I can remember it like it happened yesterday. I would be so excited for the first day of school. I loved school, especially elementary. I would go through zipping and unzipping my new book bag still with that fresh, brand new smell mixed in with the smell of the wooden pencils and the not so good smell of my crayons. I’d flip through each of my new notebooks, examining the crisp, white pages, before I neatly labeled my name onto each and every single thing in my bag. Afterwards, I would start to imagine myself walking to my new classroom, meeting my new teacher, meeting new friends, wondering what would it all be like. Would I have a new lunch number? Would I still see my old friends? And all of a sudden, I would get this squeezing feeling in my stomach. I could feel my heart begin to race, and I had this overall uneasy feeling that I was not going to be ok. I would run into my mom’s room with tear filled eyes, sobbing that I didn’t want to go to school. I was afraid. That first time that I can remember it happening, she seemed confused. She knew how much I loved school, so she asked what was I so worried about, and the younger version of me would easily spill out a million reasons of why I was too terrified to go. She understood simply that I was just nervous, and would explain to me that it’s called being anxious about something, and then would hug me tight. She said that I would be ok, so I believed her. And I was. But would you believe I would replay this scene every night-before-the -first-day-of -school all the way until I graduated? (I mean, in high school I had lost the love of the wooden pencil smell, but still hated that crayon smell). And it only carried over into my adult life. Instead of worrying about my new classes, I worried about new jobs, my finances, what people thought about me, my relationships, my goals, my entire life. For the most part, I seemed to manage my anxiety by what I think most people do, sweep it under the rug and pretend it is not there. But when I stepped into motherhood, I tripped over that pile under the rug and things got really… Real.
Lord knows that I was not prepared to deal with myself being a parent. I had expectations that I would be an amazing mom. My kids would never have to experience the “negatives” that I had to experience from growing up. Since I was a young mom, I would be more fun and open to my kids and their wants. Hilarious, right? Well, somewhere after that first contraction, I realized that I had no idea what I had stepped into. Nine years later, I can’t tell you how many late night, tear filled venting sessions I had with my mom, once again telling her that I just can’t do it. The pressures of it all. Having to realize that your children will be children, just like you were, so they WILL explore life. They will try you on your most exhausted days. They will not always say thank you, even when you tried your best to satisfy them. They will disappoint you when they literally, go against the paths that you create for them. And they will blame you for everything. Add this to the mountain of guilt stemming from the fact that I can never clean my house in a day; laundry, well we shall not even call that beast’s name; eating out waaay too much; homeschooling and/or the lack there of; and bedtime is what time?
Life as a mom easily gut punched me. I felt like I couldn’t keep up. There were definitely not enough hours in the day, and the more I tried to keep it all in, the more it began eating me alive. You know the worst part of all was that no one even noticed. In fact, it was the exact opposite that people noticed. I would be having a random conversation and someone would slide in a comment like, “ oh you wouldn’t understand because you’re “Super Mom”. I couldn’t understand where the hell they got that “Super Mom” thing from, but somewhere deep down in my subconscious, that word got stuck, and every time I began to worry about how was I going to get through the day, dun- dun- dun- dun! Enter Super Mom, ready to knock me right over the cliff with a power punch of anxiety right to the face.
Because of people labeling my “struggle- with- a -smile” as Super Mom, I had a whole disguise that I had to keep up, and in turn, became my greatest adversary. It wasn’t the dishes, the clothes, the dinners, or the kids. It was me. I was judging myself. I had created these unrealistic, fantasy like ideals of the perfect mother, and not even after giving my all to my role as a mom, could I begin to scratch the surface of those ideals.
I finally opened up to my husband about what I was dealing with after having our third child. He immediately tried to make light of it, telling me that I might have been still overwhelmed from the new baby, but after I kept bringing up how stressed I was, and him witnessing a full blown anxiety attack, he started to really see that I was facing. We began googling anxiety and motherhood, and that alone would cause my anxiety to sky rocket. So instead, we would just talk it out. He would ask what was wrong, just like my mom did when I was little, and I would come up a million answers. He sat and placed everything into perspective for me. When he had told me that we’ll get to that laundry when we get to it, I knew I had chosen the right man. He would say pace yourself, no one cares if the dishes didn’t get washed tonight, or the kids had Chick Fil A three nights in a row. All of a sudden, the pressures began to ease. Once I could speak about what I was going through without sobbing, I would ask other moms in my family did they too deal with anxiety, and surprisingly they all did. They were just shocked that I did.
It made me wonder why we as women don’t speak on the challenges of motherhood in an open and honest way. We often get together and show pictures of our babies’ first tooth, brag on how our first grader made the honor roll, or how our preteen just made the cheerleading team. But it’s rare, at least in the circles that I’ve been in, that we open and up and share what’s really affecting us. I think that it’s enough with bashing each other as mothers. Instead, lift one up, because you never know who really needs help.
As for the mother who’s reading this now, and suffering in silence, here’s my tips. Step 1: Stop being so hard on yourself. You have to let go of that ideal mom that you thought you were going to be. Instead, embrace the mom that you are. So what you don’t have the patience of a monk, you know your limits. After that, find you a quiet place, breathe, count, sing. Do anything to get your mind off of your stress. Once you’re able, go back and handle your business. You got this!
Step 2: Make time for you. Yes, motherhood is a selfless job. We sacrifice everything from our bodies to our sanity. But you can’t take care of anyone if you’re broken and in need of being taken care of. I’m happy when I get a solid shower ALONE for just a couple of minutes. I’m telling you, I come out a lot nicer when I’m clean.
Step 3: Create a schedule for yourself. Like my husband said, pace yourself. You do not have to clean your entire home every night, nor do you have to make a 3 course, healthy meal every single day. Find out what works for you. And write your schedule in pencil so you can erase something when you don’t feel like doing it anymore. 🙂 It’s all good.
Step 4: Seek help. Whether help be a professional or a best friend or your partner. Ask someone to listen, and really hear you. Ask someone for help when you need it. Accept help when it’s offered. I know I struggle with that. But it doesn’t make you weak if you need help, it makes you strong to know when to tap out to regroup so that you can come back full force.
Step 5: Know that it’s going to be okay. It really will. Deep down, you know exactly what to do with your children, after all, they are your children, meaning tiny and not so tiny versions of you. Remember when you were a kid, all you really wanted was someone to be there for you, listen to you, play with you, support you. Make time, even if it’s a few minutes to give to your kids doing something that they want to do. Build and strengthen that bond. I promise you, everything else will fall into place. As always, thank you for reading! I know this was a long one, but I’m passionate about this, and I hope this really helps my fellow mamas out there. Until next time!