Mummy is not allowed to get sick. You live with chronic illness. You have a disability. What happens when your support network goes down?
AWARENESS,  Chronic Pain,  Disability

Mummy is Not Allowed to Get Sick

Mummy is Not Allowed to Get Sick.

“Mummy is not allowed to get sick,” came the weak croak from the very sick human burrowed under the bed covers.

Substitute the word ‘Mummy,’ for ‘Dad.’ Husband. Wife. Partner. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Sibling. Best Friend.

Substitute the word ‘Mummy’ for ‘Caregiver. Support Network.’

You live with chronic illness. What happens when your support network goes down?

I’ve recently returned from a girls only Mumma/Daughter trip to Bali.

It was a wonderful time away to rest and recharge. The only blip on the radar – and it was a pretty BIG blip for a few days – was my Mum got really sick within 24 hours of our arrival.

We had to call a doctor to the villa to administer IV antibiotic treatment over the course of a couple of days.

Suddenly the roles were reversed. The caregiver became the person requiring the care.

Ergo the phrase: “Mummy is not allowed to get sick.”

A chronic illness doesn’t only affect the person experiencing the illness.

Spouse, parents, siblings, best friends… everyone who really loves a person with chronic illness is affected, even if they never experience the illness itself.

It’s especially hard for anyone who steps into the role of chief supporter or caregiver.

The dependence of a loved one is no light responsibility to shoulder.

When the caregiver /support network goes down there is a domino effect.

A series of events and consequences that happen one after the other.

How far will the dominoes topple?

Flashback to my honeymoon in 2010. Hubby got sick on the flight to Europe. I believe the term ‘critical case of man-flu’ was used. He went down like a sack of spuds.

We use a manual wheelchair when we travel. Hubby out of action equals Bree out of action.

Now this is quite a trivial example of the domino effect in action.

My family bend over backwards to ease the load and make life easier for me, but I am essentially self-sufficient. When life throws a curveball (e.g. illness) at my support crew, I am generally able to find a workable solution to whatever the flow-on effect is for me.

I might be temporarily inconvenienced, my activities might be restricted or limited, I might have to forgo doing something at that point in time, but my overall well-being is essentially un-compromised.

But for the people who are dependent on their caregivers for everything, the domino effect can be quite devastating.

Guilt. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Anger. Helplessness. Inadequacy.

Keep rolling out those ‘worrisome’ inducing adjectives to describe the emotions we all feel.

Bali, 2016. Even though she was incredibly ill, my Mum couldn’t stop worrying about me and the extra load she felt I was shouldering.

The conversation went a little something like this:

Mum: “I just feel so guilty. I’m meant to help make your life easier. Not only are you running around after me, which is causing you more pain, you can’t get out and enjoy your holiday. I’m a burden! Mummy is not allowed to get sick!”

Me: “You are not a burden. I feel bad because I can’t really do very much for you. If the roles were reversed you would be doing a lot more for me.”

Fast forward to the part where I announce that I will get a taxi to a local health food shop to pick up supplies for Mum. Someone had been watching a little too much “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” and the real-life holiday horror stories featured on “Banged Up Abroad.”

Mum: “I don’t like the idea of you getting in a taxi by yourself over here. You could be taken! You are more vulnerable than the average person because you have a visible disability. And you’re a woman.”

Me: “You’re a woman and you would take a taxi by yourself! I’ll whack them with my sticks!”

Mum: “Oh please, as if they would take me! Your father has been trying to get rid of me for years! They aren’t going to take an old lady.”

And so the emotional merry-go-round continues.

Guilt. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Anger. Helplessness. Inadequacy.

Does this sound familiar?

Fact: Caregivers can’t do it all.

But the weight of expectation on their shoulders, whether that be self-imposed or other, means they often feel compelled, obliged, even burdened, to do it all. To be it all.

They don’t want to be the reason the dominoes fall down.

They want to maintain balance and equilibrium, even if that comes at great personal cost to themselves.

“Mummy is not allowed to get sick.”

Mummy is human. Even superheroes fall down sometimes.

Now it’s your turn! What are some of the safeguards and contingency plans you have in place to prevent or contain the domino effect? Comment below!

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

All photos and content the property of Starbrite Warrior and Bree Hogan. Not to be reproduced without permission.


    • Bree Hogan

      It’s definitely a tough one isn’t it Ayesha? When people feel/are so relied upon an upheaval like getting sick can really throw things into a spin.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Erica! It’s definitely an issue that is broader than the context I have come at it – chronic illness – so the more attention the better.

    • Bree Hogan

      Exactly Leslie. I know it is something that they grapple with, considering their own needs as well as the person they are caring for/supporting, but it’s so important that they do.

  • In The Lyons Den

    Great article! My husband and I make it just one of us looks after the kids so at least one of us is still okay and doesn’t get sick, no point the whole family getting it which is hard sometimes. Everyone needs support and help sometimes, like you said even superheroes. 🙂

    • Bree Hogan

      That’s a good strategy In The Lyons Den. Just have to make sure effective barrier nursing is in place so it doesn’t take out the adult who is still germ-free.

  • Emily

    I don’t have kids but I can still relate to this! As women we totally tend to take care of others first before ourselves. And, when we do decide we can be perceived as selfish :/

    • Bree Hogan

      I’m nodding along here to every point you have made, Emily. Perception needs to change because it should be celebrated when we decide to take care of ourselves. Only then can we really be of help to others.

  • Jessica

    Our entire family got a really nasty stomach virus a couple of months ago. First me, then a few hours our toddler, then a few days later my husband. Needless to say, I was tasked with taking care of all of us even though I was sick. Men can be such babies when ill, lol. I do have to say, our toddler handled things like a champ – he would simply state, “Mommy, I have to throw up now,” and we would calmly walk to the toilet so he could barf.

    I hope your trip ended up better, though. Being sick is bad enough, but being sick away from home is even worse.

    • Bree Hogan

      Urgh(!), that sounds like a nightmare situation Jessica – stomach flu through the entire household, nooooooo! You have a very considerate-sounding toddler, letting you know when he needed to spew. Most kids would just projectile vomit right there and then!

      The trip ended well, thanks for asking. Mum is made of strong stuff and got better quite quickly, although she would be very fatigued by the end of the day. Not a surprise given how much she went through. She was glad to get home and back to all that is familiar.

  • Alyssa

    I’m not a mum yet but I have Fibromyalgia so I understand all that you’re feeling with the guilt of having others take care of you. My Fiance is amazing and is always more than willing to drop everything or change our plans around to suit how I’m feeling and while it’s a dream come true, it also leaves me feeling guilty. Like, I shouldn’t be sick so much. It’s not a fun mindset. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Bree Hogan

      Hi Alyssa, thanks for stopping by! No it’s not a fun mindset when the guilts start up. I know my family is more than willing / wanting to do anything they can to help make my life easier, but that independent streak in me still raises the guilt flag. It’s something I need to learn to get over…working on it! Your Fiance sounds amazing – great support people / networks really make all the difference. Xx

  • The Southern Stylista

    This is so funny because I was just speaking to my sister about this. Our parents are aging and it’s so strange to think that soon my sisters and I will be the caregivers and taking over that role for our parents.

    xoxo, SS

    • Bree Hogan

      Yes the roles start to flip at some point in life. The carer becomes the cared-for. It’s a strange thing to think of our parents getting old but it’s inevitable!

    • Bree Hogan

      Yup, that seems to be a common thought Sophia. Not that we ever want to be sick, no way. It’s more about when sickness strikes, how much of a step-back do you really feel you can take to recover? A lot of people would say “no step back!” and try to battle through (which generally means they are sick for longer).

  • Tia

    It is so tough to be a parent. They carry so much responsibilities. I have felt the roles reversed some with my parents recently.

    • Bree Hogan

      They certainly do Tia. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for my parents to have witnessed what they have with me over the years, particularly when I was critically ill. I know how worried I was for my Mum in the few days when she was really unwell but they have had years of constant worry with my stuff. I know I contributed to the nice grey patch on the back of my Mum’s head, lol!

  • Abbigayle Warner

    To be honest i don’t get sick often , growing up my mom believed in letting our natural body fight disease . so i never took medicine as a child and still don’t unless its a servere migraine . If i get the flu or something similar it will happen maybe once a year . My daughter gets sick al the time and i never catch it ( knock on wood) if i ever do i’ll be in complete lockdown mode lol

    • Bree Hogan

      I love your holistic approach Abbigayle. I’m very similar to you; since I completely overhauled my eating and lifestyle a few years ago, I rarely get the common illness (e.g. flu, cold). I figure that’s a fair trade-off seeing as I live with the lovely ongoing side effects from Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Gotta catch a break somewhere, lol!

  • Dia All The Things I Do

    I think is a thing women tend to deal with in general, we always want to take care of everyone and our needs get put on the back burner. We say “oh no it’s nothing” when we really have a fever and need to lay down.” We are all human.

    • Bree Hogan

      I would agree with you on that Dia. All the women I know have the mentality that they need to take care of everyone else first. It seems to be inbuilt into our DNA. And yes, we could be literally dying and we’re all like “I’m fine!” as we slide down the nearest wall.

  • Georgiana

    How sad that she got sick on such a big trip 🙁 It’s hard to watch our mothers/fathers/people we rely on in a vulnerable position. There really is a domino effect. I kind of saw it in my own family when I was sick for 3 weeks this spring–small example, but it’s real when it happens.

    • Bree Hogan

      Hi Georgiana. 🙂 It was certainly an anxious few days with the initial onset. Made so much harder by the fact that we were completely outside of our comfort zone being overseas. We were so lucky that we had such a fabulous doctor come and tend to her. I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

      I’m glad that you are better after your own bout of illness. Stay healthy!

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Marette! We all need help along the way, but whether we can actually ask for it…that is the big thing for many people.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Cori. There was certainly a few days filled with much worry and a good deal of stress. I have never seen her so sick and she went downhill so fast. Thankfully she is all good now!

  • Olivia Derby

    This post hits home tremendously. Although we aren’t in a position where we are dealing with a chronic illness, I think your message applies to a lot of family set ups. My husband relies on me 100% (or more) to manage our son and the household, and when I get sick, there is no picking up the slack on his end. Its not that he doesn’t want to, but I believe he really, truly, doesn’t know how. I think this in part largely due to the cultural differences between he and I, but the effect remains the same.

    • Bree Hogan

      Hi Olivia! Yup, you are absolutely right, this post applies to a broad spectrum of scenarios. Taking care of a family is a big one. I don’t have kids, but I know that when I was growing up, my Mum always felt that she could never get sick as who else would pick up the slack? She was the primary caregiver and my Dad worked crazy hours. A lot of family situations are like that.

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