Why Chronic Illness & Parenthood are not the Same

I’m possibly going to make myself unpopular here so before I write any more, let me be clear that I have no issue with parents telling me or talking about how they’re tired or how draining/annoying having a baby is. It sounds hard work! And I care about other people and what’s going on with them. I rarely say ‘tired? You don’t know what tired is!‘ unless I’m joking with a close friend or you’ve really, really annoyed me. But parents and pregnant ladies do tend to retort with that phrase or similar when I’m telling them about my illness, which I find irritating, as I wrote in my post phrases I wish people wouldn’t say. Being ill and being pregnant or a parent are not the same and shouldn’t be compared, which is why I try to avoid doing so in everyday conversation, even though I will for the purposes of this post. Here’s why:

1) Becoming a parent is a choice. Even if the pregnancy is an ‘accident’, choices were and are still made throughout. Having an illness is not a choice.

2) The payback is worthwhile. You have a baby. I’m regularly told I don’t know ‘true love’ because I don’t have a child. If that’s the case, then the payback has to be worthwhile. I don’t get any joys in return for being chronically sick. 

3) Your tiredness won’t kill you. Mine could. (Fact). Pregnancy is not an illness either.

4) There are phases to parenthood. Lack of sleep and night feeds won’t last forever. My condition is permanent.

5) Night feeds and insomnia aren’t the same thing. Being able to sleep but having to get up to look after your child isn’t the same as being seriously tired but in too much pain or unable to sleep because of an illness. 

6) I can’t ask my family to share the nighttime stuff. I don’t have the option of a night away or someone coming over to look after my illness while I sleep if it all gets a bit much. I can ask people to help me out with physical tasks, sure, but they can’t take my illness off me for a while to give me a break. 

7) I don’t have hours of free time in the day either. I definitely don’t dispute the fact that there’s lots to do as a parent. I’m aware that parenthood brings extra tasks and challenges in the daytime which take their toll. But I don’t have hours of free time in the day either, the things I need to do for my illness fill it. 

8) Coffee and caffeine don’t help me feel less tired. And I’m not allowed to eat copious amounts of cake and chocolate either. 

9) Not being able to eat certain foods or drink alcohol because you’re pregnant or breast feeding isn’t a big deal. I can’t eat certain foods or drink alcohol for the rest of my life. 

10) There are millions of people worldwide who feel like you and who you can turn to for support and guidance in the middle of the night when it gets tough. The pool of people is a lot smaller for me. 

I’m pretty sure that any comments made are misdirected at me rather than pointed- they’re more likely an indication that things are hard, the person is feeling insecure, there’s a lot of frustration behind the scenes or they’re purely sleep deprived and it came out without thinking. I completely appreciate all of those things, but I also feel a lot of that too, and make a point of trying really hard not to project my issues onto other people unless we’re close enough friends that I know I can have a strop and they won’t mind. Or I’m really cross at what’s been said. And the nature of my endocrine condition can also make my hormones as volatile as a pregnant lady or woman who’s breast feeding- hormones are hard, but, again, I try really hard not to misdirect them (my close friends and family get those too- sorry!). Mine also have the added bonus of triggering my (non existent) fight or flight system which can end very badly. 

Like I said, I have absolutely no issue listening to and talking about the challenges parents face, because it sounds like hard work! I don’t actually think it’s possible to compare the two scenarios because they’re completely different. But I do feel irritated when I’m told that my chronic illness that I struggle with every day is nothing in comparison to the journey taken by parents. 

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