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Taking care of kids during a migraine

Though I’m not a parent myself, I probably have more baby and kid experience than a lot of my non-parent friends combined.

I’ve been babysitting since I was 11 (yup, 20 years ago) and would venture to call myself a former professional nanny. That’s stretching it a bit, perhaps, but suffice to say I have spent much of my life taking care of little ones.

Kids’ creativity and hilarity never cease to amaze me, but I have to admit that playing house and family with young elementary kids can get, well, downright boring if you’re not their age.

And babies and toddlers can be just about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, but five hours into a seven hour day of one-on-one baby time can certainly have you staring at the clock, willing it to tick faster and faster.

But no amount of baby boredom can compare to the terrible, awful way I feel when I am babysitting and have a bad migraine.

The families I nanny for understand that I am reliable and good with kids but that I have a chronic condition that may cause me to cancel once in awhile. It’s far from convenient for them, but it’s a tradeoff they accept. It doesn’t mean I feel any less guilty when I have to call in sick due to migraine.

These days I babysit much more rarely than I used to, but once in awhile I pick up some hours here and there. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling unbelievably terrible—my head pain was intense, I was totally nauseated and tired, and I had menstrual cramps to boot. But I had already driven 20 minutes to babysit little B., who at the time was as cute and colicky and cry-filled as can be. It was a long four hours. I drove home in a daze and had to cancel everything for the next 2 days. I’m telling you, it was bad.

And all this got me thinking: you migraineurs out there who balance childcare with the rest of your life are HEROES. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to take care of kids 24/7 and have migraine disease on top of that. Kudos to you, and kudos to you for having found this website—I hope you are able to track down some good ideas to help you cope better.

My hats off to you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Rachel Z
    8 years ago

    I have chronic daily migraine with a lot of wierd nuero symptoms, don’t respond to meds and have two kids — ages 2 and 4. the combo can be a tough one and has left me unfullfilled in many ways because having a professional life under these circumstances is pretty much out of the question. so i constantly find myself questioning my own worth. i find energy for the kids — usually — and then feel bad when i don’t. but of course the worst of all is when my husband comes home after a long day of work and i’ve had it and don’t have anything left to give him at all. i go to therapy about this, and it’s helped. but what can i do about being completely spent and exhausted. he loves me, i know, but i often wonder despite our 11 years together if he’ll be able to manage for the long haul, especially as my headaches seem to be progressive and are noticeably and significantly worse now than they were even 2-3 years ago. i’m afraid that as my kids get older and start to notice more they’ll start to think of me as being “sick”. i don’t feel sorry for myself, just sad at the situation and especially for those around me sometimes.

  • Laura Kincaid
    8 years ago

    Although I am not a mother, as a public school teacher, I know all too well how difficult migraines are when caring for children. I have to ban all perfumes and scented lotions, monitor the weather and adjust recess accordingly (I live in south Texas), and the list goes on. My students learn quickly how to tell if I have an episode coming on, and I feel terrible about that. I rarely leave school due to a migraine, but I hate when I can’t give them 100%.

  • Linda Barham Nabors
    8 years ago

    This topic is full of emotion for me. I grew up with a Mother that suffered with Migraines. She tended to take to her bed and my memories are of many lonely days after school fending for myself. She was rarely at my school functions, but she did what she could at times. I swore to my self when my Migraines began when my babies were 3 & 1 that I would do all that I could with them and push as hard as I could through the pain to make their life as normal as possible. Thanks to my wonderful husband who helped so much, I have 2 wonderful grown sons that don’t remember me being absent from their lives and they were never lonely. I suffer with Fibromyalgia also and the fatigue it has added to the Migraine scenario is making life more difficult as the years go by. Sometimes I think that I pushed beyond my limits too many days due to this emotional issue with my Mother. I didn’t want to give up and now I have to because my body canl no longer push. It just stops and everything with it. I am now a Grandmother and I want to be the best I can be, but it is no longer possible for me to push through everything. Although life is so tough now, I would not change the times I made myself do the impossible. I hear my boys say that I was a good Mother and they never felt slighted, ignored or neglected.
    I realize it was never my Mom’s fault. She didn’t choose her headaches, but I have to forgive her actions of at least not communicating with me about what was going on with her. Children blame themselves for the strangest things and I still struggle with wondering why I wasn’t good enough to fight for or be talked to.
    If you have children and are not able to do all that you want to do with them, please sit them down and talk to them and explain what is happening. Let them know it is not their fault, arrange for someone to be there for them, talk to them and keep up with what they are doing and be as involved in their lives as you can be. They will thank you for it.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    Janet, as you know, caring for kids while suffering chronic Migraine can be one of the most difficult jobs in the world. I remember weeks and months at a stretch when things were bad for both my Migraine situation as well as my son’s, that I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off. Hubs might be away at school, son was already dealing with other serious health issues, and with no family nearby there was nobody I could lean on for support or help. When baby #2 came along there were times I thought I must have been crazy to add on that load too. Still, I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. It taught me a lot, and if it weren’t for all the living I did back then, I doubt I would be here today. Sometimes there are things that we would never do for ourselves that we don’t think twice about doing for our children.

    Here is something I posted here a while back that might be helpful to moms and dads out there. These are the tools I used to thrive as a Mom with Migraine Disease! How can I keep parenting during a Migraine? What should I put in my Migraine Tool Bag? What should I put in my kids Migraine Survival Bag?

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