Can you imagine a parent forgetting to register their child for school? Because I have done that. I forget not just my own commitments but my kids and I get so angry with myself over it. What kind of a mother doesn’t pack an afternoon snack to bring to school? What kind of a mother misses entire days’ worth of antibiotic doses? What kind of mother sees that her children’s rooms are in shambles but does nothing about it? I’ll tell you who. A mother with fibromyalgia.
I am a very disorganized person. I make lists then forget them. I make appointments and miss them. I have two calendars but can’t remember to use them. I am in a constant state of brain fog, affectionately known as Fibro Fog to those of us with the disease. While I’m sure this is an incredibly frustrating thing for everyone dealing with it, it is exceptionally tricky for parents and caregivers. Not only is it annoying, it is embarrassing and scary. People tend to look down on messy houses and skipped commitments much more when it involves children. I take extra care to try and remember things, at least for my kids but a lot of the times it just doesn’t happen and I am constantly afraid of the consequences. My mother has frequently berated me; “I cannot believe that you keep forgetting your daughter needs new shoes!” She often tells me I am careless and self-absorbed and that is why I forget such basic things. I’m not, I really just forgot. I want to scream this at her and everyone else who accuses me of being careless or lazy. I forget everything all the time and I feel bad enough, I don’t need others to make me feel even worse.
Not only are my children perpetually late for everything but it is guaranteed that they are missing something whether it be a snack or a permission slip. My seven year old keeps better track of her due dates and school functions than I do. Some might say well get a calendar so you can keep everything organized! Yeah, that makes sense to someone who won’t forget to write things on the calendar and/or look at the calendar. But forgetting school stuff isn’t even the worst of it.
I forgot to give my son his antibiotics for three days in a row. Just completely forget that they existed. Then the anxiety sets in. What if he gets sicker? Then I’ll have to tell the doctor I forgot his meds. Then the doctor will call child services on me. Oh god what have I done?! My son is fine; perfectly healthy. Don’t we all forget to take our full round of antibiotics anyway? But it’s different when it’s a child. I am afraid of being judged by other parents and by their teachers. I am afraid of a doctor saying something is wrong because of my neglect. I am afraid of my kids getting left out or teased because of me. I am afraid of someone coming over and going and telling other people “you won’t believe how messy her house is – I can’t believe she has kids!” But so far in my seven years of momming none of these terrible things have happened and my kids some pretty much unaffected by my foggy brain. We have learned to laugh things off for the most part. My husband is in charge of keeping track of everything. My keys, my doctor’s appointments, what day it is, and what planet we’re on, etc. There have been a few monumental screw-ups on my part like when I forgot my daughter’s dress rehearsal for the ballet recital she had been prepping for for a year. She wasn’t allowed to be in the performance because of it. My daughter was over it in a matter of hours but I spent the better part of a week verbally assaulting myself over it. I’ve forgotten to pay bills resulting in a shut-off notice and forget birthdays on a regular basis. I’m a mess.
But I am training myself to stop abusing myself because of it. Just like everything else that is a result of fibromyalgia, this is not my fault. I am learning to be more open and honest about how my brain works (or doesn’t, I should say). I set myself notes in my phone with an alarm to remind me and make sure to pass information along to my husband immediately before I forget. Someone who loses her glasses ten times a day and spends her evening walking into room then forgetting what for should not be in charge of anything important. We have found a good balance and the missed appointments and forgotten performances have gone down to a bare minimum. And if I do forget something, it’s not the end of the world. No one has the right to judge me if they aren’t living the life I have. My house isn’t messy, it’s lived in. And my children are not going to be ruined because I forgot a school mate’s birthday party. However they will remember a mother who constantly apologizes and beats herself up, so that is the behavior that has to stop.