I feel it would be an understatement to say that President Donald Trump and his administration have changed the American political landscape. Things have changed extremely rapidly since his inauguration on January 20 — he's signed a combined 18 executive orders and presidential memos already, 14 more than former President George W. Bush, nine more than former President Bill Clinton, and one less than former President Barack Obama, according to Quartz.com — and for many of us, things are changing for the worse. My family is poor, queer, and we rely on state-funded Medicaid (aka “Obamacare”) in order to access necessary healthcare services. My wife and I are also queer, and so we have concerns about the safety of our family with such a right-wing administration in power. While we aren’t as vulnerable as many other populations (such as refugees and immigrants living in America), it’s entirely possible that some of Trump's administration's decisions will affect us very directly, and most likely in a negative way. In addition to that, my wife and I are feeling people who care about others, so we worry for our friends and neighbors, as well as complete strangers. All of this adds up to one thing: With Trump as president, I live in a constant state of fear. And my fear of the Trump administration is only getting worse. In fact, it’s so bad that it’s affecting my parenting.
I'm a protective mama bear, and I am pissed. I can handle a lot, but being a mom is a pretty freaking big deal to me, and to feel like I'm not doing my best at it is just heartbreaking. It feels completely unfair that on top of feeling unsafe and worried about an uncertain future, I now also have to deal with feeling like a total failure as a mom.
All my life, I’ve suffered from some form of anxiety. I used to think I was just a “nervous person” or a “worry wart” but in adulthood I’ve come to realize that what I’m dealing with is probably some form of anxiety disorder. I manage it the best that I can, and I work hard to take care of myself, but that doesn’t mean that it never gets out of hand. Occasionally, I have panic attacks, and they can make it hard to do basically everything.
Every time I talk to a friend it seems like they mention something about “just having a hard time with everything.” I can’t speak for anyone but myself here, but the current political climate has, for me, made any previous political anxiety I felt look like a walk in the park. I’m anxious nearly all the time, I’m easily distracted, and I’m finding it almost impossible to focus. Concern and fear over what this administration is going to do next takes up such a large portion of my brain that sometimes it feels like there isn’t room left for anything else.
This election cycle was pretty freaking stressful. I mean, presidential elections are almost always stressful, but this one was particularly bad. Nothing in my 31 years on this earth prepared me for what it would be like to watch the Trump campaign pick up steam. Even with Hillary Clinton predicted to win, I still found myself anxious. Watching the debates was torturous, and always at the back of my mind one question loomed: What the hell would happen if Donald Trump actually managed to become president?
Well, now we have our answer. American politics are changing, and changing quickly, and many days it seems like each news report is even worse than the one before. Trump’s executive orders are already affecting real lives in real, and sometimes awful, ways. As of this writing, my family is still safe, but there are rumors of an executive order regarding the LGBT community, and that could be very bad news for us. And for me, that means living in a near constant state of fear.
I’m not the only one overwhelmed by everything right now. In fact, every time I talk to a friend it seems like they mention something about “just having a hard time with everything.” I can’t speak for anyone but myself here, but the current political climate has, for me, made any previous political anxiety I felt look like a walk in the park. I’m anxious nearly all the time, I’m easily distracted, and I’m finding it almost impossible to focus. Concern and fear over what this administration is going to do next takes up such a large portion of my brain that sometimes it feels like there isn’t room left for anything else.
Parenting through anxiety is a next-level kind of challenge. How on earth do you take care of a tiny little person while feeling that way?
A few days ago, I had five panic attacks in one day. I didn’t even know that was possible, but apparently it is.
Which brings me to the issue of parenting. It’s pretty hard to do much of anything while having a panic attack, and having multiple panic attacks in one day leaves me feeling like I’m constantly trying to recuperate (but never quite managing to). But parenting through anxiety is a next-level kind of challenge. How on earth do you take care of a tiny little person while feeling that way? It’s probably an exaggeration to call it the hardest thing in the entire universe, but it isn’t far off the mark.
Honestly, to feel this disconnected from my family feels like just another thing that's being taken from me by a government that now feels very hostile.
And while sure, I may be able to get my toddler’s basic needs met despite my internal state of constant discord and panic, that isn’t all there is to parenting. Kids also require that you pay attention to them; they want their caregivers to be actively engaged and present. And really, that’s what I want to. I didn’t have a kid because I was bored, I had a kid because I wanted to share my life with a brand-new little human. But it’s hard to be the thoughtful, engaged, nurturing, hippie-dippie mama I want to be when half of my brain is constantly wondering if the world — and especially, our world — is about to fall apart.
To be perfectly clear, my child is not being neglected. In fact, he's far from it. He has two loving parents who are committed to putting him and his wellbeing first, and who work hard to make sure he's provided for and cared for. He's happy and healthy, and he's still under 2, so while he probably picks up on his moms being more stressed out than usual, he's lucky enough not to know all of what's going on. But I don't want to be the mom who's kid watches way too much TV because mom is too freaked out by the news. I want to be the mom who's always thinking of cool projects and is always down on the floor helping him build stuff out of wooden blocks. Honestly, to feel this disconnected from my family feels like just another thing that's being taken from me by a government that now feels very hostile.
Someday all of this is going to be history, and I'm going to have to explain what happened in 2016 and 2017 to my son. I'm going to tell him the truth: that as the news became more and more difficult to bear, his mother's coping skills got worse and worse, and that sucked for everyone in the family, including him. I just hope we're about to turn some kind of corner, and I can make this up to him in some way, because I really don't want to watch Puffin Rock again tomorrow.