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I'm a Mom with Migraine: How I Make it Work

Family painting together
Getty Images / Geber86

Sarah Rathsack talks about managing daily migraines and two small children. She talks about the importance of preparation and support.

It’s often difficult for people to believe that I live with chronic migraine when I tell them. But the truth is that I have a migraine every day. I wake up with a migraine every day and I go to bed with it every night. The rest of my day varies.

Most people say, “I don’t know how you do it.” And then add, “And with two young children!”

I always respond by telling people that I fight the migraine battle every day because I don’t have a choice. I’ve learned to find support, prepare, get creative, and do my best when it comes to taking care of my children.

Here’s how I manage motherhood while living with chronic migraine.

Find support

It’s hard for me to ask for help. It’s also hard to admit that I need help. But I’ve swallowed my pride and created an amazing support system around me.

Relationships take work, and I hope that I give back as much as I receive from them. I’m honest with my husband. On days that I really don’t feel well, I tell him my symptoms and pain level to help him understand.

I might request to have dinner without bright lights on. These little things make a difference. If I hide my pain, I end up feeling more sick and isolated.

I’m incredibly lucky to have a husband who’s a true partner and an amazing dad. When I’m down with a migraine, he steps up. When he’s traveling and working, I step up. We’re a team. Having a good partner has been crucial to raising my children.

Over the years, I’ve enlisted my parents, sister, friends, and co-workers for help. That said, I’ve also lost many friends because of migraine. I often have to cancel plans. My pain affects my mood. I can’t do as many things because of potential triggers, and I’m generally exhausted.

The bottom line is that you should choose quality over quantity with relationships. I use my energy wisely and dedicate time to my support system, while letting go of relationships that drain me.

Be prepared

Being prepared for migraine helps ease my worries and anxiety. Keeping a schedule helps my family know what to expect throughout our days.

We follow the same morning routine to get ready for school each day and the same routine at bedtime. These are often migraine-filled hours that can be intensified by moody, sleepy children. If we follow our routine, it’s less likely that we’ll encounter meltdowns and migraine spikes.

We’re building my children’s independence and confidence by making sure everyone has a job around the house. This is a skill that we constantly work on. We prepare snacks in the refrigerator and pantry at their eye level, and we fill water bottles so they can get a drink without needing help.

As they’re growing their self-help skills, they’re also learning how to care for others. They help get ice for me, turn off the lights, talk softly, and play when I have a migraine.

When they were babies and toddlers, I wasn’t able to explain migraine to them. I didn’t want to explain it. Now that they’re in elementary school, they’re able to understand that we all need help, and when someone is hurting, you care for them.

In emergencies, I have a back-up plan for my children. I’m honest with my support system about how I’m feeling and if I may need childcare help. I arrange carpools and alternative care for my kids when I’m simply unable to do anything but fight migraine.

Get creative

I often need to alter my children’s playtime around my migraine. I’ve found toys that play Mozart instead of loud, irritating noises. We read a lot of books and build plenty of puzzles. Play-Doh and coloring are great activities that occupy my kids for a bit, while giving me a little art therapy.

On days that I can get out of the house, we walk and stroll a lot. It helps my kids use up their energy. It also gets my blood moving in a rhythmic way.

We also play “camping” so I can shut off all the lights while they lie in their sleeping bags. I’ve been sick while they doctor me up on the couch, or I’ll pretend I’m a customer at a restaurant where they pile toy food on top of me. We save snuggles and movies for times that we all need it.

My children often don’t notice that I have a migraine because they’re so engaged in what they’re doing.

Do your best

I try my best and encourage my children to do the same in life. I’m gentle with them when they make mistakes, and I treat myself with the same kindness. Life is crazy, painful, and joyful, and it races by.

I survived being pregnant and having infants, toddlers, and now elementary-aged children, all while having chronic migraine.

When people tell me they don’t know how I do it, sometimes my answer is, “I don’t either.”

I struggle with guilt, regret, and anger toward battling migraine. I also live with pride for being the warrior and mom that I am.

My kids are the reason why I fight harder. They inspire me and give me a reason to act like Superwoman when I’m feeling like Oscar the Grouch in his garbage can.

The takeaway

Motherhood can be a struggle for everyone. We all have our ups and downs in different ways.

How do I react to a meltdown? How do I react to a migraine? My reactions are the only things that are in my control. I take everything one minute at a time, one day at a time, and one migraine at a time. 

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for caregivers or the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen​. 

NPS-ALL-NP-01001 JUNE 2023

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