Navigating Anxiety as a Mama

 

 

 

 

Today’s episode is another episode in our Q&A series. I sat down with Nicole, a stay-at-home mama to an almost-two-year-old, who wanted to ask me questions and talk to me about the anxiety she feels as a mama, specifically as a response to her kiddo’s crying.

Watching anyone that we love, especially our tiny humans, feel something hard, is tough. I explained to Nicole that we’re never going to get to a place where it doesn’t bother us at all to hear them cry; our goal is getting to a place where we can regulate our own emotions in order to respond. 

Society puts so much pressure on mamas when it comes to a crying kiddo. If baby is crying, then he must need his mama and she’ll fix it, right? Nicole mentioned the added pressure of society’s idea that mom should “just know” how to fix her kiddo’s crying - she’s mom so she’ll know what to do! Nicole admitted, and so many mamas can relate - she didn’t “just know!” She shared how when her son was an infant and he would cry and cry and she didn’t know exactly what he needed, it was overwhelming. Nicole is totally the norm here. No one has all the answers, and if you go into parenthood thinking you will, you’re going to be really overwhelmed and disappointed. Nicole added that for her, this mindset produced a feeling of inadequacy. This thinking has resulted in a higher level of anxiety in parenthood and childhood than ever before. Do not think that you have to do it all alone - tap into your village and do not be afraid to ask for help. Doing so makes you a great mom. 

 

My goal is not that kids aren’t crying. My goal is that kids will know “this is a safe space to express my emotions, and this person will help me navigate it and figure it out.”

 

 

Nicole recognizing that her kiddos’ crying is a trigger for her anxiety is step one, and for step two I asked her to consider what her actual fear is in these situations. For Nicole, her fear is that if she can’t get her kiddo to stop crying, that he is going to suffer some kind of emotional damage. She acknowledges that this idea that you can’t let your child cry “or else” has sort of been pushed on us, and she believes it started in a good place but has led to this type of anxiety. I think it’s common for mamas to feel like they aren’t a good mom in these situations. I’ve even had mamas tell me that their kid needs another mom because they’re not good enough. What I would like every mama to know is that you ARE the best mom for your kiddo. No one knows your child better than you. You are the best mom for your kiddo, AND your kiddo will cry. Both of those things are true. Nicole shared that part of her anxiety is fear that she will project some of her trauma from her own childhood onto her son. We discussed how hard parenting is when we are reparenting ourselves at the same time. 

 

You are the best mom for your kiddo, AND your kiddo will cry. Both of these things are true. 

 

So, can you cause irreparable emotional damage to your kiddo if you let them cry? The short answer is, no. This kind of emotional damage is caused by serious trauma. We often overuse the term “trauma” to describe experiences our kiddos have. Experiencing hard emotions and figuring out how to navigate them is not traumatic for them. It’s okay to have hard feelings, and I want parents and kiddos to know that. My goal is not that kids aren’t crying. My goal is that kids will know this is a safe space to express my emotions, and this person will help me navigate it and figure it out. It doesn’t mean we’re going to help them navigate it and figure it out in 30 seconds. 

 

Parenting is hard and you’re not going to do this perfectly. You’re going to mess things up every day and that’s okay. At the end of each day, reflect on where the wheels fell off the bus, and figure out how you can do things better next time. Look back and say, “where am I losing my cool?” It’s an unattainable goal to be a perfect parent. We’re not looking for perfection; we’re looking for intention. It’s okay, and even beneficial, that our kiddos don’t see us being perfect parents - we also want them to know they don’t have to be perfect, whether now as tiny humans or later as adults.

 

Everyone has one emotion that’s the hardest to process.

 

Nicole and I chatted a bit about living with anxiety or sitting in fear, and how to navigate that. She feels like there have been some habits that her son has formed as a result of some of her personal issues. She wonders how to deal with these habits that he’s formed, she believes, because of her. Just because a habit is formed, it doesn’t mean we don’t have an opportunity to rewrite these patterns. I reassured Nicole that her son is still so young, and it’s much easier to rewrite these things now, rather than later. Recognize the habits that have been formed, and then work on changing them. Focus on one at a time, rather than all of them at once. 

During our conversation, Nicole said something that stood out to me. She expressed that what she thinks would make her a good mom would be being there for her son through all the things. I challenged her to consider what that would look like down the road, like in a partnership, or when he feels a hard emotion at work. We want to be an option for our kiddos now and when they are adults, but we want them to also have other tools to tap into, and coping strategies must be taught. When we are looking at what it would really look like to be “a good mom,” building that skillset starts now. 

There’s so much fear and unknown surrounding parenthood, especially when desiring to make a change, that it’s easier to fall into old habits. But unless we change something, change won’t happen. Accept that things will be a little rocky, and that’s okay. The village is here for you. 

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