A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

My Lifelong Social Anxiety Doesn’t Have to Belong to My Daughter

Print Friendly and PDF

In the week leading up to my daughter’s first sleepover at our house, I mobilized. First, I cleaned the common areas in the house and admonished my daughter to tidy her room. Then, I made an extra trip to the grocery store for snacks and drafted a breakfast menu. With 24 hours to go, I cajoled my husband into erecting a tent in the living room – the tent that sleeps eight adults and has multiple rooms. If you have visited Costco this spring, maybe you’ve seen it hanging from the ceiling above the seasonal items.


Naturally, having a gigantic tent erected in our living room made me think of s’mores, so I headed back to the store to get marshmallows, Graham crackers, and chocolate.

If they gave out prizes for sleepover hosting, I’d surely be on the podium for a medal.

Somewhere between my trips to the store and looking up recipes for Dutch pancakes, I had a moment of self-awareness. Why was I working so hard to ensure that a sweet, well-mannered eight-year-old had an epic time at our house? I had no evidence to suggest she expected heroic measures and expert-level party planning for the twenty hours she would be a guest in our home. In fact, when my daughter spent the night at her house, they went out for barbecue and then made ice cream sundaes at home.

FEATURED VIDEO

So why was there a 20-foot tent in my living room?

Anxiety has long been a part of my emotional make-up and having people in my space has stressed me out since my first sleepover over three decades ago. As a kid, I would invite friends over because they had hosted me and my mom said we had to reciprocate. But as soon as one of them would arrive with her Holly Hobby bedroll tucked under her arm, I would be flooded with anxiety. What were we supposed to do? Like, literally, what were we going to do in my room or in the back yard until dinner time? And then after that? We didn’t have a rec room or a basement. We didn’t have closet stuffed with board games or a pool. We could watch a movie, but that only took up and hour and a half.

I didn’t know how to relax and let time unfold in the company of friends while on my turf.

As a kid, I never thought of telling my parents how I felt. As an adult, I suspect my parents had their own social anxieties that they managed by not inviting people over very often.

But now I’m the parent. I’ve slowly learned how to manage the family playdate where we (actually, my husband) invite over a whole family so the parents can visit while the children play. Anxiety over what we will talk about, or whether they will stay too late, or judge our house for not having a playroom or bucolic backyard still plagues me, but I diffuse it ahead of time by scrubbing the toilets and shoving errant Legos in the toy box.

Before the doorbell rings, I say to my husband, “Why do we have to do this?”

He says, “Because this is part of being in a community. And it’s fun!”

Easy for him to say.

A sleepover lasts roughly five more waking hours than a regular old playdate. The night before my daughter’s, I reminded myself that after a few of these, I’ll just have baseline anxiety, not the turbo jitters that coursed through my veins as I watched my husband erect the tent.

My husband reminded me that my daughter is the host, not me. He was right, of course. It wasn’t the first time – or the last – I blurred the lines between me and my daughter. I had just enough clarity to understand that I needed to make mental space for possibility that she might not be anxious about hosting at all.

The story of her life may not be the same as mine.

Still, I told my husband that if I saw my daughter floundering, I would throw her a lifeline. And by lifeline, I meant I’d take the girls to see Hamilton or to get their nails done at the Ritz. You know, just a little something to help pass the time.

The sleepover started with dinner, and we took the girls to a restaurant where my daughter whipped out a deck of cards so they could play Uno while waiting for their food. She didn’t seem anxious – she seemed giddy. On the way home, the girls chattered in the back of the mini-van about what they would do when they got back to our house. Once at home, they disappeared into the tent, where they watched a movie and ate s’mores. The next morning, they slept in, ate breakfast, and went to the park. By 11 a.m. her friend was gone and my daughter was genuinely sad to see her go.

It appears that my daughter is thus far free of the social anxiety that has ensnared me for most of my life. She didn’t need a lifeline on Friday night, because she wasn’t drowning.

Did we need to erect a living-room-sized tent to help my daughter entertain her first overnight guest? Definitely not. The girls would have been happy with some generic microwave popcorn and an extra blanket. All those bells and whistles were for the sole purpose of allaying my lifelong anxiety that hovers like a ghost at the edges of my parenting, always tempting me to manage my overwhelming feelings by overcompensating, which is bad for my daughter, me, my marriage, and my finances.

I’ve passed plenty of traits onto my daughter, including my blood type, the shape of my feet, and the ability to curl my tongue. But maybe a life riddled with anxiety isn’t her destiny. Maybe it stops right here in my own trembling, untrusting heart. This would be welcome news. As is the notion that maybe I won’t have to work so hard on the next sleepover.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

Pregnancy has taught me so much—about myself, my body and my marriage.

It has proven that I can handle much more than I've ever given myself credit for—mentally, physically and emotionally.

It has shown me that I am brave. The thought of getting a human out of your body in any way, shape or form can be...well, terrifying. But it must be done. And I did it. Twice.

It helped me discover how strong and capable my body is. What our bodies do to accommodate these little humans growing inside of us is totally wild and impressive—to say the least.

It deepened my love for my husband, the father of my children, in unimaginable ways. (I guess creating a baby together can do that to you.)

Pregnancy has given me two of the most precious gifts of my life.

And I'll deliver one more this fall.

My daughters are my heart and my world. They are these wonderful, awe-inspiring, creative, strong, intelligent humans. I don't know how we did it, my husband and I, but we made some good ones. And I thank my lucky stars every single day for these children.

Pregnancy and I have had our ups and downs, but (luckily) mostly ups.

FEATURED VIDEO

I've experienced pregnancy by surprise (twice!) and I've experienced it in a planned, scheduled manner (once!). Both are exciting and nerve-wracking. Seeing those two little pink lines or the word 'pregnant' appear (because, let's be honest, I've taken about 5,729 different types of pregnancy tests at this point) is a mind-blowing experience.

Pregnancy has given me migraines, exhaustion, nausea, gestational diabetes and backaches. It's shown me that I can survive without spicy crunchy tuna rolls and red wine for 40 weeks. And that I can still sleep (...kinda) without my favorite stomach-sleeping-position.

But oh! What wonderful, miraculous experiences pregnancy has also given me.

Sure—there are challenges with pregnancy. 100%. Some women experience extreme nausea throughout their entire pregnancy, some women have to go on bed rest, some women have preeclampsia, some women have bleeding scares, all pregnant women watch their bodies grow and change, and handle it in different ways—there are lots of ups and downs.

Pregnancy isn't for the weak.

But even with the challenges and the 'rules'—there has been nothing like experiencing the miracle of creating and growing another human inside my body.

It will never, ever cease to amaze me.

Feeling those first kicks is absolute magic. ✨

Celebrating the first sign of your baby bump is so, so exciting.

Wearing those first few maternity outfits is...interesting.

Talking about potential names is wild and let's be honest—also challenging. I mean...agreeing on a name is really hard!

Hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time just about makes yours explode.

Seeing your future son or daughter at each sonogram is truly humbling.

Prepping the nursery and nesting is satisfying. ✔️

Letting go of fears and getting ready to welcome your baby into the world is e v e r y t h i n g.

And knowing when your family is complete is...a bit...confusing.

My husband and I have talked about this baby being our last. That once she is here, our family will be complete. It feels right to us. But it also feels final. It feels like I am 100% ready for this to be my last pregnancy. But it also feels crazy thinking about never being pregnant again.

I've been feeling so many big emotions accepting that this really could be it for me. It's strange, but I have this unexplainable feeling in my heart that three is the right amount of children for our family.

I am sad and happy and relieved and confused and excited and scared—all in one jumbled mix of emotions. (WARNING: Motherhood involves ALL the feels.)

I'm trying to appreciate every moment of this pregnancy all while mourning the inevitable closing of this chapter in my life.

These feelings are hard to process, but I know I will be at peace with it soon. I'm looking toward my future with my heart wide open, ready to welcome our third baby into our family and focus on what I do have, not what I may never have again.

One year ago, a video brought parents around the world to tears on World Down Syndrome Day. It's been viewed almost 5.5 million times since then, and the message behind it is still gaining momentum today. The Carpool Karaoke style video was produced by a parent-led Down Syndrome awareness organization called Wouldn't Change a Thing as a way to show people that families dealing with Down syndrome are just families like any family raising children.

In the video 50 moms from the UK and their 4-year-old kids sing along to 'A Thousand Years' by Christina Perri (aka the Twilight theme). It's a song about love, and it couldn't be a more perfect soundtrack for this group of mamas, who use a simplified form of sign language, Makaton, to amplify their message in the video.

Regardless, the 50 moms were a little shocked (but happy) to see their video go as viral as it did. "We definitely wanted everyone to see it," one of the mothers, Rebecca Carless told the BBC. "The idea is, we are just normal mums, we love our kids, they love us, and they are just like other 4-year-olds, we wouldn't change them."


This year, Wouldn't Change a Thing created another musical number to raise awareness about the lives of kids with Down syndrome.

FEATURED VIDEO

This one is set to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" and shows the kids just being kids and having fun. It has already racked up nearly 40,000 views as of this writing.

These kids are clearly so very loved, and the parents behind these videos want the world to know it every day, but especially on World Down Syndrome Day.

You might also like:

Many families travel for vacations and family events, especially in the summer months. Taking trips with children has many variables to consider, but one that many parents worry about is their little one's nap schedule while on vacation.

You certainly don't want to resort to staying home and give up all of those potential memories to be made. Instead, devise a plan ahead of time and then be open to going with the flow once you arrive at your destination. You can always get back on track when you get home.

Here are a few questions to consider before leaving for vacation:

Does your child sleep well in the car?

If they do, then you should plan your travel time so they can nap for part of the car, train or plane ride. Or, some families decide to travel late at night so their child sleeps for the majority of the trip. However, if your child does not usually sleep well in the car then don't fool yourself into thinking this trip will be different. In that case, travel right after they wake up, dress them comfortably, and plan to keep them entertained if they won't sleep.

Can you break your journey into segments with stops along the way?

The longer your child is in that car seat, the more likely they are to become upset and struggle to fall asleep when you need them to. Planning a few breaks can give them the exercise and exploring they need to be able to nap later. If you are traveling on an airplane or a train, you can plan to use the aisles for walks occasionally.

When they have trouble sleeping in an unfamiliar place

Once again, preparation is so important when it comes to getting your child to nap in an unfamiliar place. You will not be able to use the exact routines that work for you at home, but try to follow much of your usual routine to create a similar sleep environment for your child.

If your little one sleeps in a crib at home, bring along a portable folding crib.

You can even let your child sleep in that portable crib at home ahead of time so that it becomes familiar. Pack your child's usual blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, white noise, lullaby music, and night lights.

If your little one sleeps with you, create a safe sleeping place for your child in the new location.

Check out the room where you will be sleeping and rearrange as needed. Check to see if you can push the bed against the wall or replace heavy bedding to make things safer. (Always move things back the way that they were before you leave.) If you are staying at a hotel, many are understanding and accommodating. And they may even help with these type of arrangements.

Daily cues are another important factor when it comes to daily naps, and these are the things that often change while on vacation.

Try to serve meals of familiar foods at regular times, expose your child to normal daylight in the morning and dimly lit activities at night, avoid the pre-bed wrestling matches or ice cream treats. All of these small things can help keep nap-time and bedtime more regular and restful.

If you are traveling out of your time zone, you will need to be patient and aware of this transition.

It is a good idea to switch to the new time zone once you arrive at your destination because powerful biological cues also shift, such as the timing of meals & naps. Make sure that your child stays well-fed and well-hydrated and avoid letting them nap longer than they typically do. Don't over-schedule your first few days if at all possible.

It's important to be flexible! If your child naps well in a stroller or on a beach blanket, then let that happen. When away from home, always do what works best for everyone.

No matter what you do, it will take a few days to adjust to a new rhythm so it is important to be sensitive and flexible with these changes.

Originally posted on Elizabeth Pantley.

You might also like:

My sweet child,

You wake up every morning with the same struggles as us all. Sometimes you're grumpy, sometimes you're just too tired to be happy, but you're always kind. That's just how you are. Even when you're sick, you're more worried about how others are feeling than yourself.

You see, you're tired in the morning because even though you were exhausted the night before, you stayed up talking to yourself about things and going over conversations in your head for the next day at school. I know because I hear you.

You told me you think about a lot of stuff before you fall asleep. You worry about others constantly, including what impression you'll make on others. You want to make sure that you'll say and do the right things, so no one gets upset with you. Because when someone is upset—especially with you—it hurts you deeply.

It stinks, baby, I know it stinks. It is so tiring to be so concerned with others and their feelings that you forget your own.

You're an old soul. You're caring and nurturing. You once gave weeds you had picked to a stranger outside of Walmart because "they looked sad," even though two minutes earlier you were having a meltdown. You quickly forgot that you were also upset because that man's sad face hurt you worse than melting down over a toy.

You let your cousins get the first pick of the prizes at Grandma's. You'd rather be last and get something you didn't want than to hurt someone's feelings. Because if they were sad, that would make you sadder.

I see you, sweet child.

In the front yard picking up shiny rocks from the driveway. They're for me, because you can tell I had a rough day. Your TV show can wait right now, you just want to make me feel better.

I feel you, sweet child.

When you see me laying on the couch and you cover me up and kiss my forehead. I'm not really asleep, you know—I'm watching you, studying you, listening to you—because it's the most beautiful thing I've ever encountered. Beautiful, yet dangerous in a way.

FEATURED VIDEO

Dangerous because I know what happens when a heart is too pure. When you care about the feelings of others more than your own. When you can read the emotions of others and feel them too. And I want you to know—although you should be loved and cared for because of your heart, not everyone has the same heart as you.

Not everyone is as loving and kind as you. Not everyone will give you the same love that you give them. Not everyone will appreciate you, and I never want you to be taken advantage of.

I wish I could protect you from anything bad, ever in the world—but the truth is, I can't. All I can do is show you that your deep empathy is a gift that can change the world. And you shouldn't be ashamed of it.

Recently, when I picked you up from school you told me a girl was saying ugly things to you, you said you just ignored her and you were okay, but I could tell you were sad about it. And that's okay.

I explained to you that everything and everyone doesn't deserve your energy (something that you taught me unknowingly), and if she is being unkind then it's because she doesn't feel very good about herself. You understood. You said maybe you can do something to make her feel better.

And that kills me.

It kills me because I'm helpless. I can't go everywhere with you and make sure no one is mean to you. I can't promise that you'll never be hurt or heartbroken. I can't save you from the world's coldness. But that kills me even more because you save me. Every day.

And I want to thank you for that. Thank you for saving me from… well, everything.

From depression. From anxiety. From my own mind attacking me. I get overwhelmed and you can tell. You know when I'm having an episode and I need a long tight hug. You can sense when something happened at work, so you make sure to tell me I'm "the best mom a girl could ever have." I want you to know that you're the reason I am here. You're the reason I keep pushing.

Your nurturing gives me what I need to cope and heal and move forward in life.

So… thank you, sweet girl.

For having a heart as pure as gold. For loving others and showing your empathy and kindness no matter what. For reading emotions and body language like a book. For always being there for me and others. For teaching me to be kind and see the beauty in all things. For showing me that I can get through this wild thing called life, as long as I have you.

I love you always,

Mom

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.