Reflections on Father’s Day and Parenting with Migraine

Reflections on Father’s Day and Parenting with Migraine

June 17, 2022
Qasim Amin Nathari
Picture of grandkids of Qasim
Credit: Qasim Amin Nathari

Among the realities of living with migraine and the impact it has on my life, one of the most daunting challenges is parenting (and now also grandparenting) with migraine.

Although I had episodic childhood migraine that went undiagnosed, my adult life with migraine didn’t begin until I was in my early 30s and diagnosed in 1998 while in my second marriage. By the time my condition worsened to chronic migraine in 2003, I was the father of five. From 1998 and onward, balancing fatherhood and life with migraine was always a work-in-progress, with varying degrees of success.

Being Open and Honest

One of the keys to the successful management of both realities is that I was transparent with my children about migraine, and they were aware of the challenges that it presented. This was of the utmost importance.

I explained to them what migraine was; what the attacks felt like; what I needed to do at times when dealing with an attack, etc. It got to the point where they would oftentimes notice when I was dealing with migraine even without me saying anything. (Yes, we know how perceptive and observant children can be). This, along with an understanding coparent and other family support, helped to make parenting them a much less arduous task. And although my children were active all throughout most of their school years — with sports, theater, creative arts, and other activities — I am grateful that I did not miss very many things and important moments as a result of migraine.

Dealing with Fear

Having migraine while simultaneously striving to be an active, engaged, and present father also brought two additional stressors to the surface: the fear of missing out and the fear of whether any of my children would have to look forward to a life with migraine, as migraine disease is also hereditary. Gratefully, those five children are now adults, with children of their own [pictured above] — and only one of them, my oldest daughter, has experienced occasional episodic migraine. Of course, I continue to hope and pray that it does not worsen and that her siblings or any of my grandchildren are not later impacted by migraine. I want this to stop with me. That would be the best Father’s Day gift for me every year.

Fathering with Migraine

My advice for those fathering with migraine is to be proactive and share as much as you can with your children about living with migraine. This will evolve into more detailed conversations and discussions as they grow, mature, etc., but it should start early on. This helps to manage expectations and allows them to have an awareness of what is happening when the inevitable attack occurs.

I also encourage them to, as I’ve described it, “plan the work and work the plan.” This specifically means that through proper planning preparation you may be able to reduce the intensity and frequency of your migraine attacks. For example, when you are engaged with your children for activities away from home, just as you prepare snacks and essentials for them, be sure to do the same for yourself. Skipping meals is a trigger, and one that can be avoided.

It is also important to learn, know, and actively manage your triggers so that you can plan family activities wherever possible, in places and spaces that minimize your exposure to some of those triggers. These are just a few practical steps that you can take to make this shared journey of life with migraine a less stressful and impactful one.

Often as fathers (and parents in general), we are viewed as heroes and invincible in the eyes of our children. Living with migraine can be a sobering reminder for us that we are indeed human. Yet it is still possible to be an effective and loving father while living with migraine. So be kind to yourself and do all that you can to remain present. Children are the most understanding and empathetic of all of those in our familial and social circle. Watching you live with migraine may perhaps be one of their first and most important, impactful lessons of how to deal with the challenges that life will present to them. Seize the moment.

Happy Father’s Day!

Follow Qasim on Instagram @BlackMenHaveMigraineToo and @QasimAminNathari and on Twitter @BMHMToo and @aminnathari. You can also hear more from Qasim in season two of our podcast Talking Head Pain.

Download the Migraine Patient Guidelines

Vetted by both medical experts and people living with migraine disease, our Migraine Patient Guidelines offer clear, trusted information to make sense of all the treatment choices for migraine disease. Learn about the latest treatment options, get support for coping with migraine stigma at work and in your personal relationships, and learn more about how to be a migraine patient advocate. Learn more here.





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