Parenting

Being Okay with “Normal”

Content Warning: some discussion of depression and negative self-talk. If you are depressed or know someone who is depressed and in need of help, please look at the resources available through the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You can find support groups, therapists, and treatment options here. You are not alone.


Before figuring out how to make adaptations to my parenting, I had to learn to be okay with my new normal. Parenting with MS requires a few extra steps but with some adaptability, it’s hard to notice that there’s a difference.

It’s frustrating that I can’t be the parent I want to be, but I have to be at peace with myself. No amount of changes can stand up to feeling discouraged about my situation. Discouragement is normal and should be honored when it occurs, but how I cope with that discouragement matters.

This isn’t meant to be taken as advice or “what should be done,” but an insight into how someone deals with their MS and what works for them. If you are a parent with MS or newly diagnosed, remember to be gentle with yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. You are doing the best you can and that’s the most important thing.

A Fight for Control

Recognizing that I have no control over my fatigue and mental fog is the first step I’ve had to take to accept my limitations. I find workarounds with my fatigue (more on that in Friday’s post) and mental fog, so I am not giving into the lack of control. I am accepting that I cannot control it and there’s a huge difference between the two.

Hi, my name is Deborah and I am a control freak.

I’ve admitted this several times on the blog. I like to be in control of every aspect of my life: from relationships to professional projects, I try and control everything so it can be what I perceive to be as perfect.

Psychology does not support this attitude: maintaining strict control over everything is the quickest way to be extremely stressed out and unhappy. It may cause everything to spin more out of control if I try too hard.

As the linked article points out: “Wanting control leads to anger; this emotional response increases when control is impeded.” The more I try to control my situation, the more frustrated I get and exacerbate the situation.

How do I try to control my MS?

There is a level of regression that occurs in my grieving process: I go into denial and try to forget that I have MS. I will push myself physically and mentally and completely ignore my body’s warning signs.

Looking at Spoon Theory: if I use up all of my reserves (and then some) I have the potential of not being able to do anything for the rest of the day and possibly the next day. This happens more than I care to admit because I just want to get everything done on my “to do” list.

That’s why working on my priorities every morning is so important.

Emotionally, I try to control my MS by being hard on myself. I will berate myself if I wasn’t able to do a particular task to my liking or if I don’t get a post/email/social media interaction out in a reasonable amount of time. I find that I will sink into a slight depression when I focus too much on what I can’t do for myself and my family.

MS cannot be controlled. Its very nature does not allow for control.

Most of my frustration stems from a belief that if someone else can handle multiple projects at one time, why do I struggle to do a single task? I am constantly comparing my abilities to others and wishing I measured up.

Continue reading “Being Okay with “Normal””

Lifestyle & Blogging

Love & MS

We don’t get to choose whether or not we get MS, nor do we get to choose when we get that diagnosis. For some, it comes while in a relationship and for others it comes outside of one.

Either scenario forces the following self-reflection: does my partner stay with me? and, do I disclose my situation on a date?

MS is difficult because it turns partners or potential partners into caretakers.

It fosters self-doubt after the diagnosis: is my partner with me because they feel obligated? do they resent having to care for me? are they only interested in me because they have to “fix” me? what happens if they leave or die before me?

It is little wonder that many bloggers and experts refer to MS as the third wheel in a relationship. It’s an unwanted obstacle that can put a strain on any current or budding relationship.

The Third Wheel

MS is the unpredictable cousin that comes into your life and needs a place to crash until they get on their feet. They take up space on a centrally located couch and refuse to leave when you want to watch a movie with your partner (or bring a date home).

They say they are looking for a job, but really spend all day watching half-hour courtroom shows with ads for injury lawyers.

It’s that cousin that interrupts you everytime you want to have a conversation with someone so you forget what you were saying and is up at all hours of the night making it hard for anyone to sleep.

Simply put: MS is an unwelcome third-party to your relationship that isn’t going to leave anytime soon. No matter how many times you ask it to get its act together and move on.

Trying to figure MS out and how it factors into a relationship is extremely hard. As a person with the diagnosis, I am trying to learn what I am capable of doing and what my limitations are. How much do I put on or ask of Ash? Should I even ask him to help? Is the relationship lopsided? Am I really that bad that I need his help? Or am I just imagining things?

MS is always hiding in the background of every thought or action I take. I have to plan out my day to make sure I have enough energy for when Ash gets home to make any interactions with him meaningful. I have to pause frequently and ask myself: am I feeling this way because this is normal for someone who only got 4 hours of sleep with a teething toddler, or is this because of the MS?

As you can see, I ask myself a lot of questions. I tend to overthink things and so it takes a lot of energy to manage my MS. So when it is time for quality time with Ash, sometimes I just don’t have what it takes to be the partner I think he deserves.

Continue reading “Love & MS”

Personal Motivation

Love after Baby

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today’s post is about how Ash and my love evolved since having Jai. While we never made sweeping romantic gestures before, how we overtly express our love has changed since adding Jai to our family.

It has been an adjustment that we are still working through because that’s how relationships work.

The small gestures…the simple ways to express our love for each other has always been important. That hasn’t really changed because they are easy to do. When Ash sings a made up song to me or buys my favorite candy (back when I ate sugar), it makes me feel special. He loves it when I scratch his back without being asked or bring him his favorite custom drink after a run.

I find that we count on the simple stuff more as gestures of: “I recognize how you enjoy this and want to do it for you because it makes you happy” moments.

While it isn’t necessary to go overboard with our overtures of love, it is important that we don’t get complacent with our actions. Complacency leads to taking each other for granted, something neither of us want to do. How we express and strengthen our love will change as Jai gets older and as we age, so anything we come up with will evolve as time goes on.

Maintaining flexibility and understanding that our time is more precious has helped us have compassion for ourselves and each other.

Making Time

It takes the fun out of romantic spontaneity, but Ash and I have had to schedule our time together.

It doesn’t have to be time for that, but just spending time together.

We fell into a schedule of spending time on the couch after putting Jai to bed by chance. I am sure most relationship experts would say that the time we spend on the couch watching our shows or playing games on our phone is not quality time, but Ash and I would argue that it is quality time.

Our relationship has always been one of being near each other. We don’t have to talk about anything – we don’t have to be doing the same thing, but we find contentment in being near one another. Being able to reach over and touch the other’s arm when we need contact is worth more to us than an hour-long discussion about our day.

That isn’t to say that we don’t talk to each other, we do. But all our time spent together does not need to be at full engagement.

Prior to having Jai, we’d do more active things together: we’d go out, have friends come over, and other things couples without children do. That has had to change, obviously, and we’ve become more homebodies because of it.

This wasn’t a hard adjustment for Ash – he will proudly tell you that he’s a misanthrope and he likes that we stay in more. I am the more social one of the two of us, so when there’s an opportunity to go out with friends I tend to take it while Ash stays at home with Jai.

He loves the opportunity to spend alone time with Jai since he works all day. I just appreciate the break.

That said, we do try to schedule at least one day/evening a month away from Jai. My parents are gracious enough to watch Jai while Ash and I go do something fun: dinner, movie, play, or just walking around downtown. Those moments, because they are more infrequent, are savored because it allows us a few hours to be a couple again.

We still rush home to Jai because we love spending time with the little guy, but we also feel re-engaged with our relationship after a few hours alone. It gives us a chance to show how much we appreciate spending time together when there’s some effort involved.

Listening to Each Other

The other thing that changed a lot for us is that we listen more.

We talked, compromised, worked through our issues prior to Jai, but it has become more imperative that we take the time to listen.

If I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I preface anything that I need to discuss with: “now, I am not mad at you, but I may need to raise my voice in your general direction. Do not think I am yelling at you.” He understands that in that moment I need to vent about something and it needs to be heard by an adult and not just one of the cats. He will sit, listen, and then ask if I want advice or input.

Some days I want input, most days I am just venting, and I already have a solution worked out.

Likewise, when Ash needs me to listen to him, I try to hear him out. I do feel like our relationship is a bit lopsided because almost nothing bothers Ash. When he needs me to listen – I try to be there for him. Most of the time he has a great idea on how we can parent Jai and so I try to incorporate it into my routine.

Little One Makes 3

We’ve had to incorporate Jai in how we express our love for one another: in the moments that all three of us are sitting together reading a book or playing a game Jai has invented, I feel more connected to Ash. It may be biological, but when I watch him care for our child – I can’t help but feel a deeper connection to him.

And in those moments, I try to let him know how much I love him by giving him a quick peck on the cheek, a simple touch on his arm, or a hug (which Jai loves to join in). Growing up my parents would make a “Debbie sandwich” where they would hug each other while holding me between them. Those were always my favorite because as a child – I could feel both my parents love for me and their love for each other in that moment.

We try to show our love for each other in front of Jai because it’s healthy for him to see a loving adult relationship. We want to model healthy love so when he grows up, he will foster a similar relationship with his partner and feel comfortable coming to us for advice.

The Takeaway

For Ash and me, we have come to a place where we appreciate the time spent together and don’t rely so much on how it is spent together. Being physically close to one another is so much more important to us than anything else, which is why going out on frequent dates isn’t as much of a priority.

If there was ever a moment where one of us was unhappy with the situation (bored with another night in, needing to do something different, etc.), we make sure to talk and be open to listening. We may have to compromise because going out takes more logistical work with Jai, but at least we feel heard and a solution is at hand. Sometimes the simple act of talking is enough to soothe any needs.

It hasn’t been easy – most relationships, romantic or otherwise, are difficult to some degree. But knowing that I get to spend the evening with my best friend and go to bed beside him always warms my heart and makes me feel full. I am very fortunate to have found a person who appreciates the same things I do, has similar needs and desires, and wanted to share their life with me. And helps make cute babies.

And since I know he’s reading this: Ash, I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day.


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The Check-In

A Different Type of Love

A few months before I met Ash, I had an acquaintance confide in me that they didn’t love their partner as much as they loved their newborn.

The love, they said, for their partner was replaced with a deeper love for the baby.

They felt guilty by this shift in the relationship, but knew that this was necessary to being a good parent.

I wasn’t sure how to respond because I wasn’t a parent and I wasn’t in a relationship, so I did what any awkward single person would do: I nodded and affirmed that they had nothing to feel guilty about. It made perfect sense to me: love for a partner could easily be replaced with love for a child. Biologically, we are geared towards wanting to care for our offspring more in order to ensure its survival into adulthood.

They were talking about simple biology and I had no reason to disagree. I asked if they told their partner about this shift in relationship dynamics. They hadn’t at the time, but that was a very difficult conversation, so I didn’t blame them.

Now that I am nearly a year-and-a-half into parenthood, I remembered our conversation: the aquaintance wasn’t wrong about the shifting love. The love I have for Jai is deeper than the love I have for Ash, but it is a different type of love.

I still love Ash deeply, more so every day because of all that he does for his family, but the love I have for Ash is completely different from the love I have for Jai.

Different Types of Love

Psychologically speaking, there are 7 different types of love. For Ash, my love is more nuanced and a combination of erosludusand pragma. Whereas my love for Jai is storge and therefore completely platonic in nature.

So it isn’t that I love Ash or Jai more/equally I just cannot compare or measure the love for either because the love is so different.

The fact that my acquaintance was concerned about this conundrum is not unusual: there are plenty of forum posts and articles out there where mothers admit to loving their children more than their partners.

Unfortunately, what does not seem to be addressed is that the love between partners and the love between parent/child has to be different. I feel like this is obvious, but there shouldn’t be the same sort of sexual feelings for the child that would happen with a partner.

Continue reading “A Different Type of Love”

Parenting

You Are Enough

This is the final week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


In this final post of my “parenting observation series” I want to leave this as the major takeaway: we, as parents, are enough for our children. If we provide food, shelter, clothing, comfort, and education, no matter how imperfect it may be, we are enough for our children.

There is a lot of outside pressure on parents to be perfect and have it all: have the perfect house, job, relationships, food, clothing, education – the list goes on and on.  No parent can ever win the external societal judgement game. The standards for good parenting as dictated by outsiders is so high that it can drive us bonkers.

For those of us with the added obstacle of a disability, seeing what parenting without a disability looks like can be even more discouraging. But our children rarely see the disability in the same way we do.

We must practice self-compassion and ignore everything the outside world has to tell us about our parenting abilities. The only people who need to be in our minds is our children and how they view us.

And surprise: our children will love us no matter what and overlook any perceived imperfections we think we might have. They are, at this point, incapable of seeing our imperfections.

Remember how you viewed your parents in early childhood: one parent was stronger than Superman and the other was the only perfect source of comfort. Sometimes both aspects manifested in one person.

Our children view us no differently. They don’t see the same flaws or recognize what we cannot do. What they see is what we are capable of doing and how that relates to them.

Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.

 

Being the Perfect Parent is Overrated

One of the biggest issues I have as a parent is worrying that I won’t be perfect enough for my son. I push myself to the point of overload trying to be perfect on a daily basis, so it would follow that I would want to be the perfect parent to Jai.

This is not possible.

In fact, it is strongly discouraged to be a perfect parent for a child. Making sure that everything is done for them, they get all that they desire, the house is immaculate, and they get perfect grades every single time (so you help them out) – all lead to a dysfunctional relationship and stunt a child’s abilities to manage the real world in a healthy way.

If children do not learn about the world, how to manage adversity, and how to critically think through various problems if the perfect parent is doing everything for them, they will struggle as adults on their own. Learning about disappointment and how to manage it is a valuable lifeskill that gets lost if a parent avoids exposing a child to conflict as part of their perfect parenting routine.

Attempting to be the perfect parent can also create bouts of depression in the parent striving too high. This is not surprising because the attempt to be perfect outside of parenting raises a person’s chances of being depressed (I currently suffer from perfectionist paralysis in my own life).

By attempting to be perfect for Jai, I am setting myself up to be less able to help him if I am too depressed by my need for perfection. It’s a vicious cycle.

We want to fail as parents from time-to-time. It humanizes us to our children and helps strengthen any relationship that develops once they are adults. Providing a healthy example of failing in an adult and focusing on what they can learn from us and from their own failings will help promote long-term success in their own lives.

It requires a level of self-reflection that may be hard to swallow, but in the end it helps us grow as adults too.

Saying “I am Enough”

All of this isn’t to say that we should go out and purposely fail, but to acknowledge in a gentle way that it will happen and that’s okay.

Focus not on any failings you might have such as “I could have done this differently today,” or “I could have handled that situation better,” but on what they teach you and all the positives you did throughout the day. Our brains are wired to focus only on the negative, so it is important to rewire them to allow the positive in more often.

If something happens that makes you feel like a failure, try these steps to work through it:

  1. Apologize to your child if necessary even if they are too young to understand. It’s a good habit to get into and makes it completely normal for them when they are aware of it.
    • “I am sorry I yelled at you when you took off your diaper and got poop all over the floor. I was upset over the smell and the mess I would need to clean up. I understand that you are not aware of how much I dislike poop, so I am not upset with you, just upset over the situation.”
  2. Figure out what you could have done differently and create a plan of action should the incident happen again. Spoiler: it probably will.
  3. Take a few minutes to breath and comfort yourself. If you are tense or stressed out, make a cup of tea and allow yourself a few sips before continuing about your day.
  4. Forgive yourself for that failure. Remind yourself that you are not perfect and that is okay.
  5. Find a couple of things that went right during your time with your child. Focus on them any time you start to think about something negative.
    • “We sat and read three books, one of them being my favorite. I could tell my little one really enjoyed my favorite as well.” or “We ran around the chair for 5 minutes laughing at each other over how silly we were being”
  6. Repeat to yourself: “I am a good parent/caretaker, I do the best I can, I am enough for my child.”

All of this will take some time because we have to undo years of bad habits, but starting off slow will help build confidence and self-compassion  in our abilities as parents. These examples will benefit our children in the long run. It’s really about focusing on what we are able to do – not what we can’t do.

And remember: you will always be enough.


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