by Lisa Copen
Mommy moments come in all forms of days at the park, backyard BBQs, or
meetings at the pool. They are a great time to get to know other
mothers and share activities as well as advice. But as the number of
women who live with chronic illness continues to grow, so does the
spontaneity of the fun of these mommy moments. For example, according
to the National Fibromyalgia Association, fibromyalgia (FM) experts
estimate that about 10 million Americans and approximately 5% of the
population worldwide suffer with FM, one of the fastest growing
auto-immune diseases in the USA. I recently attended an adoptive mom’s
playgroup and within this niche group, three out of the six of us had
chronic illnesses. Being aware of a friend’s limitations and
challenges, acknowledging them, and just asking questions, can make a
huge impact in their ability to participate and feel comfortable with
Ask what time of the day is good for play-dates or activities.
This can vary from season to season (weather affects it a great deal);
and also from one illness to another. For some moms, mornings are good
and afternoons are exhausting; for others it’s the other way around.
- Be flexible and don’t make her feel guilty if she must cancel.
Having a chronic illness means each day is unpredictable. Last week I
took one step and my knee was locked up for four days. I winced in pain
as I did heat and medication therapy while my husband worked at home.
All my plans were cancelled and I had no advance notice.
- Ask questions such as “how far are you comfortable walking today?”
and try to accommodate. Remember a two-block walk to the park may seem
like miles for her. Stairs may be difficult if not impossible so take
the elevator with her. When she walks keep a pace with her and realize
she may have to take rest stops even while walking small distances.
Chase after her kids and let her have a few minutes of rest. Standing
for long can also be challenging. What looks like a short line for the
carousel may be impossible for her to withstand. Offer to stand in line
and let her jump in later.
- Ask polite questions about her illness, such as “what is your
greatest challenge?” Avoid telling her about the cures you’ve heard for
her illness; the products you may sell that could help her; or about
your mother’s cousin’s sister who has the same illness but still
manages to raise five children and work full-time.
- Be aware of simple things that may be difficult for her. For
example, if you go to the beach, you may want to ask her if she would
like to be dropped off while you find a parking spot; she may not be
able to sit on the ground so bring a few lawn chairs so she isn’t the
only one two feet above the rest of your friends. She will likely be
limited in her sun-exposure. She may not be able to carry as much
picnic items as you can from the car. While you don’t want to make her
feel helpless, nor does she want you to make a big deal out of it, just
be aware that she may need some extra considerations.
- Don’t assume that she can take care of your children, even for five
minutes, unless she volunteers. Child-caring is exhausting and caring
for her own may be zapping her of the little strength she already has.
Plus, if your kids are prone to run out into the street, realize that
she may not physically be able to chase them.
- Plan activities that she can participate in. While you may love
your stroller exercise groups, and mommy and me gym classes, these may
not be options for her. Ask her what kinds of things she likes to do
and then join her for these. Keep the activities under three hours;
while you may spend six hours at the zoo, affirm that you completely
understand she needs to get home. Don’t say, “a little more exercise
may do you some good!”
- Lastly, tell her what every mom longs to hear: “I don’t know how
you do it. I really admire your perseverance and strength.”
Lisa Copen is editor of “HopeKeepers Magazine,” mom of a 3-year-old,
lives with rheumatoid arthritis, & author of "Why Can’t I Make
People Understand? Discovering the Validation Those with Chronic
Illness Seek & Why." Visit her ministry at
http://www.restministries.org or find out 497 additional ways to
encourage a chronically ill friend at in her newest book “Beyond
Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend” at
1 thought on “8 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Mom”
These are wonderful tips, Lisa. I wish I’d had this when raising our 2 girls. I have MS and for 5 miserable years had ulcerative colitis (until an ileostomy “cured” it). Our oldest daughter was 7 when the UC hit – and watched watch her mom have accidents in the darndest places – while walking into school with her or at a teddy bear concert. But she’ll tell you now (she’s 23) that the worst was when other parents would ask her, “How’s your mom doing?” Or when a friend’s parent would make it a point to ask me how I’m doing — in front of my daughter and her friends. Kids can be very private and many don’t want to stand out. Adults have to remember that even if the parent welcomes these questions, children have their own sets of responses.
FYI – Along these lines, in the hope of helping you tell others what you need, I offer an article, 10 tips for people who want others to know what it’s like to Work while living with a chronic illness – it’s free when you subscribe to my blog, http://WorkingwithChronicIllness.com