Anxiety in motherhood took over my parenting, my marriage and my happiness
I came across this really interesting article. It lists five types of mothering styles:
perfectionist(she is hypercritical and controlling),
unpredictable (she parents based on the mood she’s in),
best friend (she avoids taking on the ‘parent’ role),
me-first (her kid’s job is to make her ‘shine’) and
complete (the ‘balanced’, well-rounded mom).
You might read through this and make a mental list of other moms you know and their associated styles. Then you might think, ‘Oh, well they don’t have the ‘caffeinated and awesome’ style so guess I’ll default to the ‘complete’!’.
We’d all like to think we are the ‘complete’. I’d like to think I am, but I’m not.
Any parent knows that we don’t always fit into a handful of tidy categories. We are chameleons of nurturing and teaching; constantly shifting and responding to the assorted needs of all the people around us. But maybe in my case, I embarrassingly plunk into place for one of these five mothering styles.
I’m going to put myself out there. I’m gonna be honest and will admit that I’m probably the ‘unpredictable’ mother.
Now I am not in the mood swing category, I’m sure my friends would say I’m generally ‘kindergarten-teacher-happy’, which is activated by a morning coffee. But I am the unpredictable mother in terms that I’m very predictable. I’m driven by my anxieties.
I feel this internal drive to keep things predictable, ordered, calm and on-schedule. I hate dishes and mess (though they are always there); I hate pushing nap/bed times; I hate not having a plan for dinner and dealing with hungry kids; I hate being spontaneous with the kids; I hate flying solo with kids that might meltdown; I hate that I hate all these things.
I could blame it on being ‘conditioned’ to feel this way after having our second baby who put my mothering up to the test, but truth be told I was a little like this with our first. It just wasn’t very noticeable. Everyone would say I was so laid-back with our first, but he was one kid. One mellow, adaptable, chubby, happy little man! We joke that he taught us nothing about being parents. He made me look better than I was (am).
I was raised like this; I had an anxious mom. I grew up fearful of things I didn’t know about and reflexively questioned ‘what if?’. I grew up living in a self-contained routine of doing what was easy and familiar. It probably kept me out of trouble in my youth but made me a naïve, overly-cautious adult and an anxious mom.
This took me a long time to become self-aware of this and even longer to admit that I was like this.
Denial was a beautiful tailor-made coat I didn’t want to take off, despite the heat.
As I hinted, things boiled up to the surface after having our daughter. That’s when my anxieties started really affecting more than just me but my family as well. I was stressed out by baby girl’s health problems and so focused on getting her better. I became the guardian of how our family spent our free time – and I said ‘no’ to everything. ‘There is no time’ I would try to explain; I was desperate for more time……Time to myself: to clean, to cook, to prepare, to have a break from the kids, to heal baby girl. Time to find that ‘magic formula’ of habits those other moms seemed to have in order to make their lives glide fluently and tidily along.
After extensive googling, a few wine-soaked baths, lots of prayers, some good long chats and the ugly cry I can let myself conclude: There’s no magic formula. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s real life, it’s parenting. It’s gonna be messy and stressful and unpredictable. I have to stop and remind myself of this almost every day, there is no perfect balance.
Once I saw these limits I was imposing on everything, I had a decision to make to go against my instincts. I could say ‘yes’ more, I could deal with the meltdowns, with the mess, deal with the uncomfortable knot in my stomach while my mind over analyzed every potential hurdle I would need to navigate around. I could just deal with ‘real life’.
But another truth: I’m working on it, my first instinct is often to say NO. I’m working on saying YES.
I’m keeping an eye open for those times I’m letting my anxieties be in charge. Which is step one. Step two is harder because it means letting go and for me that is scary.
I’ve got a couple great ladies in my life that help me with this (and of course one handsome man who also opens pickle jars and listens to my dreams).
I want my kids’ lives to be filled with more ‘real-life’; more wonder and adventure. I want them to be adaptable and fearless. I want them to be strong and brave. I want them to be all the things I wished I was.
—– This post first appeared on Tell Another Mom in 2013. Four years later I am reflecting on this post. I feel like I have gotten a lot better at saying YES. I feel like a few things have really helped me with this: understanding the role of grace in my life, the book Never Say No, a supportive husband and of course, learning my Enneagram type.