It’s a school day in the age of Covid-19: Time to set up your restless children in front of their screens for virtual class, then keep them attentive and on-schedule throughout the school day. You also serve their lunch, provide their tech support, and help with their homework. Simultaneously, you’re attending to your own work. Also, the house is a mess. The baby’s in your lap during Zoom meetings. The dog needs walking. And your head is pounding—because on top of everything, you’re parenting with migraine.
Sound familiar? With most children learning from home in some capacity, this back-to-school season has cranked up Covid-19 stress yet another notch. Overwhelmingly, the burdens of that day-to-day scramble fall on women, who also make up the vast majority of people with migraine.
Parenting With Migraine As A Mom
Right now, a few factors are coming together to squeeze moms with migraine:
- Studies show that women continue to shoulder most of the childcare and housework, a gender disparity that has barely budged during the pandemic.
- Mothers appear to be bearing the brunt of pandemic stress. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 57% of mothers reported their mental health had worsened due to the pandemic, versus 32% of fathers.
- Anxiety, stress and the lack of steady routines are significant triggers for migraine.
- Women make up nearly three-quarters of people with migraine, and 85% of those with chronic migraine.
Pandemic stress is already taking a toll on people with migraine: In May 2020, 58% of people with migraine surveyed said their headaches have worsened. What happens when they’re further exacerbated by back-to-school stress? And with no end to Covid-19 in sight, how can moms parenting with migraine continue to cope?
The Case for Asking for Help
The first step for moms with migraine, says Jefferson Headache Center’s Dr. Simy Parikh, is to know the most important ingredient you’ll need to succeed. The answer may surprise you. “The most important thing is social support,” says Dr. Parikh. “It comes down to whether or not you have the environment that supports you.”
Having people and structures that make your life a little easier are crucial for a critical reason: they free you up to engage in migraine management. Managing migraine is more than popping a pill; it involves proactively doing things that are good for you. But in order to do those activities — or to even think about doing them — you need the time and energy to make it happen, or else you’re stuck. That’s the situation women largely find themselves in: too busy to get better.
Take a moment to think about the following:
- Do you have anyone to help with responsibilities at home?
- Do you have a flexible workplace environment?
- Do you have the ability to take breaks during the day and relax?
Those are the make-or-break factors for migraine, says Dr. Parikh. “Take two patients with the exact headache frequency and severity, Patient A and Patient B. If one patient has support, they can go on working. If they don’t, they may have to get disability assistance.” She adds, “So many things come into play with migraine, aside from neurobiology. Access to support plays a big role in health outcomes. I think Covid-19 is really shining a light on that.”
How does a busy mom begin asking for support? How do you evaluate your own needs, especially when everything feels urgent? And, importantly, if you were able to get some help, how could you best use that sliver of time and ease for your own migraine care? Read the second part of our series on parenting with migraine: “Stress Migraine: How To Seek Help During A Pandemic.”