“Diabetes and Parenting? Here’s How We Do It!”

We asked parents for solutions to manage their condition—and their children.

Andrea Barbalich
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It’s difficult enough to meet the daily challenges of diabetes management. Add kids to the mix, and things can become more hectic. See the ingenious solutions these clever parents came up with!

“I outsmarted the morning mayhem.”
Mornings at Sara Daly’s house can get crazy. The 41-year-old from Middlebury, VT, has to get herself ready for work, plus her two kids, Sam, 11, and Megan, 8, ready for school. “There’s always a form to fill out. And they’re asking me a million questions at once: ‘Did you sign this permission slip? Where’s my recorder?’ I’m so focused on them that I can forget to take care of myself,” says Sara, who uses an insulin pump. “I start to feel very grouchy, and I get the sense that my blood sugar may be too high. I stop to check it if I can, but that’s not always easy.”

Her solution: “Visualize what your next day will look like.”
“There’s so much to remember, and doing this the night before helps me think everything through and have a plan for the morning.” Sara also puts aside a half hour for herself, before she gets the kids out the door at 8 am. “They’re ready to go by 7:30, and I’m in my room that last half hour getting ready,” says Sara. “They know better than to come in! If I do feel myself getting irritable, I take a minute to stop and check. I know where my meter is at all times, and if I’m high I give myself a bolus from my pump. I take care of it quickly, and we’re out the door.”

“I got a grip on my go-to schedule.”
“It’s hard to stay on top of my insulin schedule,” says Lakesha Womack, 35, of Evergreen, AL, who has diabetes and a 7-year-old who plays baseball, basketball and golf! “We can be at Kristian’s games all day and into the evening, so I have to make adjustments to my eating and medication. When I’m in a public place I don’t always want to whip out a needle and vial in front of everyone. The bathrooms aren’t always sanitary, either.” And the food at the concession stands? “Forget it,” says Lakesha. “There’s nothing available except fried food, hot dogs, chicken wings and nachos with cheese sauce. I can take food with me, but I don’t like to be too weighted down considering I’m also carrying all his gear.”

Her solution: “I started using prefilled insulin pens.”
“They’re portable and don’t need to be refrigerated,” says Lakesha, who keeps several in her purse. She also packs lightweight snacks—whole-wheat crackers, cheese, bananas. “I have a big purse that I can put everything in so I don’t need to carry a cooler,” she adds.

“I controlled mealtime chaos!”
“Things are hardest at dinner,” says 40-year-old Glenview, IL, resident Alison Parry, who has type 1 diabetes and a 2-year-old. “If my husband isn’t home from work, it’s just my daughter, Anna, and me. For us to eat at the same time, I need to check my blood sugar, portion my meal, calculate the number of carbs so I can program my pump to give the right dose of insulin and then serve the food.” And if Anna isn’t cooperative? “Every mom knows that if your child is screaming for food, taking an extra minute or two to do anything can be excruciating,” says Alison. “If she’s fussy and I get distracted, I may not get to my meal right away and then I’m in danger of becoming hypoglycemic. Sometimes I miscalculate, and I start to sweat and panic, and I can’t deal with Anna. When this happens, mealtime is not the happy time I want it to be.”

Her solution: “Try to be more prepared and precise.”
“I cook out of diabetes cookbooks because the recipes have the carb breakdown so I know exactly how many I’m getting.” Alison is also careful about portion control. “If the recipe serves four,” says Alison, “I portion it out so I get one-quarter of it—then my calculations are easier and faster.” She also has her emergency go-to plan, “so I’m never in trouble for too long. I always have glucose tablets and jellybeans in the kitchen just in case. I try to stay organized and prepared and show my daughter that no matter what your challenge is, you just deal with it.”

“I reclaimed my focus and energy!”
“I get fatigued easily,” says entrepreneur Scott Neuman, who has type 2 diabetes. “I can also get foggy—like I’m scatterbrained and can’t focus.” That’s a problem for the Lakehurst, NJ, resident since his kids—Matthew, 9, and Alexa, 7—come bounding home from school at 3:15 and expect him to be 100%. “They have friends over, or I have to take them to karate or scouts. I try to help them with homework, and they’ll say, ‘Dad, you’re not understanding this.’”

His solution: “Sneak in rest whenever you can.”
“I nap every day between 2 and 3 pm, for a half hour to an hour. When I awake, I feel refocused and more energetic, and good to go until 11, 12 at night.” Scott’s nap, combined with insulin shots plus eating properly “keeps me in balance and helps me be there for my kids.” 

January 2013