Because women make up about 75 percent of autoimmune disease diagnoses, this means many sufferers of chronic illness are also raising children. It’s common for women to feel disappointed or inferior because they are not the kind of mom they had envisioned. But the perfect mom is an unattainable myth, and it’s possible your illness is even cultivating good qualities in your children. In fact, some of the world’s greatest functional medicine researchers and innovators who have helped countless numbers of people discovered their passion because of their mother’s autoimmune illnesses.
A chronic autoimmune illness means days when energy is low or non-existent, or when brain fog, pain, anxiety, or depression rule. Regular life may include long treks to other cities or states to see a doctor who understands your condition and can help. Your diet is restricted and the house is void of junk food and sodas. Weekends may be devoted to batch cooking meals for the week and your autoimmune disease may require you to delegate chores to your kids. But none of this has to stand in the way of loving your kids and it may even make them better people.
A recent New York Times article explored the ways in which having a chronic autoimmune illness can benefit your children:
Patience. Everything moves more slowly when you’re chronically ill. Gratifications are delayed and trips to the doctor’s office long. When your kids are in tow, this can teach them patience, something most kids struggle with.
Flexibility. Having an autoimmune disease sometimes means canceling well laid plans because you are having a flare. Though disappointing, this prepares children for the inevitable snafus of life.
Self-sufficiency. Children who have everything done for them suffer when they strike out on their own. The child of an autoimmune mom has long been learning how to do their laundry, make their meals, walk the dog, clean the house, and so on. Adulthood won’t seem like such an ugly shock as a result. Though they may complain, this self-sufficiency is also a wonderful confidence builder.
Consideration. Children are egocentric by design. Having a mom with a chronic illness teaches them about the universality of human suffering and that sometimes we are all weaker than we’d like to be and need help.
Self-care. Autoimmunity means seizing the day when you feel good and retreating and resting when you feel bad. This teaches children the importance of a healthy diet, sleep, and other often ignored facets of good health. If you have a partner who helps and supports you, they also benefit from seeing that partnership in action.
Compassion. By seeing someone they love suffer, your children learn compassion for suffering in all people, including themselves. They may also be more likely to see grumpiness or impatience in others as symptoms of a possible illness.
Emotions. Living with a chronic illness is hard work. Sometimes the fatigue, pain, or disappointment can send us into an emotional tailspin, making it impossible to put on a happy face. Seeing a parent express their emotions around suffering can help children be more ok with their own bouts of emotional turmoil.