Having an anxiety disorder when you're a mom is, in my opinion, the worst. My kids are pretty social — always in some performance or joining the latest sport or club — so I'm forced to continually re-evaluate myself on their behalf. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't understand or empathize, unless they're battling similar feelings, too. There are things moms with social anxiety with their kids knew because maybe, just maybe, we'd feel like less of an outcast in their lives. Well, at least I would.
The list of things that don't make me anxious is pretty small, these days. I could blame the political climate, financial stressors, or a number of other various bullet points but, the truth is, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The very makeup of my brain is vastly different than someone without such constant, extreme worry, and I require medicine and additional therapies to feel a fraction of the "normal" others seem to feel. This also affects me socially, as I tend to draw inwards when I'm anxious. It's difficult to explain the overwhelming feelings I experience when entering a room full of people, or doing simple errands like grocery shopping or running through a drive-through. It's especially difficult to explain those feelings to my children. Often times I think, if they really knew the chaos inside my brain, maybe they wouldn't be so frustrated with me for not doing all the things they want me to, or worse; disappointed in me for failing to rise and meet their expectations of me.
Over the years, my children have come to accept me fully, even if they don't completely understand my choices or actions. Still, there are things I wish my children knew about my social anxiety, so that maybe the next time they ask something of me I'm not capable of, they don't think less of me. Yeah, I lied. Having an anxiety disorder while being a mother isn't the worst — it's how it changes the way they feel about me. That, dear reader, is the worst.
We Don't Want To Go To Your Functions...
I get that part of being a mom means attending all the things. However, dearest little ones, my social anxiety says I don't want to. It's not as easy as flipping an "off switch" or smiling through the discomfort, though, we will do it because it's better than seeing the look of disappointment on your face if we don't show up. This is love.
...But It Doesn't Mean We Don't Want To Be There
I know, it's complicated. I so desperately wish there were an easier explanation as to why I can't fathom stepping into a crowded room of strangers while simultaneously feeling an innate need to be there, but there isn't. The thing about anxiety is, it's complex. My brain is fighting within itself to both be present and disappear at the same time. Please, be patient with me.
We Don't Want To Schedule Playdates...
I'm just going to throw this out there — we loathe the playdates. Between the uncomfortable conversations with parents I don't know (or even the ones I do), to the loud, chaotic play date itself, it feels eerily like my old dating life (including when the kids my kids want to play with reject them) and I'm just not up for it. Can't my kids just make online friends, like I do?
...But We Will If We Have To
Again, we will push our discomfort aside if it means you'll get to experience all the typical (and atypical) childhood things. While I don't love other kids coming into our house, eating our food, and screaming through our hallway, I'll deal if I must.
Running Errands Is A Nightmare...
I can't even explain how traumatizing a grocery trip with my children can be. Being as I work from home, it's generally up to me to get all the tasks accomplished. My kids, while understanding to a point, certainly don't help when they're crying for extra things in line or whining about how long it's taking.
...But Someone Has To Do It
The thing about responsibilities is, no matter how awful, they have to get done. If only my children could understand how much anxiety I have over doing these things, maybe they'd cut me some slack and possibly help out a little more. Bless their hearts, but hanging off the cart isn't necessarily aiding the process, you know?
We Want You To Spread Your Wings...
Really and truly, I want my kids to accomplish anything and everything they set out to accomplish. I hope they experience all life has to offer and loves every minute of chasing and attaining their big dreams. I know they're capable of so much more than I could ever be and I'll, no doubt, be their biggest fan.
...But We Want To Watch From The Back Corner
Yeah, so while they're off doing great things, I'd much prefer to watch from back here. There's probably too many people cheering from the front. They'll know I'm there (in spirit). Right?
We Want You To Make Friends...
Both my kids are outgoing enough to have floods of friends. It's something I can't really relate to, as I only had a couple really good friends in school (and preferred it that way). I love that they're social and friendly, I do. I admire and sometimes envy it, actually. I wish my kids wouldn't mistake that for me wishing they didn't have so much popularity.
...Just Not The Friends That Come Over
Again, social anxiety is complicated. Sorry? Maybe these friends can come greet my kids on the porch where I can supervise but they won't have to be inside. #Compromise
We Hope You'll Be Active Outside...
Getting enough exercise is critical. I try to model healthy and active behavior by running and eating as healthy as I can (most of the time). I love when my kids want to go outside and play — especially if they want me to play with them. Though, truth be told, I don't really love sunshine. Or nice weather. Or going outside at all, ever. The social anxiety aspect creeps in if a car passes and I'm forced to wave, so I feel like we're at an impasse.
...But We Can't Participate If Others Are Outside, Too
We live in a pretty quiet corner of town with a lot of children. We're also near a park. It's great when my kids can play outside, without me, but it gets tricky when they want me out there with them and their friends. Worse yet, if they want to walk to the park and there are other people there. Can we just not?
Being So Anxious Isn't A Choice...
If having social anxiety was a choice, most (if not all) of us would choose not to have it. It's a real pain (and frankly exhausting) to have a brain that's so actively trying to sabotage all the things. However, this is me; flawed and anxious as hell. If my kids need a silver lining it's this: all this worrying makes me hyper empathetic and compassionate to their needs. So there.
...And Doesn't Mean We Don't Love Our Children
Social anxiety doesn't, in any way, mean we don't want to be part of our children's lives. Every day it's a battle to simply get out of bed, wondering how it will affect everyone and everything around me — especially my kids. If they could understand one thing about it, about me, I hope it's that no matter what I've done or will do in the future to accommodate this disorder, it doesn't take one ounce of my love of them away.
I get it. Having anxiety is hard when you're trying to parent. It's even harder when you have to force yourself out of your comfort zone to make your children happy. But you'll do it, just as I have, and you'll continue to do it until your children no longer need that kind of sacrifice from you. And hopefully, your children will grow with more compassion to those around them, because of it.