Toddlers and Fatigue Don’t Always Play Nice Together
By Christine Brovelli O’Brien
When I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in April 2012, my daughter, was not yet two years old.
During the time of my flare-up that spring (see my recent blog post for more details about that crazy time), when I also was teaching full-time, I spent most of my time chasing after an exuberant little kiddo who was quickly on her way to becoming a full-blown toddler.
Before I gave birth to my one and only child three years ago, family and friends warned me about the amount of energy and strength it takes to care for a young child. I waved away their concerns, saying I could deal with it.
What I didn’t count on was being diagnosed with MS and then starting a treatment that causes even more fatigue.
I’d had my share of sleepless nights and exhausted days, especially after becoming a mom, but nothing prepared me for the fatigue that accompanies MS – not even those times in college when I’d stay up all night and still attend class, bleary-eyed and unfocused.
Many MSers have described the extreme fatigue as being weighted down by cement, and it’s a very accurate depiction. Just this afternoon, as I struggled with the heat and humidity of summer in the Midwest, I told my husband that it feels as if I’m being pushed top-down by a concrete block.
And now that I’m no longer working outside the home, I have to be “on” all day with our daughter, which is especially difficult now that she no longer takes naps (I’ve been blessed with a child who sleeps late in the morning, so at least that makes up for the no-nap long days!)
And saying “Mommy is tired” to a three-year-old doesn’t work so well, which means that most days, I don’t get the rest that I need. For the typical toddler, “Mommy is tired” translates as “Mommy can read six books to me” because it doesn’t take much energy to read a book, right?
Except it does, sometimes.
Most days, I do have enough energy to run around with our little gal. She’s a very active, outdoorsy kid, and we both need our exercise. My mobility has not been hindered by RRMS, so we take walks, play outside, go shopping, or just hang out in the driveway, blowing bubbles or drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk, both of which are clever ways to sneak in some sitting time.
But when fatigue does strike, I do what I can to get through the day. Yesterday, for example, we built a “cave” out of pillows that doubled as a sleeping tent for me. We also do quiet crafts that allow us to sit, such as coloring, painting with water, and sticker books.
On the days when the fatigue is just too much to bear, I’ll let her play some computer games or watch an hour (maybe two) of TV, something to keep her occupied while I sit on the couch next to her.
Or, I’ll call in the reinforcements: My parents, who live nearby, will take my daughter for the afternoon. And when my husband gets home from work, he usually takes over the dinner and childcare duties, which gives me some chillin’ out time.
Although it’s not ideal to try to explain to a toddler why mommy or daddy needs to rest so often, it’s not such a bad thing to slow life down a little bit, especially during these warm summer months. Whether you have MS or not, parenthood doesn’t have to be “go, go, go” all the time.
Arm yourself with some pillows, a few books, and the TV remote, and you’re good to go!
Christine Brovelli-O’Brien is a writer, mother, former English professor, and MSer. Her work also appears regularly on the What to Expect When You’re Expecting Word of Mom blog. Follow her on Twitter: @brovelliobrien