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 the zoo."
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 judgment behind because they are each breeding grounds for anxiety in motherhood.