I’ve dealt with anxiety on and off for most of my life. Usually, I just describe myself as being a control freak — I’m someone who needs to know what’s coming and when. But the truth is, even my control freak tendencies are linked to anxiety. My anxiety is slightly less consuming when I feel like I’m in control.
In a lot of ways, motherhood actually helps with some of my anxiety-fueled obsessiveness. These days, I’m too tired to fight for control in every aspect of my life. Motherhood has forced me to slow down, enjoy the quiet, and take a deep breath when life starts to feel overwhelming.
Unfortunately, as every mother with anxiety knows, there are also a lot of ways motherhood just amplifies the fret.
1. The fear of checking on your baby
No one wants to wake a sleeping baby. Sometimes, popping in for a quick peek can do just that. But then again, what if you don’t check? What if they’ve stopped breathing? Or are crying too quietly for you to hear? Or have they gotten their leg stuck between the crib bars? So. Much. Panic.
2. The compare game
Anxiety-ridden moms are obsessed with milestones. They can’t help it. It’s something they can look to as a marker for how their child is doing. Are they too big? Too small? Did they start talking too late, or are they ahead of the curve? What about rolling over? Crawling? Walking? What’s your kid doing, and where’s mine? We need to know.
3. The wrath of Google
Google is pretty much the devil for anyone with anxiety, especially for an anxious mama. You Google everything from bedtime schedules to rare cancers that might start with a runny nose. There are plenty of times when Google might actually help to ease your fears or formulate a plan that allows you to feel more in control. There are also plenty of late-night Google searches that will lead you down a rabbit hole of panic. No mama should ever put herself through that.
4. Planning for kindergarten years in advance
Pretty much the day your child was born, you started looking into schooling options — even if you don’t live in an area that calls for that. You just needed to have a plan and know what options would be available to you when the time comes.
5. Choking hazards
You’re the mom who cuts her kids’ grapes and hot dogs in fourths until they’re 13. The threat is real!
6. The nightmare stories
The internet can be a wonderful place. It connects you with friends and family who’re far away and it introduces you to information you might not otherwise ever have come across. Unfortunately, some of that information can lead a mom with anxiety into hyperawareness mode. Like the news story about a camera flash actually helping parents identify eye cancer. Children’s lives have been saved because this information is becoming more available to parents. They otherwise might never have known what to look for. This is absolutely a good thing. But for a mom with anxiety, that also means that every photo is being analyzed.
For the most part, I like to believe I have my anxiety under control. I’m usually pretty good at recognizing when my worries are getting the best of me. I try to take a breath and step back when that starts to happen.
Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t have nights when I’m Googling instead of sleeping. Or when I still fight with myself over whether or not to check on my sleeping 4-year-old, because ... anxiety.
Leah Campbell is a writer and editor living in Anchorage, Alaska. A single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also author of the book Single Infertile Female and has written extensively on the topics of infertility, adoption and parenting. You can connect with Leah via Facebook, her website and twitter.