I originally wrote this post in 2014. My son is now an adult but no matter what his age, the words below still ring true. After all of these years, my children continue to make me proud but I still occasionally feel guilty as a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes.
As I started to read Ginger Vieira’s book Diabetes Burnout, I was hit by the many ways that I feel guilty as a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes. Did I push my son too hard? Did I expect too much?
As I read further, I felt vindicated but I was also reminded of the overwhelming guilt that comes with being a parent of a child with diabetes.
Well-meaning people share with us many “reasons” that children develop diabetes and somewhere in the back of our mind’s ( well my mind anyway) we occasionally ask, was that it? Was that why my son developed this disease? Did I not breastfeed my son long enough? Did I feed him cow’s milk too soon? Was vaccinating him on schedule a bad thing? Was there a family history that we missed? I know that I didn’t feed him too much junk. I know that it wasn’t two years of chocolate bars that did this to him but maybe that first time that he seemed off months before I should have realized that he was seriously ill and that it wasn’t just the flu?
Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t spend all of my energy feeling guilty about the “what ifs”. Diabetes took up enough of my energy on its own…but that led me to a new source of guilt.
Did I spend enough time with my child without diabetes?
Had I denied my other son because diabetes took so much of my energy? My older son never complained but it was a question that popped into my head now and again. We went to diabetes-related events and he met many new friends. He always seemed to have more fun than my child with diabetes.
I was there for my oldest son in his events and activities. He knew that when there was an issue that required someone to stand beside him, I always did. I was also there for the softball games, school events, report card days, sick days, and driving school. I was pretty sure that I had successfully found a balance but a hint of guilt still tugged at my subconscious.
Did I focus too much on diabetes care when dealing with my child with diabetes?
As a parent of a child with diabetes, I also felt guilty as I wonder if I had achieved a balance with my youngest son? Did diabetes take over everything? Did he hate me because I punished him for diabetes-related offenses? Did he feel that I had robbed him of his childhood by focusing on blood checks and injecting when he wanted to play and forget it all?
My children seem to be well-adjusted. We have memories of family vacations and times spent with each other. We communicate regularly. I guess I didn’t scar them too badly–I hope. I didn’t have to feel guilty about robbing my children of their childhoods. Diabetes changed things but it didn’t destroy it.
I feel guilty that I can take a break from diabetes but he can’t.
One other area of guilt as a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes always seems to flutter on the sidelines. I know I am not alone in with this one. I have heard other parents mention it. It is the guilt that comes when our children go away and take diabetes with them. It’s that time when they go to the other parent’s house, spend the night with a friend or with grandparents. It’s that time when they go to camp for a week or move away from home.
It is then that a new guilt moves in. I no longer have to think about diabetes 24/7. Oh I still wake at night. I still look at a meal and automatically count the carbs and dose insulin in my head. Often, I still wonder what my child’s blood glucose level is. I worry and wonder if he is taking proper care of himself while I have a break.
It isn’t like I really have to be awake at night. When he isn’t home, I can enjoy that extra glass of wine without fear of dealing with a low later that evening. I don’t have to remember to test after that walk. I have it easy. It’s not fair. The guilt becomes stifling.
As a parent of a child with diabetes, I want to carry the burden of this disease for my son but I can’t. I want to give him a break but I can’t even if I get one! It doesn’t seem right. I must be a terrible parent…but maybe I am not.
When my son is with me, I help him with care when he wants. When he has an issue and he is away from me, he calls and asks for help. We talk about readings…when he is ready. We talk about other things as well. I work hard to make diabetes the last thing I ask him about not the first.
Your best is all you can do.
Guilt doesn’t get me anywhere. It’s a backward-looking emotion. Life didn’t come with a guidebook. My children were not born with a manual attached. I do my best. We all do. The guilt we feel as parents of children with type 1 diabetes must be released not harbored…and I do.
I have made mistakes but my kids are okay. They are strong. My children are relatively healthy. They are smart. My boys do me proud.
Don’t waste energy on feeling guilty as a parent of a child with diabetes. You cannot feel guilty about all of the things that weren’t perfect. Move forward and smile. It’s the only way to go.
Having trouble moving forward? Remember to take life four hours at a time.