Just over three years ago, I became a mom for the first time. And less than two years later, I became a mother of two. For more than 42 months, I was either pregnant and/or nursing, and even had an overlap of both for about three months.
Both times when I was pregnant, my psoriasis cleared completely. And also both times, I flared pretty hard about six weeks postpartum. At this point in my life, I have been living with psoriasis five years longer than I haven’t been living with it. So whether I like it or not, psoriasis has been a big part of my life.
I knew that life would change drastically when I became a mom. Oddly enough, there are many similarities between living with psoriasis and being a parent. There’s a lot of learning on the fly. There’s frustration about something not working or someone not listening. There are joyous moments when you have a small victory. And there’s the strong need for patience.
People have asked if I’m scared that my daughters will have psoriasis. Of course I am. But I’m also scared that they will get bullied or develop an addiction, or that we won’t have a good relationship.
As a parent, you’re never lacking for something to be worried about, so “luckily” there’s not a lot of time to be scared about just one single thing. I do know that if one of my daughters ends up with psoriasis, I will be well-equipped to help guide her through her journey and provide the physical and emotional support she’ll need. I hope my daughters will watch me live my life confidently and that they won’t feel as lost as I did at some times in my life.
Two of my biggest challenges as a parent living with psoriasis are self-care and treatment compliance. Time and energy are hard to come by after getting two small children ready and out the door, a three-hour round-trip commute, a full day of work, playtime, dinner, baths, bedtime and sometimes finishing up the day’s work or trying to squeeze in some writing. But I know that taking care of myself, and being healthy and happy, makes me a better mom.
The girls thrive when we stick to a routine, so the easiest way to incorporate my own treatment is into our family routines. My older daughter knows I have “riasis” and is always eager to find ways to help me feel better. She especially loves to help me put on lotion. Here are some other tips to incorporate self-care into your routine.
Emotional wellness. I’ve had periods during motherhood when I’ve never felt stronger or more capable. But I’ve also had harder, darker times when I felt like I was failing miserably at everything. So, it’s important during those latter times for me to talk about it and find ways to take care of my mental well-being. Otherwise, that stress builds and negatively manifests itself and leads to flares, which leads to more stress.
Exercise. Exercise helps me combat stress. Finding blocks of time for exercise is hard, so I often have to get creative. We put on music and dance while dinner is cooking, or run around the playground or backyard. When I log onto an online class, I invite the girls to do the moves with me.
Skin care and topicals. To my husband’s delight, I put lotion bottles in strategic locations around the house to make application easier and more convenient. If I let the girls help, then it becomes fun for all, and they’ll even let me put some on them without too much of a struggle.
Asking for help. It’s easy to pretend you’re Supermom or Superdad, but the stress and pressure of trying to do it all can come crashing down. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Be specific. There are probably people in your life who want to help but don’t know how.
As incredible as it is, being a parent also can be hard. Adding a chronic illness can make it even more challenging to take care of your family and yourself. It’s all about balance and going with the flow on this wild, special ride.
Joni Kazantzis is the voice behind justagirlwithspots.com, an award-winning blog dedicated to creating awareness about psoriasis and sharing personal stories of her 20-plus year journey with the disease. She also volunteers with NPF as a Psocial Ambassador.
Tips on practicing self-care
To learn more about self-care, contact the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Patient Navigation Center. NPF patient navigators can answer your questions and give you tools to live your healthiest life with psoriatic disease.