They look normal. They look healthy. They even look happy. Most of the time anyway. But they aren’t any of those things all of the time. I’m talking about homeschool moms with chronic illnesses. On the surface, they look normal, so we expect them to act normally. But they can’t.
Chronic illnesses can’t be cured even though they may be managed—sometimes better than others. They deplete energy, happiness, and general feelings of well-being. Often, they cause wide-spread pain. Homeschool moms who have chronic illnesses feel misunderstood many times. These illnesses are not all in their heads. They can’t just get over them.
These illnesses are not like other common sicknesses that elicit sympathy automatically. Please don’t think I’m trying to downplay the seriousness of other physical ailments; I’m not. I’m just trying to highlight a misunderstood category of illnesses.
People don’t want to talk about chronic illnesses because they don’t know what they are, and they don’t know what to say. Numerous chronic illnesses are also invisible, meaning that they’re not obvious. I’m just going to list a few of them, even though there are many, many more: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, anxiety, lupus, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression. If you were to take a poll of the homeschooling moms you know personally, I’d bet that many more of them have a chronic illness than you thought.
Homeschool moms (or anyone else) who have chronic illnesses don’t want to be defined by their diagnoses; neither do they want to whine about them all of the time. Okay, maybe they would like to whine, but they usually suppress the urge! But, they still need our understanding and our help. Here is a partial list of ideas to let those special homeschool moms know that we love them and want to help them:
- Ask how they’re feeling—and really mean it, but be aware that they may not want to talk about their illness(es)
- Take them a meal or cookies for no reason
- Offer to take their kids on a field trip
- Don’t make them feel guilty for not being able to do extra activities
- Offer to watch their little ones occasionally
- Offer to teach an elective such as art, state history, music, or science labs to their kids as well as to your own
- Don’t ask them to take on additional jobs or service projects
- Don’t distance yourself from them because they can’t keep up with activities that you used to enjoy together
- Send them an email (or even a snail mail card) to let them know you’re praying for them
- Give them a hug—they aren’t contagious
- Understand that no matter which chronic illness(es) they have, their energy level is much lower than it used to be
- Understand that they’re even more frustrated by their limitations than you are
- Ask if there’s anything specific you can do to help
- Do for them what you’d like your friends to do for you if you weren’t feeling well
Dear Sisters, I leave you with some scriptural encouragement to bless your fellow homeschooling moms. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress” (Philippians 4:14). “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:40). (All references taken from the NKJV.)