We’ve all heard the jokes about fellas getting Man Flu and that when women get the same thing – it’s called a sniffle. We Mums are renowned for just getting on with it when we are under the weather, but what happens when we just can’t ignore our illness and soldier on.
Sometimes we can’t turn what’s wrong with us into a sniffly nose so we need to be able to manage the feelings and issues that present themselves when we are too sick to rally. When what is wrong with us isn’t just going to pass like a tickle in the throat.
I am the CEO of Mummy’s Wish – an Australia wide cancer support service dedicated to minimizing chaos in the home and family unit for young Australian families when Mum is diagnosed with cancer. We have been operating since 2007 providing practical assistance and good old common sense advice to these families including provision of nutritious family meals, house cleaning, assistance with memory making, paying bills and advice on how to share bad news with young children. Over the years we have helped thousands of families, each with their own unique story to tell. Our team are experts in how Mums manage chronic or terminal illness and the impact it has on relationships, family dynamics and self image.
Some days are pretty terrible when fighting to regain your health, but I promise you that some days you will feel great – and almost normal, we promise!
Along the way we have picked up few things that we think are worth sharing with any parents who are battling illness while having to remain head honcho of their household. Let me share them with you.
- Kids will be fine if they occasionally end up with take away or cereal and an apple for dinner. This is not a long term nutritional solution, but there is no harm at all in a play dinner occasionally. Tinned soup is fine if you whack a bread roll and some carrot sticks with it.
- Your family is only human and will sometimes forget how sick you are so will sometimes ask for love in unloving ways. It’s kind of unfair, but when a parent is off their game is notoriously when kids (and your partner) tends to be most needy, wanting attention (negative or positive) to make sure you are still available to them. Try and make one time every day to spend a few quiet minutes alone with each member of the family to remind them how much of your attention they hold. Often best to try and do this after a nap or a meal so you can be on your game.
- Sometimes your house will be a mess and that’s OK! Women are often programmed or trained to sort the “nest” so that other tasks can be accomplished more easily. Major illness often makes it really difficult to be on top of housework and at Mummy’s Wish we see every day what a major stress this is for many sick mums! If you are exhausted or unwell and can’t take care of the tidying, let alone the cleaning and can’t get anyone to give you a hand, make your world smaller for a while. Just keep one small area as tidy as you can easily manage and leave the rest for when you feel a little better or when you can get someone to give you a hand.
- Your friends will all want to know how you are doing, and will hope like hell that you say you are better when they ask. Of course they care about you and want you to improve so that is one of the reasons they hope that, but they also want you to tell them that all is ok because that response is much easier to deal with than a negative one. Bad news makes people nervous so take it easy on friends who constantly want you to be “all better”. They do care, they are just out of their comfort zone. If it drives you crazy, just take a break from them for a while or if you have the energy, explain how their false positivity makes you feel.
- Sometimes people just don’t know how to help. Be prepared to be disappointed by some of the closest friends and delighted by those who you never dreamed would be a big support to you. It’s not personal, I promise. Some people just aren’t strong enough for this stuff, no matter how much they want to.
- It’s ok to ask for help. You have not failed if you need a hand to pick up your kids, do your washing or make dinner. Being really sick is pretty much the best excuse there is – so reach out and ask for assistance.
- If your community can’t help you, then reach out to those who can. Even in our increasingly disconnected world, we are so lucky to have in Australia so many social enterprises or charitable organisations like Mummy’s Wish that can help shoulder some of the burden. We provide practical support and advice to help families manage the distressing impact that Mum’s cancer has on the family unit during treatment. Our group, and other like ours, are important parts of the social fabric of communities. So next time you need a hand, google support services that deal with issues like the ones you are facing and get in touch. We all exist to help! And similarly, if you have time on your hands, or want to get behind something that matters, put your money where your mouth is and help organisations like ours help those in need.
Good luck and I wish you and your family the very best during trying times.
Main image source: ShutterStock