What does it feel to be a parent with diabetes?
Being a wife and mother has been the most rewarding and important part of my life, keeping me extremely busy. I am responsible for feeding and keeping up a home for a family of five while my husband works a demanding job. It’s my responsibility to get our children to school, activities, and medical appointments. I also assist the kids with homework and projects. My schedule was often so packed that I put my needs last.
The moment I learned I had diabetes in 2019, everything changed. Aside from managing everything else, I needed to take better care of my health. I could no longer skip breakfast or lunch during the day and had to monitor my blood sugar levels daily. I had to do my exercise when the kids' school hours and homework were not disrupted. To control my blood sugar levels, I had to prepare more home-cooked meals and stop ordering out or purchasing packaged foods during difficult times of the week. I found the transition very difficult, especially since I am the only person in my immediate family with diabetes.
During the early stages of my diabetes diagnosis, I spent many afternoons and evenings alone upstairs, feeling defeated. My children, ages 8, 6, and 4, didn't understand why mommy couldn’t eat certain foods or go out to eat as we used to. I felt alone and isolated.
How diabetes affects your family
Diabetes affects not only you but your whole family, including your children. It completely alters how you manage your day-to-day, especially when you are a parent. With this in mind, you should be open and honest with your children regarding your diabetes diagnosis in an age-appropriate manner. Explain what kind of diabetes you have, how you use your supplies, and what medications you take to assure them that everything will be fine. Describe hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia symptoms and how to handle them. Your children will better be able to communicate with emergency professionals about your condition.
Tips on how to add diabetes to your home and parenting routine
When a parent has diabetes, daily tasks may change due to the limitations and the demands of ongoing treatment. Your daily schedule may include times for you to check your sugar levels, exercise, and rest throughout the day. Organize your day so that it will be simple and manageable. For example, consider planning and preparing meals that can be reheated quickly. If you feel ill, try delegating chores to your older children or another family member or friend if that option is available to you...
If your child is too young to help with chores, don't be afraid to ask for help. Dr. Claire McCarthy from Harvard Health Publishing suggests that parents reach out to their community for support: reach out to a family member or friend, speak with a pediatrician to get a referral for a social worker or mental health provider, or reach out to the faith community or other organizations like a diabetes support group for support. (1)
Is your child at risk for diabetes?
Children may be genuinely worried about developing diabetes due to their parent’s diagnosis. Genetics may contribute to type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but other factors such as pre-existing conditions and environmental factors also play a role. (2)
As a parent, you can reassure your children that they will not automatically be diagnosed with diabetes. Still, you should teach them healthy habits such as eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing stress in a balanced manner.
How to balance parenting and diabetes?
As time passes, I am achieving more balance in parenting with diabetes. Though I occasionally still feel lonely and isolated, setting healthy boundaries allows me to prioritize my health needs and those of my household.
My morning routine includes exercising before I start my day. My mealtimes are scheduled around when I take my medicine. When my kids take breaks, I take breaks as well. In addition, I help my children prevent diabetes by teaching them how to take better care of themselves. Although it isn't perfect, my quality of life is improving. While diabetes has changed the dynamics of our family, we never allow diabetes to control our lives. You might have diabetes, but diabetes does not have to control you or your family. Live each day to the fullest and give all that you can to your family, especially to your children. You've got this!
McCarthy, MD., Claire. How to talk to children about the serious illness of a loved one. (2020) Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-talk-to-children-about-the-serious-illness-of-a-loved-one-2019120218468
CDC: Type 2 Diabetes: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevent-type-2/type-2-kids.html
CDC: Type 1 Diabetes: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type1.html