What I Wish I Knew…
Do not let suffering child guilt take over your life!
There are two central emotions that I have felt with my son since the moment we discovered his life threatening food allergies. The first emotion can be termed guilt. What did I do wrong when I was pregnant with him? Did I introduce solid foods too soon? Should I have switched to formula instead of continuing to breastfeed him? What is it that I did and/or continue to do that hurts my son? (You can read a previous post in this series on Parental Guilt. Some of the same words will be used in today’s post.) The second emotion can also be termed guilt, but in a different way. The guilt that my young child is suffering instead of me, his mother. I will term this “suffering child guilt”. I know that these two emotions are part of any mother or father who has a hurting child. It is our human nature to feel this guilt.
But having those two types of guilt has not better prepared me in any way to give advice on dealing with this aspect of life with food allergies. I have experienced it, but I do not feel that I have beat it, nor can I adequately give advice to you about it. So, where does that leave us on the topic of suffering child guilt and food allergies? Let me just say that the points I make below are ones that I have to tell myself all the time.
Well, let me ask you a few questions. Does your child benefit from the weight of your suffering child guilt? Are you able to put aside the pain, guilt, and even inconveniences of food allergies to better serve your child and your entire family? Does your child’s suffering influence how you treat other members of your family? Would you be considered an over-protective mother/father (beyond that which is a necessary level of protection because of food allergy risk)? Do you hold such a heavy weight of guilt that it has influenced much of life — stripped you of your joy? If you answered in the affirmative to any of those questions, I will tell you point blank that you are not helping your suffering child, you are not helping the rest of your family, and you are not helping yourself!
The way I see it, you can still have that emotion, that suffering child guilt, that wish that it had been you rather than your child. Sure, go for it, but DO NOT LET IT CONSUME YOU! (Yes, I used all caps!) We all carry around various shades of guilt throughout our lives, but what you do with that guilt makes all the difference. I have a few tips of how you can turn negative all-consuming suffering child guilt into a positive outcome. The first step, however, is accepting the fact that your child has a life-threatening illness that may or may not be life-long. You do not know all the factors that contributed to this illness. And, you cannot swap places with your child no matter how badly you want to.
A Positive Outcome to Suffering Child Guilt (as it relates to food allergies)
- Do everything that is in your power to keep your child safe. In so doing, try your best not to be an overprotective parent or to neglect the rest of your family or your own personal needs.
- Have a life of your own. It is okay to get away from your food allergy child from time to time. In fact, it is highly important. Find someone you really trust to watch your child and go, even it’s just to a coffee shop for 1 hour.
- Be an advocate for other people suffering from food allergies. Set people straight on the facts of the illness — that will require you to know the facts yourself. Be the “go to” person at your school because you make others feel comfortable with your child’s illness.
- Stay informed on current research and trends. It’s just good to know where the research is going and how this may affect your child.
- Show support for food allergy doctors and organizations that do their job right. First, I have mentioned before that it took us a couple of doctors before we found our current allergist. I consider her to be the best for us and I have referred others to her. She stays on top of research, conducts her own research, and listens to concerns that my son or I are having. She does not risk his life! Second, Kids with Food Allergies and FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylactic Network) are non-profit organizations that support you on your food allergy journey. Join them, get familiar with their organization, follow them on facebook, and whatever else they offer.
- It helps to have a support community, whether online or where you live. It’s great to bounce recipes and other life tips off one another. We can always do something better.
- Stay positive! If you do all the above, I’m certain the joy that succumbed to your suffering child guilt may just get a little of its kick back.
Do you live with suffering child guilt? How do you deal with it? Is there a way in which The Willing Cook can come along side you and help you?
Well, as I’ve mentioned, we’re coming to the end of the Life with Food Allergies series. The last topic is next week (although I need to look through my notes to see if there were any topics that I added from reader comments). We will cover how one deals with an anaphylactic reaction without any prior knowledge of food allergies. Oh, update: I just looked through my notes and there are a few additional topics that readers wished to cover. I may cover them in a single post or separate them out. At any rate, the initial series comes to an end next week 🙂