Woman Opens Up On How Chronic Illness Made Her A Better Parent

Little baby girl holding mom's hand

Raising four children can be daunting enough, but doing it with a chronic disease may seem almost impossible. But for Rachel, her experience living with Type 1 Diabetes has made her a stronger and more compassionate mother.

Rachel Garlinghouse recently penned an essay for babble.com about being a mother with chronic illness. After spending five days in the ICU of her local hospital before finally being given a correct diagnosis, she began to start managing her health and focus more on building a family life. She and her husband adopted four children over the course of 10 years, which has forced her to make looking after herself a top priority in order to be present for her children.

“For me, self-care is essential to regulating my blood sugars and making sure that not only can I live a less-stressful life, but that I can get out of bed, get dressed, and get my kids where they need to be,” wrote Garlinghouse. “Self-care is part of my disease management plan. And by committing to self-care, I’m teaching my kids to do the same: to listen to their bodies, feelings, and hearts and to respond in a healthy way.

Garlinghouse believes that part of managing her diabetes is accepting the limitations that come with it. She must choose wisely about what she can to devote her energy to and discard anything that stands in the way of it.

“If it’s not something I’m passionate about and fully committed to, or if it’s going to make my family or my disease suffer in some way, the answer is no,” she wrote. “No, I can’t make eight dozen cookies for the bake sale. No, I can’t be the chaperone for the holiday party. Saying “no” isn’t just empowering, it’s stress-reducing. My children hear me saying “no,” and they learn that Mommy knows how to prioritize.

Although she acknowledged that living with Type 1 Diabetes can be frustrating and can result in some difficult days where she feels depleted, Garlinghouse said that living with a chronic illness has also taught her to stay present and be grateful for the things she does have.

“I’ve learned to appreciate what my body has done for me and how hard it works every day to not only stay alive, but thrive,” she wrote. “I’m blessed with the resources to buy healthy foods and attend medical appointments. I have a supportive husband. For everything my disease has taken, and tries to take, from me, there is so much more to be thankful for.”