Self care often takes back seat to caring for a child.
By Deanna Glick
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
September 2007 — Since my daughter was born 20 months ago, I've probably spent as much time downloading and uploading photos as I have changing diapers. I've corresponded with faraway friends and family regularly to inform them of her latest shenanigans. I've organized her playroom with special crates for blocks and fake food and hung glittery butterfly replicas from the ceiling.
When it comes to managing my diabetes, the time investment falls far short of that I've put into the extraneous and arguably unnecessary joys of parenthood. Case in point: I've uploaded and analyzed my blood sugar tests twice and visited the endocrinologist as many times.
I still test my blood sugar every bit as much as I did pre-motherhood and exercise three to four times a week (thank goodness for cheap, quality childcare and the gym). But the fine details seem to always give way to something that feeds my soul more than my faulty pancreas.
With diabetes, we spend a lot of time focusing on numbers. But I believe the left side of my brain figures in as well. Studies show a higher incidence of depression among those of us with the illness. And it's been documented time and again that stress has a significant impact on control. So, for now, I'm going to rationalize that where I fall short of number crunching, I've gained in mental well-being that is likely keeping those numbers closer to normal than they would be if I were obsessing about them.
I know that my being healthy enough and living long enough to raise my daughter depends on my commitment to diabetes care. But I also know it's unrealistic to spend every spare moment or even most of them on the noble pursuit of bettering my HbA1c result. And happy mommies who take pleasure time for themselves make better mommies to their kids. Most of us know this. Still, in the struggle to balance life — work, money, family and friends, intellectual stimulation, guilty pleasures, health, time for self — this last element often falls to the bottom of the list or doesn't make the cut at all, whether or not a chronic disease is part of the equation.
And because I have diabetes, time for self has to include time to test blood sugar, change pump sites and cartridges, make and attend doctor appointments, weigh and measure meals, read food labels. I'll stop there. My resentment is building. Clearly, this isn't the kind time for self that we talk about being so important to our psyche. People with diabetes deserve guilty pleasures, reading a book that isn't about their disease, and maybe even sitting with a cup of tea with a sugar cube instead of Splenda.
And when you're a parent, with or without diabetes, your role should reach far beyond the basics. Having children should involve more than laundry, cleaning up spilled milk, administering Tylenol and scooping unmentionables from the tub. Some of the joy can also involve things that are good for you (pushing swings and walking up and down the sidewalk alongside your toddler riding a wee-wheeler can bring your blood sugar down about 20 points!)
I've decided that if being the kind of parent I want to be and enjoying this journey means my blood glucose average is up a few notches every so often because I downloaded photos instead of blood sugars, then so be it. Because when your kid grows up, it's the butterflies hanging from the ceiling that they'll remember.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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