Q: I feel like all of my child's type 1 diabetes care has fallen on my shoulders. How do I get my husband to share some of the responsibility? It's only been a few months since our son's diagnosis, and I'm already burning out.
A: First off, you should probably ask yourself the question: Am I willing to give up control over my child's type 1 diabetes care? So often what we're seeing when one parent takes the lead in caring for a child's diabetes is that this simply mirrors how the spouses have always split parenting responsibilities, even before their child's diagnosis.
To begin new patterns in your relationship as parents of a child with diabetes, it's important that you and your partner are both on equal footing when it comes to diabetes education and type 1 diabetes management. I encourage the parents I work with to attend doctor's appointments and teaching times with their diabetes educator together. Be prepared to listen patiently -- and without judgment -- if your partner needs to ask extra questions during these appointments or go over information you might already know.
When your husband is in charge of your child, allow him to take care of things "less well" than you do. If you have been solely responsible for food choices, checking blood sugar, and administering insulin for these past few months, chances are you're now pretty good at these things! Give your husband the space to get over his own learning curve and, most of all, let go of expectations that things must go perfectly.
To keep those all-important lines of communication open, strive to keep your interactions positive. After coming home, make sure the first question you ask is, "How was your day?" and not, "What are his blood sugar numbers?" This is an important message for your child to hear, too -- that you care more about the time your son and his father spent together than about checking in on the disease.
If your husband is unsure about something that happened (your son's sugar level unexpectedly spiked, your husband miscalculated an insulin dose, etc.), first thank him for his honesty in sharing this with you. Without judging, offer tips for how he might do things differently next time, and let him know that you have experienced similar issues.
Unfortunately for some couples, making the transition to more equitable sharing of a child's type 1 diabetes care doesn't come easily, usually due to work obligations, long-ingrained patterns of one parent taking on the caretaker role, and unresolved marital issues surrounding trust and communication. If you find this is the case for you and your husband, make an appointment with the therapist assigned to your child's diabetes care team. Talking things out with a social worker or therapist may give the two of you a better idea of how to put the partnership back in your parenting.
--Wendy Satin Rapaport, L.C.S.W., Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and adjunct professor of medicine at the Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.