When Your Kids’ Struggles Hand You The Gift of Empathy

It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week, and while I love the opportunity it gives me to spread awareness and help educate others, it’s a time when I always find myself reflecting. As a mom managing multiple food allergies under one roof, it’s easy to get caught in the weeds. The vigilance required of families like mine is exhausting. We not only worry about protecting our kids’ physical well-being each day but their hearts, also. And, as my boys have grown in each phase of their little lives, what they’ve needed from me is different; my learning curve constantly changes. It’s a lot to juggle. It’s also not something I would have ever chosen for my boys. But, in the midst of what’s challenging, there’s a flip side.

My kids’ food allergies have not only made me a better mom but a better human. 

Empathy is tough. And, it’s especially difficult for grown-ups. Maybe it’s because, as adults, we are juggling so much and are skewed by our own life experiences. It makes it difficult to step outside of ourselves. That doesn’t mean we don’t genuinely care about the world around us, but it’s so easy to settle comfortably in our own little bubbles. We put on a pair of lenses that is unique to us, and that is the perspective from which we see the world. But, like so many of us whose kids face challenges – either medically, developmentally, academically, or otherwise – I was thrown a new pair of glasses when my boys received their diagnosis. And, I’ve never looked at the world in quite the same way.

I’ve learned we don’t know what we don’t know. 

When my boys feel sad or uncomfortable because they just want to be like everyone else, I now recognize there are others who feel the same way. When I have to ask a teacher, or neighbor, or friend to go out of their way to make my child feel included, I am aware of others who are overlooked and long to just feel a part of things. When someone asks me questions to better understand what life is like for our food allergy family, it opens my heart to want to learn more about the challenges that other kids face. I know the guts it takes to advocate and what it feels like to stare ignorance in its ugly face. And, I’m more willing than ever to support other moms who are speaking up on behalf of their children.

One more thing: I also appreciate that the juggling we do to manage our food allergies is nothing compared to what many families have to deal with each day. My perspective as a food allergy mom actually makes me more grateful for what we do have.

The struggles we face as moms can rock us. Seeing our kids struggle, in any capacity, is heartbreaking. But, I don’t regret the way my family’s challenges have opened my eyes and my heart. Thank you, food allergies, for giving me the most precious gift of empathy.

Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 12-18th! For more information about food allergies and obtain local support, visit Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta’s website at www.foodallergykidsatl.org.