It’s the beginning of June, a time when parents start getting really busy. We’re entering wedding season, camping season, outdoor sports and vacation season. As the weather gets nicer, weekends get booked farther and farther in advance. At some point we realize every single weekend is pre-planned into September. And you start to wonder if there’s any such thing as the “1970s style” summer we’ve all heard about. If there’s one word I would use to describe modern family life it would be “fast.” It is fast because there is so much that needs to be done. And since FOMO for your kids is a real thing, we wind up cramming what should be several day’s worth of activities into an afternoon: a play date at the park for exactly 45 minutes before it’s off to soccer, followed by grocery shopping, which itself is followed by trying to throw together some semblance of a real dinner (a.k.a not frozen pizza.)
My daughter’s second birthday is coming up in a few Saturdays. Like any dutiful parent I’ve been planning a birthday celebration, but it’s not as easy as you might think. A week ago we nailed down the venue – the Montessori school that I work for has graciously lent us their playground for the day. We chose a time in the afternoon that was late enough to get past naps, but early enough not to bleed into dinnertime. Throw in a few balloons, and a bubble machine and – poof! – you’ve got a birthday party for a 2 year old.
When it came time to create the standard Facebook event, however, I found myself feeling very heavy and uneasy inside. I procrastinated on this step right up until the party was 2 weeks away, which is considered the minimal requirement for any kid related event given that parents need plenty of time to add another party to the schedule. For some reason I just didn’t want to do the invitation part. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but when I stopped to think about it, I realized that I was worried.
• Worried that no one would show up.
• Worried that because everyone is so busy these days, my little party might not compete with all of the lessons, practices, games, discovery days, barbeques, and graduation parties that accompany this time of year.
Out of insecurity, I ended up inviting way more people than I would actually want to come. I figured that if I invited 30 people then, statistically speaking, at least a handful would be able to show up. A handful is more than none! Over the next few days I continued to experience feelings of dread and anxiety. I would keep asking myself, “why is this such a big deal?” After all, would it really be that bad if only a few people could make it? Well, one thing it could mean is that friendships that we’ve made with other kids and their families weren’t as valuable as I thought. Are we really friends then? All of these question made me realize not that I was afraid that this fear of no one coming to my daughter’s party had nothing to do with my daughter.
At this stage, most moms are starting to form bonds with other moms who have children the same age. “Mom tribes” and “mom bffs” are a thing now. Now, while Velvetina (my daughter) and I do have some wonderful mom/toddler friends, being a migraine mom complicates things a bit when it comes to forming new relationships. Between maintaining the home, working part time, and then experiencing chronic/intractable migraines, there’s just not a lot of time or mental energy left to cultivate a “tribe” – let alone attend the numerous events and play dates that come along with it. And even when I do have some down time, I often have to catch up on basic life maintenance that’s been lost in the chaos. Things such as paying bills, caring for the yard, or any number of mundane chores that get swept aside (pun!) in a busy work week.
And even when that stuff is caught up, sometimes I’m just plain exhausted from either working all week, or chasing after a toddler during my “off” time; all while I’m in constant, chronic pain. And so, while we have made some new friends over the past two years, I find myself wondering, if I have created enough of a social network for my child. Have I gone to enough birthdays, Christmas parties, cookie swaps, etc.? Do the other moms know I have chronic migraines and do they even believe it’s a real thing? Have I spent too many days in recovery mode, staying at home? These are the questions that filled my mind when I was attempting to send the Facebook invite. Every mom faces her own parenting dilemmas at some point. Right now I’m realizing that I’m scared my migraines will negatively impact my daughter. Since I have a literal handicap handicap that often prevents me from being the dynamic, outgoing, play-date attending mom I want to be.
And right now I’m worried about a 2nd birthday party, but I know this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away as long as I have my medical condition, my fear is surely justified. Part of living well with chronic illness is pacing yourself and respecting your body’s needs and limits in the present moment. For many of us, that means resting on recovery days. In my heart I know that saying “no” to an event or opportunity when I’m not well is actually saying “yes” to life in the long run. Sometimes we have to pace ourselves, and accept that our illness does put limits on our lives. Other times, we have to figure out how to create our own unique experiences within those parameters. I’m still wondering how this will affect my daughter both in the long term and the short term. Will she be normal? Will she have a vivacious social life? Can a child with a parent with chronic illness be normal? I don’t have the answers. My hope is that as the years unfold we can seek out friends who are kind, empathetic and loyal. I know my daughter will walk her own path. Her future is a blank slate right now, and I can’t predict which characters will come and go. I may have chronic migraine, but I also have an endless well of love in my heart