Coping With a Sick Parent While Raising Young Children


As a young parent, it’s a weird thing to be coping with a sick parent. It’s messy and private and it’s an invisible pain, so no one knows to ask if you’re okay. 

It twists your perspective in such a way that the most mundane and pure parenting tasks act as a trigger more than anything else. When my friends cut up their child’s food, or help them change out of dirty clothes, or help them tie their shoes, they’re doing just that. When I do those things, the parallels between the sick and young are so blatant that it takes my breath away. 

It makes me envious of my friends and my spouse who have two healthy parents. When my father-in-law takes my son swimming or helps him dunk a basketball, by heart simultaneously swells and aches. It’s a glaring reminder of how life is a bittersweet dichotomy of blessings and realities that you’ll never seem to understand. 

Coping with a sick parent while trying to raise young children is full of good days and bad days. The bad days feel like anxiety takes the wheel and your mind can’t help but veer off the road into the “What If” ditch. It’s the days when the visits are a little more difficult and a little more trying. The bad days are the car rides home when I ask God for even the slightest sign that everything happens for a reason. “It can be a stretch,” I’ll say. Sometimes, I get an answer. Most times I don’t. 

But there are good days. The good days look like going through old photos and remembering. The good days look like visits when we laugh and he feels well enough to make funny faces at my boys or ask me about my life. 

Coping with a sick parent has made me overly thankful and keenly aware of how fortunate I am. If you have a sick parent, you know how easy it would be to let that one factor of your life contaminate your entire worldview, but you also know that it simplifies finding the beauty and joy everywhere you look. 

Sure, I have bad days, but my dad would hate to know that. So, I let those feelings wash over me when they come, but I don’t get caught up in the wave. Instead, I stand up, look around, and take a thorough inventory of all the good in life.

Like the way my toddler holds my hand for no reason. Or the way my baby’s breath smells. I realize that it doesn’t really matter that my husband forgets how a dishwasher works, because he’s the kind of man who goes out on a Wednesday night to buy me dessert when I have a sweet tooth. I don’t sweat the small stuff; I revel in it, because I know how lucky I am to experience it. 

As a young parent, it’s a weird thing to be coping with a sick parent. It’s messy and private and invisible, but I’m okay.