I’ve always been what you call a “nervous mother.” I am not quite all the way to helicopter mom, but I could get there if I wasn’t so self-aware. However, this past year I’ve been struggling with anxiety and I must say that it’s taken my nervous mother-ness to a whole new level. I am working on getting it under control, but in the meantime I have to tell myself certain truths over and over again when anxiety tries to tell me lies about my kids.
Here are some examples of things and thoughts I battle as a mom with anxiety.
At school pick up, when my kids take three or four minutes longer to come out to the car, my anxiety tells me they’re surely missing. AWOL. Gone. I have to take deep breaths and tell myself that they’re just being slow pokes today.
When my teenager seems more quiet than usual, my anxiety tells me that there’s probably something very wrong that he’s afraid to tell me about. I have to remind myself that he is introverted and quiet by nature, and also, not talking to your mom very much is a very normal teenage boy thing to do and he’s probably not having a life or death crisis.
Sometimes at dinner when I’m having a rough anxiety day, I carefully monitor every bite my seven-year-old puts into his mouth. (Let’s just say he’s always eaten very quickly and doesn’t take great care with chewing.) I have to remind myself that at seven years old he’s pretty good at eating, and has never had one single choking incident.
When my seven-year-old has a paper sent home from school that he didn’t do well on, my anxiety tells me that it’s a huge deal and that I need to do everything I can to make sure he understands this concept or it’s going to have an extremely detrimental effect on his entire life. I have to talk myself off the ledge on this one, and remind myself that bombing one math test or getting a C on handwriting in second grade is pretty much meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
I guess the real problem with my anxiety is that it makes me feel like literally everything is a huge deal or an emergency, and it causes my brain to leap to the most disastrous worst case scenario every single time. When it comes to my kids, I’m already predisposed to think things are a bigger deal than they really are, so the combination of anxiety plus motherhood issues can easily send me into a panic. For a girl who already has no chill, add anxiety to the mix is kind of disastrous.
Practical solutions for dealing with my mom anxiety
So, how do I handle this? Well, lots and lots of ways. Personally, my anxiety is linked to my hormonal cycle. So I’m currently undergoing tests to get to the bottom of that, and find a solution. In the meantime, I’m using some natural supplements and oils to help lessen the effects a bit, and they are definitely helping. But something else that is really effective for me is reaching out when I’m having irrational thoughts and worries about my kids. When I am sitting in the school parking lot waiting for my kids to come out of the building and the minutes tick by and they’re not appearing, I will usually text my husband and tell him that I’m worried about it. And he will always calmly respond and tell me that they’re fine and they will be right out. (And he is always right.) Now, this is something that I rationally know, but it very much helps me to have someone else say it and confirm it for me.
When I get into a situation where I’m having a rational anxiety-based worry, it really does help me to say it out loud to someone else. When I say it out loud, it helps cement the fact to me that this thought is anxiety-based and not reality-based. Now, you definitely want to make sure that the person you’re confiding in is someone who understands you and knows what you’re struggling with. If you choose the wrong person, their response could hurt you instead of help you. Do you want to enlist someone who is not going to say “you’re CRAZY! That’s ridiculous!” But rather something like: “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way, but remember, your kids have a 100% track record of making it out of the school and to your van safely.”
Anxiety and motherhood can be a pretty volatile mix. If you’re struggling, definitely talk to your doctor or counselor. Don’t let yourself just live in a miserable mix of worry and panic. Reach out and seek help for yourself so you can enjoy those kids and all of life’s little moments instead of just getting through them.