Why Childcare Is Essential for Me as a Mom With Lupus
I am a stay-at-home mom and a work-at-home mom, but almost never at the same time. This is because I’m also a lupus mom and I don’t have enough spoons to multitask between caring for my child and getting work done.
And it’s not just job-related work, it extends into housework and exercise as well. Because of my chronic illness, I need childcare just to cook and clean. This is frustrating for me, and sometimes hard to explain to other people, but each type of task – work, childcare, exercise, and house chores, is hard labor for me. I can’t try to do several tasks in one day or my body will start to give out.
An either/or situation
When my son is in preschool or with other caregivers, I usually spend 2 to 3 hours working in the morning. Whether that’s freelance writing or cleaning the house, my body needs a huge break afterward. There’s no way I could work in the morning and then care for my child for the next several hours. So, to get just 2 hours of work done, I need at least 4 hours of childcare.
I’ve struggled greatly with this situation. It wasn’t so bad in the first few months of parenting when he slept a lot, but as he got older and more active I had to spend more and more of my time and energy caring for him, which meant I had to give up other things.
I was preparing baby food, feeding him, cleaning food up off the floor more times per day than I could count, struggling to dress him, fighting him during diaper changes, and chasing him around everywhere. I could no longer do other things, such as loading the dishwasher, while caring for him. I wasn’t able to take time for self-care at night because I was so exhausted.
No matter how much I wanted to be a mom that thrived in all areas, there was nothing I could do to change the restrictions of my body. It started to take a big toll on my physical, mental, and emotional health.
Realizing I needed help as a mom
This was such a frustrating scenario for me that I had a mental breakdown when my son was 8 months old. I felt like I was losing myself because caring for my child alone for 8 hours or so each day took everything I had. I needed time - and spoons - to do child-free things that made me happy.
So, after acknowledging that the strain was far too much for me, my son went into childcare once a week at 8 months old. A year later, he started going 2 days a week. Then, a year after that, he started preschool 3 days a week.
I feel such incredible freedom and peace when I have time alone to work, rest, or do chores, knowing that I don’t have to push my body to take care of my son while I’m doing those things. There’s no doubt that getting childcare was the right decision for our family.
As he gets older, some things get easier while others get harder. Some days he helps me with the laundry, while other days he ends up completely covered in mud and I have to use every last spoon to clean him up. I hope that one day he’ll be a great help around the house, but I know that we likely have a few hard years still ahead of us.
It’s okay if you need childcare just to rest
I don’t always work while my son is being cared for by someone else. Sometimes I’ll lie on the couch all day watching TV. Occasionally, this is a choice, more often it’s a flare-up (because I wasn’t listening to my body). Though I’ve come a long way, I’m still working on living within the limits of my lupus when it comes to parenting.
If you’re thinking about getting childcare just to rest, you’re not the first mom to do it. I’ve talked with many other moms who have struggled with the decision, and the cost, when they are “doing nothing.” But resting is a critical part of managing your health when you have lupus, and scheduling time for rest can help to keep your disease under control.
I can’t help but wonder what kind of mom I’d be without lupus. I’ll never know the answer, so I have to focus on making sure I’m the healthiest and happiest mom I can be for my child right now - even if that means needing childcare.
Did you have the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) or Mononucleosis (mono) before learning about your lupus diagnosis?