The other day I asked my mother-in-law what I should blog about this week. She told me to write about the moment I started feeling confident as a mother – the moment I knew I “had it.” But I can’t write about that, because I don’t feel that way. Not at all.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have anxiety. Not just “I get nervous” or “I worry sometimes.” I have real-life, diagnosed, treated-by-a-doctor anxiety. And I have for a while. It was definitely there before the twins were born, but suddenly being completely responsible for the health and well-being of two whole human beings kinda cranked it up to an 11. I have to make active efforts to calm myself down and not stay up all night worrying about every single thing about my children.
I constantly worry that I’m not doing everything I’m “supposed” to be doing to make sure the twins are developing appropriately or that I’m not taking good enough care of them. Since I was a special education teacher, I’m constantly watching them for any signs of developmental delay. When I decided to stay home with them, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure every moment of our day was filled with something educational, and I worry that I’m falling short of that goal. Every time they get a cough, a runny nose, tummy troubles, I sit and overanalyze why they’re getting sick and what I could be doing wrong. I wonder if I’m introducing new things at the rate I should be introducing them or if I’m stagnating their progress in some way. The list of things about being a mom that make me anxious goes on and on – I pretty much second-guess every parenting decision I make. And if I’m not careful, that worry can be debilitating.
The truth is neither my anxiety nor my two babies are going away anytime soon – so here’s what I do to stay sane when parenting with anxiety.
1. Trust my gut.
This is the hardest thing for me to do because with anxiety, my mind tells me that my gut is wrong. I have to silence the little voice that tells me not to listen to my instincts and go with what feels right to do for my kiddos. Sometimes, I really have to fight through the self-doubt to get there, and I don’t always win, but I do try.
2. Seek professional help when necessary.
It’s important to me to take care of my mental health to be the best mom (and person) I can be. For me, this involves seeking professional help to manage my anxiety. There can be a stigma there, especially in the black community, but I don’t listen to it. I have no problem doing what I need to do to feel and be my best self.
3. Stop the comparison.
Stop comparing myself to other moms. Stop comparing my babies to other babies. I have to actively remind myself that every mother parents differently and every child progresses differently. Alex and Nathan are even progressing differently from one another, and that’s okay. When I start comparing my family to our friends or people I see on social media, that does nothing productive and just ramps up my anxiety more.
4. No more Googling.
I used to Google everything my babies did to see if it was appropriate, or everything they didn’t do to see if they were behind. Now, you won’t catch me googling anything related to developmental milestones or normalcy of behaviors. I just trust that my babies are doing fine and anything abnormal will be obvious or something their doctor will catch.
5. Ignore opinions that I don’t find constructive.
This is the hardest one for me because I’m a really sensitive person. Any off-hand comment that rubs me the wrong way plagues my thoughts day and night and makes me question myself even more than I already do. I have to tell myself to brush it off and remind myself that I’m doing my best and making good choices for my family. Of course, I don’t ignore all opinions – but I’m learning to let the not-so-nice ones roll off.
I don’t always succeed in doing these things, but I do my best. It’s a part of self-care – making sure I’m in the right head space to be a good mom. Better me, better mom, happier and healthier babies!
Do you suffer from anxiety? Share how you cope in the comments!