Why I'm Terrified Of Leaving My Kids With A Babysitter

Ad failed to load

I’m splayed on the floor in a contorted child’s pose, my breaths coming in ragged sobs, my fingers digging deep into the carpet in an effort to stop the room from spinning around me as my head filled with images of car crashes and miniature coffins. There’s was a tiny, far-off part of my brain that knows my kids are perfectly safe. They’re on their way to buy milk with their grandparents before coming back to have dinner while my husband and I go out to eat. But these rational thoughts don’t stop me from plunging into a full-blown panic attack every time I’m separated from my children. I’m terrified of getting a babysitter. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I just am.

I’ve suffered from panic attacks and panic disorder since college, and thanks to a great therapist, cognitive behavioral therapy, and biofeedback therapy, I’ve been able to manage the condition most of the time. But when I had my twins two and a half years ago, the frequency of my attacks increased. My spiraling thoughts about death and the unknown now extend to my children, and the prospect of leaving them often feels impossible.

It’s not that I think no one else can take care of my kids like I can, it’s that I have an irrational fear of something life-threatening happening to one of them when I’m not there. I know deep down that something awful could happen just as easily on my watch. I’m with them all day long and they fall down, attempt to slurp hand sanitizer, and try to reach for the stove constantly. They’re covered in typical toddler bumps and bruises, and I don’t beat myself up for that. I’m not trying to keep them in a protective bubble, I want them to experience running and jumping and exploring the world around them without fear. But the prospect of leaving them for any length of time — my throat gets tight just thinking about it.

Ad failed to load

My panic attacks impact more than just date nights and lunches with the girls. While on a family vacation last year, I took one child to the bathroom for a fresh diaper and left his brother in the pool with dad. We were having a wonderful day, full of sunshine and fun. The bathroom was empty and quiet, and in the two minutes it took me to change my son I became convinced that the outsides noises were too quiet, and was absolutely positive that I would open the door to find lifeguards bent over the lifeless body of my child. I burst out of the door and ran to the pool anticipating a scene straight out of CSI. Instead I found him splashing in his father’s arms while I tried to hide my tears behind my sunglasses.

When my children were infants, my girlfriends were tolerant of having a baby or two on board for our rare get-togethers, even when they left their own kids at home. They kindly pretended I wasn’t losing it the time I had my husband circle the restaurant with the kids in the car because I wanted to be just a text message away if something went wrong. My mom tried to understand that it was my anxiety that was preventing her from babysitting her grandkids like she wanted to, but slowly she started to believe that I didn’t trust her to act in the kids’ best interest. My partner was too sleep-deprived for a date night for the first few months of the boys’ lives, and his intimate familiarity with my panic attacks made him hesitate to push me but as we approached the twins’ second birthday, even his patience was wearing thin.

Courtesy of Megan Zander
Ad failed to load

When friends and family tell me that I “deserve a break” or that I “really need to take some time for myself,” I agree with them completely. I’m not a martyr. I think parents should take time away from their children in order to remember who they are as individuals outside of their roles as mom and dad. I need a break from my kids because I’m not the most patient of people, and one can only sit through Sesame Street so many times before you start coming up with elaborate back stories for Oscar on why he’s so grouchy. But anxiety isn't rational, and I can't just turn it off because there’s a yoga class in a hour that I’d love to attend.

It’s possible I’m doing more harm than good to my children by hardly being away from them. I’m less patient without a break, and it’s not good for my their development either. It’s important they learn how to listen to and respect other adults and that they grow comfortable trusting people other than me. I know I’m doing a disservice to all of us and making the eventual transition to school that much harder. I know I need to learn how to be away from them, and how to be OK with that. I don’t want them to grow up with the idea that their mom was scared all the time. I want them to know about my anxiety as a part of who I am, but not as what defines me as their mother.

So in the interest of my family, I push myself. I try to attend a weekly cardio dance class and I challenge myself to go out for a run without the jogging stroller once in awhile. Sure, there are days when I’m sprinting home or leaving class early because I’m certain an ambulance is waiting at my front door, but I try. And some days it works.

Ad failed to load

Date nights are still a challenge. It’s hard to concentrate on a movie screen when I’m checking my phone every three minutes for missed calls and worrying that the boys have somehow managed to unlock the front door. I’m very lucky that my partner is so understanding, willing to wait for movies come out on Redbox so that we can both enjoy a night together “without” the kids (even if it’s because they’re upstairs in bed. I’ve learned that I can usually handle up to two hours max away from the kids — long enough to remind me what it’s like to have an adult conversation, but short enough period that I get back before I start to envision bad things happening.

Courtney os Megan Zander

Not everyone understands when I try to explain how pervasive my anxiety is over leaving my sons. I’ve lost friends because some people see my struggle to leave my kids as a “poor” reflection on their own parenting. I don’t begrudge anyone who leaves the kids in the care of someone else. It’s just not something I can personally do, and I wish, like hell, that it was. My reluctance to accept an offer to go out for drinks or my unwillingness to plan a girls’ weekend doesn’t mean that I think women who do those things are bad parents. Doing so myself is just not something I can handle. The amount of time and energy that I’d spend trying to convince myself that the kids are OK would render a trip like that unenjoyable for me. I could do it, but I wouldn’t like it.

Ad failed to load

Last Saturday night, I sat perched on the carpet as I have so many times before, trying to banish the dark thoughts to the far corner of my mind. My partner stood over me calmly, rubbing slow circles into my back and reassuring me the kids were going to be OK for a couple hours. I took deep breaths, exercising control over my breathing and my thoughts. I eventually sat up. I walked downstairs and said goodbye to the boys and babysitter, hoping I could make it through dessert.

Images Courtesy of Megan Zander (3)

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

7 Hilarious Differences Between Having A Baby In Your 20s Vs Your 30s

I was 24 when I had my daughter. And even though that pregnancy was neither expected nor pleasant, I was optimistic. Sure, I guess your 20s are "supposed" to be about finding yourself, finishing college, starting your career, and navigating less-than…
By Candace Ganger

Babies "R" Us Was The First Place I Went When I Found Out I Would Be A Mom

For years I struggled to have a baby, and the sight of toys and layettes made my heart hurt. For me, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us were a complete no-go zone, a reminder of everything I was missing out on. My mom would walk the long way around Target…
By Becky Bracken

New Moms Have Two Options: Be "Sad & Fat" Or "Desperate & Thin"

As the line goes, the worst thing you could say about me, I've already thought about myself. In the early postpartum period with my son, it was: "I am overweight, lonely, and heartbroken." It was four days after I brought my son into the world, and I…
By Danielle Campoamor

6 Fascinating Facts About Spring Babies: You Could Have A Leader On Your Hands

Does the season in which you are born affect you or are all seasons pretty equal? It turns out that there are many ways in which the your child's birth season could give you an insight into things to come. Whether you are expecting a baby in the next…
By Shari Maurer

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

I'm A Stay-At-Home Mom &, Face It, These 11 Stereotypes Are Totally True

Hello, friends! It's me, your resident stay-at-home mom. You know, there's a lot that's said about me and my kind, and the vast majority of it is not even remotely true. For example, this whole "we're lazy, vapid, unambitious, anti-feminist, backstab…
By Jamie Kenney

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger