When I first found out I was pregnant, I was practically a Zen master. I was all about mindfulness, and I knew — I knew — that I would be bringing a baby into this world in a very self-aware, positive, forward-thinking state. Now please pardon me for a moment while I mourn that woman and her ignorance. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are parents out there who can actually accomplish these goals and raise kids without anxiety, and more power to you if you happen to be one of them. I, however, am not, it turns out.
Anxiety has always been something I’ve struggled with on and off. I thought I had it under control before I had kids. That was...not correct. In fact, it seems as though anxiety settled into my body permanently once I became a mother. My particular anxiety has taken several different forms over the years. What I’ve learned through all of it is that it’s important to take a few moments to breathe and release the tension that’s building inside so that it doesn’t blow like a geyser and take out my family in the process. Other than that, I have no nuggets of universally true wisdom; just some things I've figured out work for me, and that list is constantly evolving, which is the best that anyone who struggles with anxiety can you tell you is realistic to hope for. It's not that I feel powerless over my anxiety, or that I'm crippled by it — I just know that anxiety isn't a "here's a course of antibiotics and it'll be gone forever" type of health challenge. For most people, myself included, it will require consistent management forever.
If this is something you’re dealing with, I think it’s essential to realize that you’re not alone. Anxiety doesn’t have just one face, and it doesn’t have just one treatment. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed to the point of being incapacitated, talk to your doctor to find out what your options are. You don’t have to figure this out on your own. Here are other women's experiences with trying to be a parent who struggles with anxiety.
"Anxiety is exhausting work, mentally, emotionally and physically. I hope my daughter learns that my need to have time to myself lets me be the best mama I can be to her." – Tanya
"Parenting with anxiety is exhausting. I can get so caught up in the "what-ifs" of it all that I lose just being in the moment. That's my biggest struggle and my biggest goal; to be in the moment." – Alison
Parenting with anxiety, for me, meant avoiding crowded spaces or only taking the children to busy events when my spouse was available to help. It placed limitations on our experiences as a family. – Bonnie
"I have to talk myself down from the edge of panic when my son is trying something risky or wants to do something new; I have to constantly practice mindfulness and quell my fears in order to keep him from having the same anxieties." – Kristin
"Always waiting for the other shoe to drop." – Linda
"Panicking twice: Once for when you jump to worst case scenario possible, and then again while you panic that you're the worst role model for handling life in front of your kids." – Alexandra
The hardest part is having to repeat myself while being patient. although I have mastered the art of patience when it comes to my child, It makes my anxiety worse. I feel like I'm on one of those exercise wheels for mice: doing the same thing and not going anywhere. – Denise
"It's like trying to carry on a conversation with someone behind you constantly tapping on your shoulder, except you have no idea why they're doing it or how to get them to stop." – Melanie
"Worrying about the big things, the little things, and all the that’s left over. Then, worrying that your worrying is somehow having a negative effect on your child." – Michelle
"The toughest part of parenting with anxiety is trying to maintain a healthy, relaxed environment for your child." – Sarah
"My mind reels at night, robbing me of sleep, wondering how I can manage [my kids'] lives and keep them from harm." – Jill
"Laying there getting my son to sleep and thinking this is how we'll lay after the end of the world happens." –Elizabeth
"It's like playing Perfection, with a screwed up timer." – Melissa
"I had been experiencing tightness in my chest since the day my daughter was born. A few months later is got really bad and I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the ER with a my newborn, and after an EKG and CT Scan I was told it was "just anxiety."" – Bianca