Written by Lisa Moreno. Edited by Nadia Bodkin. Updated September 2023.
Lion Moms are defined as mothers who have children with a chronic illness
This new term is an appropriate spin off from the older, more well known, term Dragon Moms, used to describe mothers who have children that are terminally ill. Lions roar in order to proclaim their territory and rally members of their pride. Parents of chronically ill children similarly roar to protect their children and rally with other parents in order to amplify their roar as a unit.
Why do we roar? We watch our children suffer on a regular basis
Lion Moms are passionate, patient, love with great appreciation, strong and protective. Why do we roar? We watch our children suffer on a regular basis, without being able to provide them with the cure to their ailments. Lion Moms are called on to protect, educate and establish balance for their chronically ill children. Teaching a chronically ill child about their disease and establishing methods of doing things that they can incorporate into their daily lives is vital to raising a child with a chronic illness to be an independent adult. Most chronic illnesses are associated with slow progressive deterioration of the body’s ability to conduct basic tasks. This forces the person with the chronic illness to constantly adjust the way they do things in order to retain as much independence as the condition will allow. Lion Moms are side by side with their children, from day one, identifying what their children’s limitations are, encouraging them to find their limits and the strength to identify creative ways to do things that might not be as easy as it is for other children their age.
There are moments where Lion Moms want their chronically ill children to feel like they are normal
There is a constant balancing act between protecting the child from certain struggles that children should not have to worry about or even be aware of and coddling the child to the point where they lose out on vital opportunities to acquire the strength that they need in order to handle the cards that they have been dealt. Living with a chronic disease is like being trapped in what feels like a never ending race into the unknown. As Lion Moms, we recognize how exhausting and defeating life with a chronic condition can become and we want to make sure we arm our children with all of the tools they will need in order to conquer their race and to never give up, regardless of not being able to see the finish line. We teach them to pace themselves as you would running a cross country race. It is important that our children understand that the race is going to be a long, exhausting and challenging one.
While others who are healthy may experience periods of illness within their lifetime, whether its the flu or a cold, or a broken bone, they understand that the finish line is in sight. When you can see the finish line, it is much easier to encourage yourself to push harder to get to that finish line and celebrate the accomplishment of regaining good health. With chronic illness however, there is no visible finish line, nor are you guaranteed one within your lifetime. So Lion Moms must train their chronically ill children to have hope that the medical community may find a cure for their condition. But to be cognizant of the potential that they may not experience a cure within their lifetime. As a result, it is important to prepare for what the next lap may introduce, whether it is a new symptom, a highly recommended surgery, or a potential side effect from the new medication that was prescribed to slow the progression of the condition or treat a symptom in an attempt to improve basic quality of life.
Lion Moms accept the unpredictability of a chronically ill life and do our best to buffer the impact of having to miss an appointment or event from negatively affecting our child. As a caregiver of a child with a chronic disease, you learn quickly that plans are never concrete. Attending school, church, parties, doctor visits all depend on how my chronically ill child is feeling and whether he is physically able to hold his head up or not. If an event or an appointment falls on a day where my child cannot function, I, a Lion Mom, am now deployed to social damage control. Damage control entails doing my best to explain my child’s condition and why we are unable to attend without spending too much time away from my child since in these moments, he needs me the most.
At times…actually MOST of the time, society pushes back, accusing me of being too soft. They don’t understand why my son at times looks healthy enough to be able to meet their expectations, but for some reason is unable to consistently perform as expected. The explanation that one of my sons has Atypical Blau and vasculitis, while my other son has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and possibly Cystic Fibrosis, doesn’t seem to ever be enough. While some will understand, most do not, and even go as far as to suggest that I push my sons to meet an obligation that their bodies are preventing them from meeting. This is when I ROAR. I stand up for my sons. I see their daily struggles. I know the pain they endure on a regular basis. I see them pushing themselves to limits I didn’t even know they had, but am so proud to see them doing their best with the body that they have been given. So when I hear statements like my child “needs to learn how to deal,” or that “it is all in his head,” I ROAR. I roar for my sons because they are too young to roar for themselves. Diseases like the ones my sons were born with doesn’t just go away with positive thoughts or pure will. While people tend to naturally judge what they do not understand, I, along with other Lion Moms, will continue to ROAR for my cub. We will not only roar for them, but will teach them to grow into lions with the capability to roar and rally with others like them. The children who beat the odds and make it to adulthood contribute to our society in a variety of positive ways because their Lion Mothers taught them perseverance and resilience.