(Or What’s Working ~Literally~ Today)
Having children is part blessing and part biology. It’s a crapshoot every time. As humans, we are genetically obligated to propagate the species. We are drawn to do it. But as millions of people throughout history can attest, this shiz isn’t for everyone. Some people have no desire to have children, and god bless them for living their truth. All of us know people who shouldn’t have children. It is not a task for the faint of heart, nor should it be entered into lightly. This thing is for real. There are no returns or refunds. You are in it from morning to night, seven days a week, until you die. That’s it. Parenthood is forever and it’s terrifying. I’ll be embroidering that on a pillow later tonight.
If you are at all like me you can easily find yourself overwhelmed. The world holds a great many fears, and I have envisioned all of them befalling my children a million times over. I get this from my mother, the queen of paranoid moms. We weren’t allowed to leave the front porch when I was a kid due to her overwhelming fear that we would become the next face on the milk carton. As far as my mother was concerned, the world was full of predators, and we children were easy prey. This was the eighties when stranger danger was all the rage, and my mother was its greatest champion.
My brother, sister, and I spent our childhood under my mother Rosemary’s watchful eye. I was never allowed to attend sleepover parties or travel with any friends. Rosemary needed to have us in her sight at all times. I can’t tell you the number of times I came home after going out with friends after school only to find the town police car parked outside my house, with my mother inside frantically filing a missing person’s report on my behalf. This, all because I didn’t call home right away. Her immediate assumption? The worst case scenario. Heads in swamps. We were always dead, the location just varied; Ditch by the side of the road, bog out in the Pine Barrens, an exit off the New Jersey Turnpike. My mother could picture us becoming the next Adam Walsh no matter where we were. So, you see, I come by my paranoia naturally.
I have struggled to maintain my mental health over the years. Through a balancing act of therapists and medications, over years and years of work, I came to a good place. Then I found myself pregnant with my second child during a global pandemic, and suddenly panic attacks found their way back into my life. It’s hard to describe to people the terror of anxiety, but it feels a little bit like a hole opening up beneath the earth and swallowing you whole. It’s a completely helpless feeling. You are powerless to rationalize with the fear. It is all consuming, like water over the head of a drowning man. I couldn’t breathe when these thoughts would overwhelm me. I knew that I needed help. I reached out to my doctor and adjusted my dosages, which thankfully put an end to the episodes. But a strain of that anxiety still runs its course through my body every time I look at my children.
There will always be fear. Being a parent means you are going to worry essentially forever. I know that my parents still worry about me, and I am in my forties. It’s how you cope with that fear that matters. Do you let it devour you, or do you let the kids out of the house to play? When my mind races to the dark spaces I always try to bring myself back into the present moment.
Are the kids happily playing?
Is anyone currently injured/sick/impaled?
Then continue to breathe. You are doing okay, mom. They are doing just fine. The way I control my anxiety is one moment at a time. That’s the only way I know how to process it. I’ll let my kids off of the front porch and allow them to run and to fall. If they break, I’ll be there to fix them. When they break, I’ll be there to fix them. That’s the only way I know how to mom.
And if you need a break, you can always hire a sitter.