Parenting With IBS: The School Drop-Off

Parenting with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has been a challenge from day 1. After my first IBS-free pregnancy, my symptoms returned with a vengeance. The weight of parenting responsibilities has played a number on my anxiety, and the fact that I could no longer put myself first during flares has made it so much harder to cope.

It’s not all bad though. I have adapted to the circumstances, and so has my body. After the birth of my second child, I’ve been feeling okay most of the time. I’d even say that for a while, life was as good as it had ever been since getting IBS.

An easy routine is good for IBS

For about a year, our routine was simple. My partner would drive our boys to daycare in the morning. During the day, I worked from home, and then I picked up the kids in the afternoon. Since our daycare is a 3-minute drive away from home, I never really worried about flares. And if I wasn’t feeling great, I could just call and pick them up later. It was okay.

During this time, my IBS was doing alright. Of course, I had flares. Other circumstances were impacting our lives and it wasn’t anxiety-free. However, our daily routine still felt easy, safe, doable.

When everything becomes complicated

Now, I live in France where school is mandatory at 3 years old. And school is not like daycare. For instance, you don’t get to choose which school your child goes to, unless you opt for a private school. We have four different public schools right near our house, three of which are supposed to be decent or even good. Yet for some reason, we got assigned to the one that’s among the worst schools in town. Needless to say, we spent lots of time debating and ultimately chose a private school that was much farther away, knowing very well that it would be a pain to access twice a day.

But the distance and poor accessibility weren’t everything. In France, schools are extremely strict and do not let you be late. At 8:30 am sharp, all doors close and you can no longer enter the school, unless you call the secretary and get someone to come open the door for you. I get why they do this, and yet, when you have IBS, being punctual can be a real problem.

The first day of school

As the first day of school approached, I started getting more and more nervous. On the one hand, I was excited for our son. On the other hand, I was already freaking out about having to drive there every day. It didn’t help that I’m a terrible driver and am generally anxious about driving anywhere.

With the mounting anxiety, my IBS symptoms got louder and louder. But it was still manageable. After all, my partner was also there, and I knew that I could always rely on him when I didn’t feel well. So, we survived the first day of school, then the first week, then the second.

More disruptions, more stress

Everything changed when my partner got offered a job outside of town. I was so excited for him and this new opportunity he was given. And yet, this meant that he would no longer be able to handle the school drop-off. At this point, I started spiraling. What if I was too sick in the morning to handle the hour-long drop-off routine for both boys? What if because of me, my oldest wouldn’t be able to go to school most days?

Despite all my stress management techniques, my symptoms got really bad. I started having terrible flares in the morning and was no longer able to eat normally. Rice, chicken, and gluten-free pasta became my only friends once again. Anxiety was always there, reminding me that I wasn’t fit to be a parent. Waking me up in the middle of the night in fear of being unable to handle the next morning’s drop-off routine.

A ray of hope

I wish I could end this article on a more positive note, but that’s where I’m at right now. I haven’t been this anxious in a while, and the anxiety makes my IBS flare over and over again.

However, despite it all, I’ve managed to get both boys to school and daycare several times already. I can only hope that with time, I’ll get used to the new responsibility and be able to cope a bit better.

How did or do you handle school drop-off when your IBS flares? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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