Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Dad wearing a baby carrier that contains a brain instead of a child

Migraine Doesn’t Make You a Bad Parent

Insecurity and self-esteem issues often go hand-in-hand with chronic illness. Whether it’s the migraine disease itself or a comorbid condition such as depression or anxiety, the daily struggles of living with chronic illness can take a toll on our sense of worth. This is particularly the case when it comes to our identities as parents.

Wanting to provide everything

We want to be able to do everything we can for our children, to give them everything they want and need, to be everything they want and need. When we’re ill and we have to let some things go, we feel we’re falling short. We feel we’re failing.

The complications of single parenting with migraine

In the case of divorce and separation, this sense of failure can be amplified by our exes, especially in non-amicable situations. During a separation, an ex-partner might:

  • Tell your child(ren) you didn’t attend an event because you didn’t care, instead of because you were sick;
  • Tell your children you aren’t able to be there for them at all, because you’re “too sick;”
  • Attempt to use your migraine disease as an example of bad parenting or neglect in front of caseworkers, lawyers, or judges; and/or
  • Blame all of the problems in your relationship on you and your illness.

You are more than your illness

If you find yourself in such a situation, remember this: You are more than your illness.

Migraine disease does not define you. Illness doesn’t make you a bad parent. It doesn’t mean you’re a neglectful one either.

Yes, there may be times you can’t attend a school event, because you’re in the midst of an attack. Yes, you may have to decline positions such as room parent, because you aren’t sure you can commit to that many obligations in advance. Yes, you may not be able to make a homemade costume, because you need to reserve your energy resources for other things. Yes, you may have nights when your children eat microwave dinners, because you’re too ill to cook.

This does not mean your ex’s statements are true.

What makes a good parent

Homemade costumes and PTA positions are not what make you a good parent. Good parents love their children, support them, and listen to them. They teach values, encourage dreams, and help with homework. They show up, in a million different ways, on a consistent basis.

Don’t let your ex’s version of events affect your belief in yourself or your parenting abilities. Don’t let your ex use your illness as an excuse for his or her bad behavior or the problems in your relationship. Migraine disease is a part of your reality, but it is not the whole reality. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Don’t let anyone convince your children otherwise either.

Pulling in reinforcements

Parental alienation is a real problem during separations. If you feel your ex is intentionally sabotaging your relationship with your children, get help. Talk to a lawyer to figure out your options for custody and possession. And, if you don’t feel confident enough in yourself and your abilities, or if your ex’s statements are making you feel guilty, worthless, or insecure, get help for that too.

Talk to a friend, or find a therapist. (There are many who have experience working with the chronically ill. Check the APA’s website to find one.) Journal about your feelings, if it helps. Make lists of all the ways in which you show your children you love and support them. Pull the lists out and review them when you start feeling like you’re not good enough.

Migraine disease takes enough away from us. Don’t let anyone use it as an excuse to take your children.

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.


  • sarah
    4 years ago

    This article breaks my heart. I have chronic migraine and all that goes along with it. I, too, have missed doing things with my children/friends/family. And then there are the times when I’m just not fully “plugged in”. I’m there, but not engaging. To have someone USE my health issues against me to keep me from my children is worse than despicable–to me it’s evil.

  • shelleydf73
    4 years ago

    “In the case of divorce and separation, this sense of failure can be amplified by our exes, especially in non-amicable situations.” This is so true for me. ” If you feel your ex is intentionally sabotaging your relationship with your children, get help.” And this is easier said than done. With attorney and court costs being so high it is hard to do such. I pray that my step-son knows, or will know as he gets older, that we do the best we can. I’ve missed a lot of activities due to migraines, and yes, it gets you down and makes you feel even worse. I like the idea of the list. Will certainly make one for those down days. Thank you for the great article!

  • sralia
    2 years ago

    So good to read this. I often lament how many baseball games I missed. it literally tore my heart out. I wanted to be there so very badly. But summer heat and bright sun just made it an instant migraine.

  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    2 years ago

    I understand. I can’t go outside half of the summer, and it frustrates me to no end, especially when my kids have things they’d like me to see/attend. I’m glad the article brought you some comfort, though. Being a parent with migraine isn’t easy, and it sure helps to know we aren’t alone.

  • Poll