These are words every mother hears, usually a hundred times a day in every manner of tone and urgency. All children have needs. So how do we juggle our attention between children who require more because of medical issues versus those who are ‘healthy?’ It’s a fine line to walk.
I struggle with this every day. I have 4 children in this order: a ‘healthy’ daughter, a daughter with Type 1 Diabetes and severe allergies, a son with Severe Hemophilia, and a son with Severe Hemophilia and severe allergies. All the allergies are different of course. Sometimes I confuse everyone’s diagnosis which makes doctor visits embarrassing.
There’s a tendency to over-nurture, if that’s even a word, the hemo kids. The truth is they require a lot of attention. Details are extremely important to keep track of. It’s easy to dismiss the healthy kids patiently, or impatiently, waiting for our time. Except we never have spare time and the clock keeps ticking.
I’m not sure there is a right way on how to be fair. Even if I carve out Mommy-Danielle time I feel guilty about not being available should something happen with the boys, or if a situation comes up regarding diabetes that I could address. Guilt is a part of our life; maybe a little more than families with no medical conditions. No matter where I give attention there will always be potential for guilt somewhere else.
So over the nine years we’ve been on this rollercoaster I’ve come to a few conclusions. The first is recognizing I’m not the only person struggling to manage everything. Is our life a bit more chaotic? Absolutely. But trying to make everything perfect is impossible and exhausting. Putting my energy into doing the best I can is enough.
I try to make peace with the kids being in someone else’s care. Accepting that shift of control is tough when every fiber of my being pulls me to be there every minute of every day. My caregivers know the score. Sometimes they force me out of the house to take a break. After the tension I’ve been holding melts a little I realize how much I needed it, and how much I can rely on them for me, too.
I try to make peace with being one person and capable of being in only one place at a time. Carving out time for me is where I usually fail, but I’m working on it. We get help to enjoy date night each week or so, which I will not give up. A strong marriage holds the family together as a cohesive unit. It shows the kids we are all in this together.
I’m learning to not just be there in body for my children when I spend time with them, but be present and in the moment. Quality time is universal regardless of clotting time, sugar levels and boyfriend issues. Taking a kid for blood work doesn’t count, but maybe sneaking off to the mall to play a few games of Skee-Ball before going home does. It is harder with my first child unless I’m creative. With all of our challenges we fly by the seat of our pants. Fortunately, the kids don’t see it as a problem to overcome but more of an adventure to experience.
Juggling attention is a fluid thing. It’s continually moving and changing like the needs and stages of my children. Spending time is about making an opportunity count. Each child deserves that and so do I.