Balancing Chronic Migraine and Being a Mom
My Migraine Life shares how the disease affects her family and offers tips for preparing for a migraine attack
I don’t know what’s harder, being a mom or living with migraine. Having both can be overwhelming. Over the years, as a stay-at-home mom of two and chronic migraine fighter, I have learned to adapt my life and my children’s lives to migraine. I alter my family’s schedule around my children’s naps, meals and moods, while also keeping in mind my migraine attacks, sensitivities, triggers and abilities.
Know Your Migraine
I’ve had migraine since I was 5 and have learned a lot over the years about how to manage it. I’m aware of the foods that trigger my migraine attacks, and I try to eat consistently and drink a lot of water. My children and I eat as healthy as possible throughout the day to keep energy up, knowing skipped meals are a trigger for both tantrums and migraine attacks. Staying on a schedule allows my body to stay stable and helps me identify triggers. The same goes for my children. Maintaining their energy and providing them with good food and water prevents them from getting “hangry” later. We all want to avoid a food meltdown.
I know that I am triggered by weather, hormones, stress, diet, hydration, light, sound, heat, sleep and more. I try to be prepared for as many of these situations as I can, but some are easier to avoid than others.
If you’re unaware of your triggers, keep a log. There are migraine apps that can help you track your symptoms and identify what’s causing your attacks. Finding patterns in how you react may help with identifying effective medications or alternative treatments.
With small children, I find that being prepared allows us to function better. My family food preps for the week with fruits, veggies and snack-size portions. I keep the snacks on a shelf that my children can easily reach, so they can choose a healthy option if they’re hungry and I’m unable to get up. Meals are well-thought-out and prepared ahead of time, in case of a migraine attack.
I always have a back-up plan for my children. I have alternative arrangements for them after school if I am unable to care for them or myself. I also have activities planned. I keep crafts around that occupy my children’s time but also keep sound and stress to a minimum. We color, build Legos and play with Play-Doh all while sitting in rooms with strategically placed lights and brightness. I save screen time for when I need a few moments of quiet.
We keep a routine and schedule, but also stay flexible. A schedule allows my family to know what to expect for our days and evenings. My children are able to continue their day if I have a migraine attack because they know what needs to be done and in what order. We have strict bedtimes that allow my children’s brains to grow and mine to recover. Along with this, I have taught them that moms don’t always feel well, and we may need to adjust the schedule from time to time to accommodate my migraine.
I keep medication that can fight a migraine attack with me for use on the go and safely at home. I see a neurologist on a regular basis who helps me manage my migraine symptoms and medication.
Build a Support System
It takes a village to raise a child. My family members are well aware of how I cope with migraine. They make themselves available to help my children and me often. I rely on people to drive me to doctor’s appointments as well as take my children to sports practices. I arrange carpools and am honest with the people in our lives about how a migraine attack can be unpredictable and suddenly change plans. Every year, I alert my children’s teachers of my chronic migraine and ask them to watch and listen for signs of migraine or stress in my children. I worry about them physically and emotionally and so far, they have handled my disease as they would any other illness. By being honest about the help I need, I find that the people in my life are better equipped to follow through. Many people would like to help but don’t know how. I have given up pride and allowed others to help, which inevitably takes stress away from us all.
Explain Your Migraine in a Way Your Kids Will Understand
When my babies were little, I never discussed migraine with them. As they grew into preschool and elementary age, I found it necessary to explain it to them. They had seen me experience migraine symptoms for a long time but understood it as just being sick. We went to a migraine walk where we talked about how others cope like I do, and they heard other stories that were similar to mine. They felt empowered that we had fundraised for a disease that affects millions and that we were fighting it as a family and community.
My children want to help. Having ways they can help builds their confidence in their ability to take care of me, as I do them. They know to turn the lights off, get ice and talk quietly. I have taught them how to be self-sufficient. I’m so proud of how they take care of themselves and are willing to take care of others. The qualities that they’re learning and displaying will carry them through life.
Seek a Variety of Treatments
There is no cure for migraine currently. Don’t expect to walk into a doctor’s office, get a pill and feel better immediately. Having a variety of treatments can help you live a healthier life. Taking walks with my kids seems nearly impossible some days, and others it clears my mind and boosts my adrenaline. I receive both massage and acupuncture treatments for migraine pain and the general aches and pains that come with caring for and taking care of children. Mental health, as well as physical health, should be addressed. Time for rest and recovery needs to be a priority, to keep from overdoing it.
Above all, I try to be gentle with myself and my children. It’s easier said than done. Mom guilt and migraine guilt weigh heavy on my heart, and I continue to remind myself that I’m doing my best. I give myself a break as I do with my children when they’re having a bad day. I’m patient with them and try to give myself the same respect. As a mom, it seems like my job is never done and that I can always do better. The reality is, no one is perfect, and we all have our flaws. We don’t expect our children to be perfect, and we should not expect ourselves to be. We do what we can when we can and take each day as it comes. I find joy in the smallest things and find that being grateful and mindful remind me off all the blessings I have, despite my unpredictable and chronic migraine attacks.
Sarah of My Migraine Life is a mom living with chronic migraine and daily headaches who has tried a gamete of medications, alternative therapies and lifestyle changes. These experiences led her to write “My Migraine Life,” a website for people living with migraine and their caretakers devoted to telling stories, raising awareness, giving support, product reviews and more. My Migraine Life is a partner of the American Migraine Foundation.