The Load Of Parenting: Anxiety and IBS
Last updated: December 2021
Being a parent has made my IBS worse, or at least more difficult to cope with. How you ask? By adding a whole load of anxiety. And as we all know, anxiety is a powerful IBS trigger.
The is no more "good" time to have a flare
Before being a mom, some of my IBS flares weren’t that difficult to deal with. As long as they were rather mild, I was okay with going to the bathroom multiple times when I was alone at home and had nothing specific planned for the day. This, however, doesn't happen now. Even on the calmest of days, I still have to take care of my child. Having a flare is never okay.
Mentally, this is hard for me. I am never not anxious about getting sick. It's always at the back of my mind, even when I'm home with nowhere to go. This definitely wasn’t the case before becoming a parent.
Constant responsibility as an anxiety trigger
Being constantly responsible for another human being, day and night, take a toll on my anxiety levels. I used to only get anxious when I had an event coming up or when I had to leave the house early for an appointment. Now, I feel an underlying layer of anxiety that's just always there.
There is always something to worry about with small children. They are teething, going through sleep regressions, refusing to eat when they are not sick (which they always are after starting daycare). As much as I love being a mom, life just isn't as calm as it used to be.
The increase in anxiety directly impacts my IBS, meaning that I have to be far more careful than ever before. Concretely, this signifies that I now take fewer risks when it comes to food. I just don't consume anything that might potentially trigger my IBS because I don't want to end up with a flare.
Getting help is not all that helpful
Something I find exceedingly difficult on a daily basis is catching a break from parenting. I don't have much help. None of my family lives close by. My partner works all day, and while my son technically goes to daycare, he is sick so often that daycare days amount to less than 50 percent of our time. Since I work from home, it's only logical that I'm the one staying home with our sick baby.
A couple of times, I have asked my in-laws to come and help me out. But even though their presence does a great job at keeping my son entertained, I'm still the one taking care of meals, naps, and bedtime. Plus, I then also have to entertain my in-laws, which makes me even more anxious about getting an IBS flare. As nice as this is for a change, it doesn't exactly allow me to have a break.
Parenting and IBS weren’t made for each other
Being a parent is always hard, whether you have a chronic illness or not. But being a parent with IBS just adds another layer of difficulty that sometimes makes it feel impossible to cope. A healthy parent can feel exhausted and stressed after caring for a sick baby all day long. With me, this exhaustion and stress upset my digestive system and make me feel ill, too. This just doesn't help.
To this day, my partner has to drive to all emergency doctor's appointments for my son because my anxiety and IBS make me unable to do it. IBS just makes it impossible to deal with anxiety-inducing situations.
Having children is amazing, even with IBS
All this being said, I wanted to make clear that parenting with IBS isn't all about anxiety and flares. Most of the time spent with my son is great despite the difficulties. It's just the hard bits that get intensified by having IBS.
If you're a parent with IBS, I would love to know your biggest struggles and how you cope with them?
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?