When kids have birthdays, it seems fair to say that moms tend to get sentimental. We think about how our kids are growing so quickly. We realize that childhood is fleeting. We reminisce with sadness because those days are gone. I don’t know any mom who would disagree with me about this.
Most moms dread the day their children are grown enough to leave the nest. Whether we feel like they are mature enough or not, they are technically adults in the legal sense of the word just at the young age of 18. And when they turn 21? Oh it is worse. Trust me. My first born just turned 21 this month.
Never mind that he can legally drink alcohol now. That’s not what’s bothering me. What is punching me in the gut now is thinking about all the things that I missed. See, when you have anxiety, you spend so much time worrying about your kids that sometimes you actually forget to enjoy them.
It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy them. But I definitely spent more time with the worrying than I did with the enjoying part. And when you worry as much as I do, you also wonder what you did wrong. All the time. You might even doubt what you did right. You obsess about things that you don’t get to re-do. Or un-do.
But you don’t want to go back. I don’t. I did enjoy them, but not enough. Not even close. But do I want to go back? Hell no. It’s too hard. It’s too stressful. You see, it’s scary. Everything is scary to an anxious mom. The worry does not stop. Except maybe when I am sleeping.
The closer I get to having an empty nest, the more excited I feel. Yet when I hear other moms talk about their sadness after their kids move away to college, I wonder what is wrong with me. “Just wait, you’ll miss this,” they say. But will I? What exactly will I miss?
I don’t miss the nights that I couldn’t sleep because he went to bed with a tummy ache. Those nights that I jumped up at the sound of my own breathing. I’d jump up to run up the stairs to peek in on him. To put the “bucket” next to the bed just in case. You see, the “bucket” is actually an old wastebasket lined with grocery store bags layered on top of one another. At least six of them. And oh, there are paper towels in between each bag because when you throw up, you need to wipe your mouth so you don’t get it anywhere.
Yes, he is 21 now and he doesn’t live with me anymore. But I still have “the bucket.” It resides in its designated place in my closet. So I can grab it if I ever need it for his sister. Or even if it is for me.
Or worse, what about when it isn’t even expected. When he just throws up all over the floor right in front of you without warning? No, I don’t miss wondering for the next week if anyone else in the house will catch this. Oh please don’t let it be me! This home won’t be able to run without me. I can’t be down for a day or two, I just can’t!
Then there are the days that she wakes up with a scratchy throat that is a little sore. I tell her to just eat breakfast and maybe it will go away. But deep down I am afraid. I think about it all day long wondering if something is amidst us. Should I bleach the bathrooms? Sanitize the door knobs? Lysol the couches? Oh I sure hope I’m not too late.
Seriously. I should probably own stock in Lysol and Clorox.
See, I used to think that all moms did this. But at some point, I realized that they didn’t. I saw from a distance. The other moms took their kids on adventures all time time. The park or the mall. The beach or the children’s museum. They didn’t keep their kids in strollers. I didn’t see the anti-bacterial wipes in their purses. Or those disposable placemats that stick to the tables at restaurants. Didn’t everyone have those? And if they didn’t, why not?!
What is wrong with me? I sometimes wondered. But most of the time, I just judged. I sat back with my pride when other moms talked about the stomach virus going through the whole house. I smiled because I know that I can beat that nasty virus. I will do what it takes to make sure we don’t get that. I think that it is their fault for not being more cautious.
Today, I’m not so proud. I’m not proud of being so crazy that when my daughter was in 2nd grade, she worried everyday that she might throw up when we got to school in the mornings. I’m not proud that my kids didn’t get to do some of the things the other kids did. Because I was too afraid. Afraid that they might catch something that was, well, contagious.
During that terrible 2nd grade year, something hit me. I saw what I was doing to her. I realized that I needed to do something to help myself if I was going to help her. So I got brave. I asked my doctor for some meds. And it was one of the best things I could have done.
That was about ten years ago.
Being an anxious mom has been hard. It has been a struggle. And I know I am not alone. I wish I had answers on how to not be this way. Sure, the meds and the therapy help. Sharing with you helps. Writing my private thoughts in a journal I keep to myself helps. Talking to my people helps.
But it still lurks in the shadows. The anxiety. We all have our demons. Fears that perhaps we are embarrassed about. But something I have grown to realize is that we all have something. We are all a little bit crazy. It is what we do with it that matters.
So here’s the thing. You’re okay mom. It is okay if you did not do all of the things that other moms do when their kids are little. All that matters is that you love them. Then and now. Just love them. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to love yourself. Love yourself exactly how you are. Take care of yourself by asking for help when you need it. And don’t be ashamed.
I know I am not the only weirdo mom. I bet you know one or two yourself. So, don’t tell her not to worry. It doesn’t work.
Meanwhile, I try to live one day at a time. One moment at a time. We can enjoy little pieces at a time because those pieces are there in the middle of all the anxiety. Sometimes we just have to try harder to find them. And while we do that, don’t forget to use the Germ-X. Yeah, I should have stock in that too.