Back to School Guide for Parents with Rheumatoid Arthritis
With Labor Day weekend behind us, all of the kids have slowly made it back to school. In my family’s case it is “to school for us.” After having my kids home with me as homeschoolers all their lives, they are giving high school a try this year. Their first day was August 14th. My son is going part-time taking two electives and still considered a homeschooler while my daughter will be a full-time public school student who is also running cross country.
As they were preparing for their first days of school, I started thinking about how life might have been different for me living without my kids at home with me. “It’s a good thing we homeschool momma and can be here during the day to help you when you need it.” This was something my children used to often say as they helped me dress or undress. Honestly, as a homeschooling momma, I did feel lucky to have my kids home with me where they could help me when I needed a hand getting my shirt off or my buttons buttoned. As early as six and eight years old my children were learning that as much as they needed me, I also needed them. I needed their physical help around the house moving light objects, picking things up from the floor, and more. I also needed the constant hugs they gave me throughout the day reminding me that no matter what rheumatoid arthritis had in store for me, I was still a momma that was loved.
Over the years, many moms have said to me, “I could never homeschool. It takes too much work.” I always replied back, “I think you are the one with the difficult job of hurrying to get kids ready in the morning, staying on top of lunches, homework, field trips, parent meetings, etc.” After completing our first two and half weeks of school life, I can say that I was right. Homeschooling is definitely easier as life can run on a slower pace.
As a parent living with the ups and downs of flares, energy drains, medication reactions, and more that comes with living with rheumatoid arthritis I know the responsibilities that come with getting your kids off to school can add to the discomfort. I asked myself the question “how can a person with children and rheumatoid arthritis make life simpler for themselves?” Below are a few ideas we have used in the past as my work load has increased and I think will work out great for us this year as we begin a new journey in public schools:
Always let your kids know that their needs are important and you will meet them the best you can, but also let your kids know that you too have very unique needs. I have found that my husband and children can always sense when things are out of whack with me and it is better to be upfront with them and myself about what I am capable of doing for the day.
Take time for yourself and don’t feel guilty. I am a big supporter of taking down time when flaring or when energy levels are low. If at all possible, once you get the kiddos on the bus, take some time for yourself. Enjoy a cup of coffee without worrying about the dishes or laundry. Last week my energy levels were low. I had one hour to get myself ready before I had to take off for work. I chose to watch a rerun of Sex and the City while I ate my breakfast. I had to skip my shower, but a sniff test assured me I was fine and the down time all alone in the house felt absolutely luxurious.
Cook in bulk. I like to make more food than we can eat for dinner so we have leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day. As we clean up, I can easily pack leftovers or parts of the leftovers mixed with something new in lunch containers. Some parents even prefer to cook everything on the weekend and then heat during the week. I love the idea, but I have never been that organized or felt I had the energy to do it all at once.
Make a lunch for yourself when making kids. If you are preparing a lunch for the kids, go ahead and prepare one for yourself too. That way you know you have something nutritious to eat the next day if you wake up to an ugly rheumatoid arthritis day.
Use your Crockpot. I LOVE the Crockpot. On our busiest days I throw in chicken, roast, or some other cut of meat with some veggies and dinner is ready. My dad taught me to put leftover roast back in the Crockpot with some taco seasoning and you have tacos for dinner the next day! If my morning will be busy, I prepare everything the evening before. Just don’t forget to turn the Crockpot on!
Don’t be afraid to buy precut veggies. I do believe you lose some nutrients by using precut veggies but in a pinch, you are still better off than not eating veggies at all. Cabbage is a vegetable we eat a lot of and I will often buy precut because it can be difficult to cut if my wrists are feeling out of sorts.
Have older kids help with dinner. I strongly believe in cutting out processed foods and have found that many fresh meals can be made as quickly as sticking a frozen meal in the oven. I often have my kids start dinner if they get home before me and they have a few meals they make from start to finish.
Clean the kitchen together. My daughter is gone 12 hours a day now that she has started high school and is involved in a sport. I don’t expect her to also clean the kitchen by herself during the week. However, I do ask her to help me so we can spend some time talking about the day or to sit at the kitchen table and do homework while I clean so we can still have time together and I can get to bed sooner.
Break housework into small chunks. Maybe today you vacuum and then nap. Tomorrow you clean bathrooms and then nap.
Use mother’s helpers for younger kids. As homeschoolers, my kids did a lot of work as mother’s helpers between the ages of 10-12. A mother’s helpers gets paid for coming into the house while mom or dad is there to play with the kids while you nap, to take the kids to the park while you clean, or to help fold laundry or other light household jobs. For some moms this even meant the mother’s helper gave mom down time with an infant while the toddlers were kept busy with another activity. You can also use neighbor kids on the weekends to help with a few odd jobs without having to pay a tremendous amount of money and they love it!
Sleep. I know of moms that stay up hours after the kids go to sleep. Please be good to yourself and sleep. Our bodies desperately need it to heal.
While I do work almost full time, my schedule is flexible and I do have chunks of time during the day that are flexible. These chunks of time allow me down time during the day if needed. The tricky part is taking it. As parents we often want to use every minute of our time getting something else done. Take the time and be good to yourself. You are worth it! Having a happy, healthy parent to come home to is a real treat. As my family starts on this new journey of school and as I start back to school myself as an adult education teacher, I find I need to be good to myself and take a break from any extra responsibilities. Therefore, I will not be writing in September. I am taking some time to help my kids with homework, to do some volunteer jobs at the school, and to get acclimated with my teaching roles this semester. I am also working on something very exciting, yet physically draining, that I hope to share with you in October. This personal goal is something I am not yet sure I can accomplish, so until I know I can, I am keeping it secret from the world. Any positive thoughts you want to send my way towards meeting this goal are greatly appreciated and accepted.
Cathy can also be found writing at her personal blogs The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo .