. As my energy decreases as the day progresses, I just have to stir it a few times. Come 6 pm when Hubby is home and I have no energy, viola—dinner is ready! Another win: I don’t have to take away from family time in the evening to cook!

After 3 years of dealing with this, I know my body.

This means that I know that I have to take breaks! Vacuuming and mopping an entire house all at once? No way, Jose! I do one room at a time and take breaks in between. Pro (sick) mom tip that you won’t find on Pinterest: if you put your child in the pack-and-play while you vacuum, they will be so entertained by watching you clean the floors that they forget to whine about being in baby jail! I have also broken down my household duties (okay, it’s not the 1950s! What I mean is “The List of What I Need to do So That We Are Not Living In Filth and Have Clean Laundry to Wear”) so that I only do one big chore per day. On Mondays I vacuum, Tuesdays I clean the bathrooms, etc.

Let me just say that grocery pick up has been a total game-changer for me. Sure, to most people, it may not seem like a big deal to go grocery shopping. For me, that 30min of walking around the store pushing a cart full of groceries, standing in the checkout line for 15min (if you’re lucky), and then unloading said groceries into the car, takes quite a toll on my body. Then I have to rest when I get home, which means less time hanging with my boys. I would much rather spend my time and (limited) energy on things other than grocery shopping, so grocery pick up has been amazing for me! I can even bring the baby with me and not have to get him out of the car! Another win: I don’t end up putting food in the cart that I am craving just because I walked by it!

Now, I have mentioned a few times so far that I love to spend time with my baby.

In fact, when I was pregnant I vowed that being a stay-at-home-mom, I would constantly be on the floor playing with him. All-day. Everyday. Well, let me tell you something—sometimes my body and my illness have other plans! This is when we implement what the former teacher in me likes to call “Independent Play.” To an outsider looking in, it may seem as if I am just lying on the couch, being lazy, while my child plays alone on the floor. But this teacher-turned-mommy knows that independent play is essential to my child developing autonomy and creativity (it is also essential to Mommy having enough energy to walk at the end of the day!) Double mom win!

If you walked into my house, you may think that I got baby gates in a Costco value pack. No kidding, I have 4 baby gates in my house! Despite what my husband might tell you, this isn’t simply a result of my control issues. It is to help save me steps and energy! Toddlers are curious, joyful, lovable little beings. They are also fast, full of energy, and defiant (although I’m pretty sure that they’ve replaced this term with “strong-willed” in the last decade). Despite all the toys that Amazon delivers to our doorstep, he is constantly trying to get into the fireplace, the trash can, and the dog food bowl. Enter my BFF: baby gates! I have gated off our living room so that we have a 100% baby-proof room (my son is thinking, “Challenge accepted, Ma!”). This allows me to sit down for a bit and not have to constantly pull him away from things that he shouldn’t be getting into.

Fewer steps for me means more energy and less pain, and the whole house is happier when Mommy’s energy outweighs her pain!

We all know that reading books is essential for your baby’s language development, but did you know that it is also a way for Mommy to rest? Supplies needed: a comfy recliner, books, and a child. Your child gets smarter and your body gets rested, which is a win in my book. Cheap & tired mom tip: go to your local library! We go regularly, which provides my son with a steady rotation of books for free. Also, the outing usually wears him out for naptime, which means I get rest time!

Now, somedays, despite my best efforts to maximize my energy and reduce my pain, it is just not happening for me. On those days we pick up Chick-fil-A for dinner and my husband will do whatever “chores” I wasn’t able to do. The great part? No one loves me any less. Now that I think about it, though, this could just be because Chick-fil-A nuggets far exceed my cooking….but I like to think that it is because I am one pretty amazing mom!

About Madison Stilson

I have a toddler, Matthew, and an extremely patient and selfless husband, Joe. I was a teacher for several years and am now home with my favorite student – my son (I’ve been told that it is okay to have a favorite student in situations like this!). I have a passion for writing, which has been very therapeutic for me in the past when dealing with tough situations from being chronically ill. I love to tell narratives and to make people laugh, and I get to do both through my writing.


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