Parenting with chronic illness is the single most challenging undertaking of my life. I often want to give up… but my sons smiles, laughter, joy, and love have become my medicine. He exhausts me, but he is also what keeps me going. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… I didn’t understand the true meaning of this word until I actually believed I would die from the direct effects of being a spoonie mom. Now, I am stronger than I ever was during my “healthy” period of life, and I know that if I believe in myself, I can do ANYTHING!
However, I’m well aware of my limitations, and will do anything to save just a little bit of energy! In this post, I’ve compiled things you can do to reduce the tremendous toll that parenting takes on energy and pain levels, so you can save some “spoons” for later!
Laundry. My son started helping me transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer when he was 2. Now that he is almost 4, he knows how to sort lights and darks [we set up 3 baskets, and play laundry “basketball” to sort! He loves it]. He also knows how to fold towels and match socks. He also puts his own clothes away!
Dishes. Kids over age 3 can hand you dishes from dishwasher, and even put things away, like tupperware, pot lids, and spoons (hahaha.) No more bending over! Start with plastics; use your own judgement of your child’s coordination when asking them to help with breakable dishes and plates; and of course, leave the knives for yourself!
Picking up. This one is a no-brainer, but here are some tips to make it more fun, and “energy-efficient.” From an early age, teach children where each toy/item belongs. Have a place for everything. That way, they’ll begin to grasp the concept of “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place,” and when it’s “cleanup time,” you won’t have to specify exactly where to put each plastic hamburger, toy car, and dress-up item! Again, it takes a little patience in the beginning, but its worth it! We have open-topped bins and large buckets, each a different color. I also use stickers; a car sticker for the “car” bin, a “superman” sticker for the action figures bin, and so on! As children learn to read, you can label the bins with a peel-off label, which can be modified as their interests and toys grow with them.
Cooking!Plan before you play. Lay out a sheet BEFORE you pull out the legos/ rainbow loom/puzzles/lite-brite. When they’re done playing, pick up all four corners of the sheet, and pour them away in one simple step! Sure beats trying to pick them all up by hand, especially if you have joint pain! It’s also awesome NOT to step on legos in the middle of the night, which, if you haven’t experienced it, is on a pain level akin to childbirth. You can also buy an actual lego storage mat, which is basically a circular cloth with a string; store and play all-in-one!
Other messes. Lay out a plastic “highchair” mat, or plastic sheet, under the craft table before messy projects, or the dinner table, before messy meals. Instead of scrubbing and sweeping for an hour post-mess, pick up the plastic sheet, shake it out, and rinse! Ta Da!
I don’t know about you, but when my body is “done” with the day, I don’t have the energy to eat, let alone cook! One little problem… our children deserve great nutrition, every day. Darn them! Ain’t nobody got spoons for that! Here are some tips:
Add a nutritious boost to meals when you don’t have time to make home-made meals.
Freeze ice-cube trays with pureed vegetables (squash, avocado, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, ect.) Store in gallon-size freezer bags. When you’re too busy to cook, drop cubes of frozen veggies in canned soup, spaghettios, taco meat, refried beans, stews, pasta sauce.. anything! Also great for picky kids (and spouses of course!)
Invest in a crockpot. Seriously. That is all. Click here for my own personal collection of awesome crock-pot recipes!
Feel good? Plan ahead. If you’re having a good day and do cook, make enough for 2 meals. Freeze the 2nd portion for a night when you’re not feeling so awesome!
Quick and Healthy Meals. “PFM Dip”: Mash 1 avocado, and mix well with equal parts greek yogurt and plain hummus. Serve with gluten-free grain or corn chips. It literally takes 2 minutes to put together, and is delicious, full of protein, vitamins, fiber, calcium… what’s not to love?
Toddlers love a “buffet.” I got this tip from the book “Super Baby Food.” Don’t cook! Take out a muffin tin, and fill each cup with a finger food… sunflower seeds, carrot sticks, apple slices, bits of cheese, chicken, yogurt, raisins, hummus, nut butters, grain crackers… anything! To make it a complete meal, be sure to include protein and veggies! Serve with milk. So easy. So fast!
Check out “Why Does Mommy Hurt? Helping Kids Cope with having a Parent or Caregiver with Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, or Autoimmune Disease.” Available now!