Parenting With Fibromyalgia

By Maria Magher
The chronic fatigue and pain that many with fibromyalgia feel can make it difficult to meet the demands of parenting.
The chronic fatigue and pain that many with fibromyalgia feel can make it difficult to meet the demands of parenting.

Fibromyalgia can cause both chronic pain and chronic fatigue, making it difficult for sufferers to complete daily tasks. Fibromyalgia can also cause issues with memory and mood. For parents who suffer from fibromyalgia, it can be difficult to play with their children or to attend functions such as school plays or sporting events. Parents with fibromyalgia can learn to adopt coping strategies to help them manage their condition while also feeling like they are being the type of parent they want to be.

Be Honest

Many parents may not want to tell their children about their condition for fear of scaring them or worrying them unnecessarily -- especially if they are younger children. However, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, internist and author of "From Fatigued to Fantastic!," recommends being honest with children so that they understand what you are facing. It's important to use age-appropriate explanations, such as telling your child that you have a health problem that isn't dangerous but that leaves you feeling tired and maybe a little achy sometimes. Explain how these symptoms may impact your ability to play games or to do physical activities at times.

Budget Your Energy

Anyone would feel tired after a day of cleaning the house. For those with fibromyalgia, tasks such as housework can use up all the energy they may have and cause them to feel fatigued and unable to do anything else for hours. Instead of spending your precious energy on these kind of tasks, spend it on your children, wherever possible. Hire someone to clean the house if you can afford it, or ask your friends and family members for help. Prioritize the things that need to be done, and leave those tasks that aren't entirely necessary right now for another day.

Find Activities You Can Do

Maybe you can't play tag in the yard, or maybe you can't wrestle in your pillow fort, but there are plenty of enjoyable things that you can do with your children, even on your bad days. Make finger puppets together from construction paper or felt and then put on a little play. If you're feeling really tired, you can even do this from bed. Make up a story together. You start a line and then your child adds the next line and so on. Use funny accents as you tell it to make it even more interesting. Create fingerprint or hand print art. Dip your hand or fingers in food coloring, finger paints or stamp ink, and then see who can come up with the most creative piece of art using those prints. The key is to share an activity that allows you to connect and have fun but that doesn't require a lot of physical exertion.

Get Support

Fibromyalgia symptoms are sporadic. Parents with fibromyalgia may not know when they will feel incapacitated by fatigue or pain. Therefore, a simple outing like picking up the kids from school may become derailed unexpectedly. Recruit trusted family members and friends who can provide help on those bad days so that your children are still cared for and can enjoy some measure of consistency. Your support network could pick up children from school or take them to after-school activities, cook meals or just watch your children for a few hours while you rest.

Take Care of Yourself

Parenting is exhausting work, even when you don't have a chronic condition that robs you of your energy. Find ways to take care of yourself so that you can have more energy and feel better. Self-care may include gentle exercises like walking or yoga, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and finding ways to reduce stress. Another important aspect of self-care is learning not to beat yourself up about all the ways you think you are "failing" as a parent because of your condition. Recognize the positives in what you do, such as being able to spend more time at home with your children or being more present with them in your quiet down time together.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.