I am writing an article about chronic illness and single parenting. You would think I am the expert on this particular topic, but as I stare at the page in front of me with few words on it, I am not so sure.
I have written on hundreds from topics from coping with illness, illness on the job, including about legal rights, emotions of illness and so much more, and even parenting with illness. My 100 plus articles would tell you that my nearly eight years living with two chronic illnesses and writing about it successfully that I am, in fact, an expert on chronic illness. But why is this particular topic nagging at me and I am struggling to put the words to paper?
Perhaps, it is because I feel like I am muddling along day-to-day trying to be the parent my children need and deserve. I am not an expert at parenting or single parenting. I am just a parent – like every single other parent out there. I am struggling with the same struggles and I have most of the same worries. I am trying to make ends meet. I am wondering if I am offering enough love and kindness and I am trying really hard NOT to screw them up.
The only thing that sets me apart from single parents without chronic illness is that I fear that my illness interfere with the parent I want to be. I struggle between the parent I feel I should be and the parent I have to offer. I feel guilty and I have ill-conceived notions about what good parenting looks like. I hate that I am not physically strong enough to be the parent I “think” they need and deserve. Or that sometimes, my emotions get in the way. That I am too harsh because I am hurting physically or that I give in too easily because I am too sick and tired to handle something in the “right” way or what I think is the right way.
Or maybe, I am not screwing this up at all. Maybe, I am getting it right but sometimes, being sick makes it harder to see that.
I have a normal teenager. He is mouthy, rude and sometimes, a smartass but that is all he is. He is a teenager who never gets in trouble and respects everyone he comes across. He treats people with kindness even when they don’t deserve it. He sees goodness when his own mother can’t see it. He teaches me to be a kinder person in a world that is harsh.
I have a seven year old who is smart beyond his years. I see in him the person that I wish I was through his eyes. He thinks I hang the moon. He sees me as someone with all the answers even when I feel lost. He sees me as his protector even when I don’t feel strong enough to get through the day. He sees me as the kind, loving, smart, funny, and wonderful parent that I don’t always see myself as.
I don’t know if I am getting it “right.” I don’t know what good parenting looks like. I just know my kids are fine. I have done something right and as for chronic illness, I am the only one that sees it as interfering with my parenting. My kids don’t seem to think so and their opinion is what matters.
And anyway, what makes a parent good or successful? Home-cooked meals? An impeccably clean home? Being able to participate in rigorous activities with your kids? Over the years, I have learned that none of these things have anything to do with good parenting. But I still don’t know what good parenting looks like.
All I know is I am doing something right. And I need to figure out a way to put it down on paper so that other parents with chronic illness know that they are not alone in their fears and their questions. But I don’t know if I have the answers. After all, I am just muddling along in my own parenting.