Parenting with Chronic Illness

I have fibromyalgia and Sjogren’s Syndrome: a cousin of lupus that my husband refers to as “some guy’s syndrome,” so feel free to promptly forget what it’s called. Both of these are chronic illnesses that work together to make me feel achy, tired, and overall just a wee bit cranky. And overwhelmingly lazy. Don’t forget lazy. “But Peryl,” you might ask, “weren’t you lazy before you were diagnosed with two chronic illnesses?” Well yes, I may have been. But if that’s relevant, it’s only because I had already realized a few secrets that all parents need to know. Given my conditions, I know with certainty that I’m never going to be the mom that stays up until midnight making 600 cupcakes for tomorrow’s bake sale. I’m not going to be president of the PTA while maintaining a full time job and running mommy-and-me triathlons in my spare time. I won’t be coaching soccer teams and I won’t be sewing a classroom full of turnip costumes for the school musical.

And at first, this bothered me. I wondered if it meant that I wasn’t measuring up as a parent. But then I realized something key and life changing. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing half-assed. This translates roughly as:

  1. Kids prefer Safeway cupcakes.
  2. My husband knows how to operate the dishwasher and the washing machine.
  3. My kids love me just as much when I’m lying on the couch watching Scooby-doo with them as when I’m planning an educational field-trip to a pick-your-own asparagus and butter-churning festival. (Probably more.) And,
  4. I can’t coach soccer games, but I’m darn good at watching them.

At a certain age, probably earlier than we think, kids understand that there are times when mommy is not up to playing. Or cleaning. Or giving them a bath more than once a week. And they don’t mind. In fact, they can be remarkably sympathetic. When I have a particularly bad run with debilitating cramps in my legs, my older son will greet daddy with “Be extra nice to mommy. She has crabs again.” Cramps, son, cramps.

The point is that we all have our limitations, and it’s okay to respect them. So what if my car is so messy that my kids’ friends are literally in awe of it. So what if my kids are confused by the term “home cooking.” And so what if I do only what I can. It’s enough. My kids don’t want the turnip sewing, PTA-ing, triathaloner (bless her, I’m sure she’s a lovely person) as a mom. They want me.

Photo Credit: Vince Alongi

About Peryl Manning

Peryl Manning is somewhat (and pleasantly) surprised to find herself the mother of two almost freakishly dimpled little boys. She isn’t sure she should be the one in charge though; at thirty-something she still manages to somehow end up sitting in her own gum, and last week she found her credit card in the fridge with the leftover pizza. She loves mellow moms and Ayelet Waldman; she hates judgy moms and truffle oil. She juggles kids, contributing to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Momtastic and Mamazina Magazines, and other parenting publications, with whatever grace she can summon.


  1. Carrie says:

    Fabulous. I love it.

    You are so right. We all have our limitations. Just depends on how we look at them.

    And I love your way of looking at yours. Definitely makes me do some re-thinking on my end.


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    • Peryl says:

      Thank you!! Yes, no matter what our situation is, we’ve all got them. It’s a good reason to give ourselves a break and try not to judge others. (I know. I sound so preachy. Mental slap ;)).

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  2. Ms. A says:

    I’ve been respecting my limitations for a long time… if I could just get others to respect them, too!

  3. Foster Ima says:

    Someone once called 911 because my car was so messy. Sure, she had her issues, and I then needed to go over with the child who had witnessed the whole thing when is and is not an appropriate time to call 911. Nevertheless, I think it takes some skill to get one’s car that messy. Well done :-)

  4. Mandyland says:

    Love this. LOVE it.

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  5. Peryl,
    You are amazing in so many ways who gives a rats ass if you can’t cook 600 cupcakes at midnight or coach a freaking soccer team, you are raising two beautiful little boys that know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their Mommy loves them! They are lucky little boys and you are fabulous in more ways than should be allowed. XO

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  6. Sili says:

    Beautiful and true. Whenever I was apologizing to my doula for the way the house looked and explaining that I was stressing out that the house would look like this when the baby came she would smile at me and say: the baby doesn’t care that the dishes aren’t done. The baby will care that she is loved.

    I still forget sometimes but thankfully, I get to read blogs like this that remind me. I pray you have more good days than not so good ones and that on the days you have crabs, your family still appreciates you for the wonderful mom that you are!

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    • Peryl says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment! Yes, my boys care very little about dishes, though I do need to teach them to load the dishwasher for me :).

  7. Dawn says:

    Well said. I loved this. Comparing ourselves to others is a pointless. We all have our own place that we’re coming from and kids just love their parents.

    • Peryl says:

      Exactly! Even though a good friend of mine is a professional singer, and I’m tone deaf, my boys would still rather hear me sing. Or at least that’s what they tell me…

  8. Kristin says:

    Oh Peryl,

    I don’t know you, but I think I love you! No chronic conditions or disabilities here (and I do love to cook and bake…but HELL no, not 600 cupcakes [or even 20] for the damned bake sale!!), but so glad to have my view of some of the absurd expectations placed on parents today verified. AND the fact that our kids don’t actually want those crazy parents!

  9. Cris says:

    I like this so very much. Thanks Peryl.

  10. Susan in Seattle says:

    So this is healthy for me to read. Because I do have a chronic illness, a full time job, three crazy kiddos under 6 and the feeling that I still should be making Halloween costumes, baking a cake for the bake sale AND organizing the Halloween Party for Coe Elem. room 105. (Which somehow by my suggestion involves yet more sewing…) Wish I would had read this three weeks ago! Miss you Peryl. So lucky I have your blog to give me advise, keep me in check and give me an awesome laugh. Cramps vs crabs — SO FUNNY girlfriend!

    • Peryl says:

      You are amazing, I’ve never known how you do what you do – but even you, superwoman, need to let things slide sometimes!! Miss you bunches.

  11. Cracking post Peryl, good to read you. Ah, you know we understand each other having both health problems and the frustrations that come with it.
    And you are right when it comes down to it all our kids care about is the time we spend with them and the love we show them. There is no such thing as a perfect mum, a loving mum is what matters.
    Crabs? Lol :)

  12. For years I felt guilty because of my Fibro and me not being able to “do it all” My girls are teenagers now and they understand. They have said that they don’t look back and see mom laid up on the couch because she is in so much pain, they remember all the good stuff, the extra PJ days and everything else.

    You are so right…..they want you.

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    • Peryl says:

      Thank you so much for your perspective, Heather! With my little guys, it’s hard to know what they are feeling about my conditon – it’s so good to hear your teens thoughts on their childhood!

  13. Dusty says:

    Wow, Peryl, this knocked my socks off. Bless you a thousand times. xxoo

  14. Naomi says:

    Peryl this post made me laugh and cry simultaneously. I love you. So much.

  15. Megan says:

    Those women who “do it all” irritate the crap out of me. You? I could hang with.

    That other stuff’s not important. In my experience your kids just want to be with you.

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  16. blueviolet says:

    I’m thinking that this would also help them develop compassion, empathy, and nurturing skills. As sorry as I am that you have to suffer from those, I do think the kids are learning valuable lessons from it.

  17. Jen Bandy-Phillips says:

    I LOVE you, Peryl!!! (: Your article just made my week. You are funny and self-deprecating, clearly the best mom ever, and of course, Canadian…I can tell. I swear! xoxo

  18. What a wonderful blog post! I am always trying to keep up with “those” moms. I should stop, grab that giant bucket of Halloween candy and snuggle on the couch with my little ones more often. Who cares if those dust bunnies could eat us for dinner?

    My mom had Sjogren’s along with a myriad of other health problems. It took years for her to be properly diagnosed. You are taking the perfect approach to life – bless you and those Safeway cupcakes!

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  19. Ms. G/Motpg says:

    Amen and Huzzah!

  20. Joy says:

    Your so right! Who wants to be that perfect mom anyway who never takes the time to bask in her children’s love because she’s so busy doing everything else? Your little guys are lucky to have you!

  21. Lucia says:

    I hear ya! 4 kids young kids, and rheumatoid arthritis here. I love you’re reminder to just do your best and enjoy the ride! My body is this way for good so I will have plenty of time to devote to being annoyed with what I can’t do in the long haul, but the kids are only little for such a short time, so I should really just enjoy what I have, because I know when they are grown I would go back to these exhausting, so behind on laundry, not involved in the PTO, more spots than floor in the kitchen days in a heartbeat.

  22. Marsha says:

    I just found your post, in a moment of intense inadequacy and deep desire for help. Thank you, Peryl! I also have Fibromyalgia and Sjogren’s, as well as gastroparesis. Before these things hit me seemingly all at once, I had huge aspirations of being a supermom who could do it all. Now I think I really need to re-evaluate the ruler in which I measure myself, because it’s not exactly fair.

  23. Beth C. says:

    I know that this is almost a year old, but for me, finding it tonight was perfect timing. I am learning to live and parent with a chronic illness, and your words had me laughing through my tears. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  24. Sue Jackson says:

    Ah, Peryl, I do hope you apply the same slacker standards to friendship as to parenting…here I am, finally reading your article a full year after you sent me the link! My personal motto is Better Late Than Never and I test it daily.

    Anyway, this is a wonderful article, as always! You know I love your sense of humor and can always relate to what you write…and this is all so true!! I struggled with guilt about being a good mom when I first got sick, but after 10 years of living with chronic illness, my kids and I have adjusted to the slacker life.

    In fact, I am lying on the couch now (having a bad illness day), in the midst of a very messy house, and just decided to order pizza for dinner.

    You know, there is a book written by a mom with a chronic illness called Cereal for Dinner – I think we would both probably like that one!


    P.S. I’m going to share this link on our Facebook groups for parents with CFS – better late than never, right??


  1. [...] written for Aiming Low before about what it’s like to survive stressful times, like, say the entirety of parenthood, with chronic illness. As anyone with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia or lupus, or a dozen [...]

  2. [...] written for Aiming Low before about what it’s like to survive stressful times, like, say the entirety of parenthood, with chronic illness. As anyone with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia or lupus, or a dozen [...]

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