I sit in the dark, quietly rocking with two little angels snuggled in my lap and a third waiting patiently for me to come read to him. I know why I work so hard to keep it all together. To hold my anxiety in a little box. Because the second I let go, the fear sneaks in. It sneaks into my thoughts. Slowly at first, with just one stray thought. Then faster and faster until a stream of doubts pours over me, overwhelming me. Tears well in my eyes, my breath catches.
“Put it back in the box,” I think. “Put the thoughts back in the box, now!”
I must focus my brain on sunshine and rainbows blocking out the images from the day’s headlines. I will fake it ’til I make it; put on my big girl pants. This is adulthood. Carrying the fears so your children don’t have to.
When Fear Turns to Panic
I hesitate to describe the gripping anxiety I experience daily trying to “survive” motherhood. It isn’t always like this, but it is a slippery slope from “cherishing the moments” to fear-stricken panic.
On the outside it may look normal, put together even. I have actually been accused of filtering my life. Of not putting it all out there. I’ve been told I only show the “happy times.” That may be true, but it isn’t to show I have a glamorous existence. It is to protect my children, to secure my mental capacity, to make sure I can continue to do my job, to parent. It’s not a slight to someone else—it is self preservation. Everyday can feel like a slow, long walk around the moat that separates our “Castle,” our life, from the rest of the world. Each lap spent fending off advances from hungry crocodiles waiting to snap. Those are the fears, doubts and uncertainty that sidle up to every decision I make, every news article I read.
It’s not that I don’t care about the current crisis that is affecting someone else, the hurricane, the conspiracy, abuse, neglect. I do care, but I can’t focus energy on it right now. Terrorism and car accidents? I know they happen, and lives are affected. But opening myself to those parts of reality invite in panic. Their tragedy becomes my rabbit hole. What if I lose my job? Get sick? Get into a car accident? What if my parents die? How will I protect my kids if (fill in the blank) happens?
I spend my time trying to shelter my children from heartache and bad news. Even though I know it is the things I don’t think to worry about that end up blindsiding you, I constantly worry.
I want a crystal ball. I want to know the future—to see myself in 20 years and find out if we make it. Was all okay? I want to know. I think I need to know.
Motherhood can be lonely, scary and filled with apprehension. These days can be so hard. I struggle to keep this ship sailing and my head above water. I fail daily in so many ways. The stress is a heavy weight on my chest. The fear is always there. I try every day to love my kids and be a good person, to do my job and make my family proud. But I still feel lost, anxious, inadequate. I am holding on today but I am fearful of tomorrow.
Does the anxiety that comes with constantly checking that everyone is safe and well, loved and cared for ever go away? When they know how to swim and unbuckle themselves and look both ways before crossing the street, do you get to breath more easily? Or will I be a 65-year-old grandmother, still wanting to know if they are still breathing while they sleep?
Am I Alone?
Do you experience motherly anxiety? What do you do to cope?