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Anxiety in motherhood: How I learned to calm and control my fears

There are plenty of things to worry about in everyday life.

Health, work, friends, politics, the economy…If you are a worrier by nature, it’s easy to find yourself in a state of heightened anxiety much of the time.

Add motherhood to the mix, and it’s hard not to fly right off of the anxiety charts.

I struggled with anxiety in my life long before I became a mom. However, since entering motherhood, I have discovered a whole new slew of topics that increase my anxiety and get my mind spinning.

It’s only by countering these motherhood anxiety triggers with truth that I am able to keep things in perspective and thrive in my journey as a mom.

6 thoughts that can trigger anxiety in motherhood

1. Am I doing things right?

I have no idea what I’m doing! How do I know what decisions are right when other people do things differently and are so polarized about their way being the ‘right way.’

Co-sleeping or crib? Breast or bottle feeding? Wean after first birthday or continue longer? Cry it out or let baby wake up as many times as needed? Purees or baby-led weaning?

Nothing is right or wrong, but it sure feels like it.

People are so opinionated about the way they choose to do things and it often feels like they’re directly criticizing you if you do things differently. People ultimately want to feel validated and know they aren’t making the wrong choices, which is why their opinions can feel like blatant judgments.

2. Is something wrong with my baby?

How do I know what is normal and what is not? Is my baby sick? How sick? Should I be worried that my baby hasn’t reached this milestone yet?

3. Mom guilt.

Do I play with him enough? Do I read him enough books? Am I feeding him enough? Is he gaining enough weight? Am I handling his tantrums correctly? Am I setting him up for a lifetime of emotional or behavioral problems by how I am parenting him now? Am I a good enough mom for him?

4. Comparison to others.

“Other moms are better dressed, better rested, better homemakers and just plain better than me!”

“Their kids are better dressed, have better rooms, better birthday parties and more fun than mine.”

“They do exciting things with their days like take daily trips to Disneyland.”

Compared to that, I stink at motherhood!

5. Time is passing fast and my baby is getting older.

Gretchen Rubin said, “The days are long and the years are short.”

I am caught in the middle of the struggle between the long days and the short years. Sometimes, the long days just about suck me dry of attention, patience, energy, and joy. And yet, I know and am seeing firsthand that the years are so very short.

I feel intense guilt over having hard days where I simply pray for bedtime, knowing that at the same time, he is getting older and I can never get this time back.

6. Thinking about having another baby.

When is the right time? How big of an age gap is best? Will I love another one the same? How can I be as good of a mother as I want to be, when I have to divide my time and attention between two or more babies? How will I know when I’m ready to have another one?

6 corresponding truths about motherhood that combat these anxious thoughts

1. When you think, “Am I doing things right?, remember...

There is no single right way to do things.

You get to decide what works best for you, your baby and your family. Try to focus on what those things are, and keep your eyes and ears turned inward.

People have different opinions and will verbalize them loudly, often trying to validate their own choices and decisions. Those have no merit on your choices and your life. You do you.

2. When you think, Is something wrong with my baby?”, remember...

Trust your mother’s intuition.

When in doubt, consult a trusted medical professional. And stay off of Dr. Google. That’s a recipe for disaster every time.

3. When you experience mom guilt, remember...

You are enough.

Mom guilt is the worst. And you are doing a great job. If you love your baby and you keep trying to do your best, you are doing things right.

4. When you compare yourself to others, remember...

Keep your eyes and ears turned inward.

Focus where it matters—on your life and your family. This is especially true with social media and the internet.

It’s been said many times, don’t compare your everyday life to someone else’s highlight reel. Social media NEVER tells the full story. There’s always more than meets the eye in the beautifully curated photos on we see on social media.

Also, just because some moms love wearing high heels and lipstick doesn’t mean you need to feel bad about your yoga pants and flip flops.

Are your kids fed, clothed, loved and happy? Then, you’re rocking this mom thing.

5. When time feels like it’s flying by, remember...

The truth is the days are long and the years are short, and it’s okay to feel the reality of both. Some days are hard and long. Some days, you simply grit your teeth and pray for bedtime.

And that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom or that you don’t love your kids. It doesn’t mean you are wishing away your kids’ childhood. It simply means you are human and you need a reset.

Keep the truth of the short years in mind as you go through your days, and it will help temper the long days. Motherhood can be a bittersweet, complicated journey. The only way to survive and thrive is to try our best to be present and soak up each new day, no matter how exhausting or hard they are.

As my grandpa used to say, “This too shall pass.”

6. When you wonder if you’ll be able to love another baby as much as your first, remember...

There is no simple way to explain this one.

The overarching truth, based on the experiences and comments of everyone with more than one child, seems to be that YES, you will love your next child as much as your first. Somehow, someway, your capacity to love multiplies and you will find a new groove parenting another child.

As for how long to wait between them—that, of course, is a personal decision. However, after talking with both parents of kids who are close together and those with kids far apart, each share positives to their particular situation. The bottom line seems to be that however far apart your kids are, they will be fine. They can develop significant friendships with their siblings, no matter what the age gap is.

One of the biggest themes involved in combating anxiety in motherhood is to keep your eyes focused inward, on your own life.

We need to stop looking for validation outside of ourselves, our families and our homes. What other people choose to do in their parenting journey is ultimately their business. It does not dictate how good of a parent you are.

Let’s do our best to leave guilt, comparison and judgement behind because they are each breeding grounds for anxiety in motherhood.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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