Thursday, 1 August 2013
Has MS made me a better mother?
Am I a bad mother? Have my children really suffered because of my MS? At times I have felt enormously guilty about the possible negative effects of my MS on my mothering. For example, I have never been able to climb the stairs and tuck my children into bed and read them a bedtime story. Many times I have been a spectator only in my wheelchair while my husband cavorts on the beach with the kids or plays football with them in the park.
Recently I was asked by the local education authority to complete a form outlining my daughter’s family background and explaining why she deserved a chance at a grammar school education. I was reluctant to suggest that she was somehow at a disadvantage due to having a disabled mother, and so I chose to list the benefits instead. Actually this was a very positive exercise for me.
I was quite surprised to find that there were unexpected benefits. Both kids respect other people’s differences which don’t seem to phase them at all, whether this be physical or mental disability, religion, sexual orientation or nationality. They empathise with others easily, something which much older people seem to find difficult. To name just one example, I have always been enormously proud of the way that they stick up for other kids at school who are just ‘a bit different’. They don’t appear to follow the pack [children can be so cruel] but to make up their own minds instead.
They are extremely helpful and quick to assist others because they are so used to helping me with practical tasks. I don’t know many 11 year olds who will make someone a cup of tea without being asked, but my son will.
Leaving them and my home when I had to go and live in a nursing home almost broke my heart however I have since been compelled to find the advantages. I have more time, in between visits, to think carefully about my words before I speak to them. Consequently I manage to avoid making the knee jerk comments that unfortunately many mothers do, that can be so damaging. I do not have to nag them about tidying their bedrooms or wearing a coat outdoors. It does not concern me how long they spend talking on the phone to their friends or how long they spend in the bathroom. Instead I can be a friend and confidante during the precious quality time that we spend together. I can enjoy their teenage years, watching them blossom into adults and accompanying them on this exciting journey, instead of being challenged and threatened as unfortunately many parents are.
In this way the negatives have been transformed into positives. And so I am that kind of mother: one who loves her children more than life itself. MS or no MS, the same as any other mother.