Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) comes with a range of emotions. Not knowing what to expect, I felt frightened, overwhelmed, and stressed. Both of my young children were as full of questions as my husband and I were.
Initially, none of us knew what MS was, and none of us knew what to do. For our family, the best thing after diagnosis was family therapy. We met with a trained professional who helped us talk about changes we needed to make as a family. What helped the most was learning how to communicate effectively without yelling, screaming, or getting frustrated.
As parents, we had to really pull together and work more as a team. We all had to learn that mom no longer has unlimited energy. My husband and I began taking turns with household tasks. If I cook dinner, he washes the dishes. If I wash the laundry, he folds and puts it away. When we first started doing this, it took more communication and effort for both of us. We now have a good system in place. Most of the time, the responsibilities are split up naturally without too much verbal communication.
As for our children, we decided a long time ago that we wanted them to learn to do things for themselves as they got older. This became even more important now that I have this condition. We took the time to show both kids how to sort, wash, and dry their own laundry. Of course, we help them if the loads are heavy, but they are in the habit of doing their own laundry. This really lightens the load for dad and me. This system isn’t always foolproof. There have certainly been days when school uniforms did not get washed on the weekend, leaving a kid without a uniform for school. As part of teaching them responsibility, we allow them to experience the consequences of these situations. Both kids have had detention a few times because they didn’t have the proper attire for school. This teaches them to be independent and responsible, while also lessening the tasks that take up mom’s limited energy.
We also worked on improving our morning routines. Through trial and error, we have learned to prepare for the next day ahead of time. As an example, school forms and homework papers are signed the night before. We also encourage the kids to shower at night and prepare what they are going to wear before going to bed. Backpacks and non-perishable items get packed.
These nighttime tasks help mornings run much more smoothly, and we get to leave the house in a good mood. We began this new routine after realizing that most mornings were chaotic and stressful due to tasks being left until then. Since we have adopted these new habits, life is much less stressful in the morning!
Finally, we got back to eating dinner together on weeknights. We found that when we don’t eat together, or if we let other activities interfere, family communication breaks down. We have also made a family rule that phones are not allowed at the table. This means we are able to spend time talking, laughing, and catching up with each other. Dinner usually ends in laughter. And you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world.