or maybe just a mother.
Maybe it’s just me, but I am finding motherhood to be the most wonderful, and the most stressful, experience of my life. Most days I am crazed, running around like a lunatic trying to make sure that everything gets done. I’ve already given you all an idea of what an average day looks like for me. It’s an ever evolving process as my son grows. He’s 9 1/2 months old now and just starting to crawl, so I’m sure we’re really in for it soon! Anyway, I digress.
How many mothers out there had their anxiety levels skyrocket with the birth of their first child? Every day, as my day job nears completion, I feel the anxiety mounting in me. I am near crazed to get to my son. Logically, this makes no sense. He is safe. He is with someone I trust. He is fine. His caretaker would call if something were wrong. If I am 5 minutes late, the world will not come to a screeching halt. Yes, I know all of that. But yet at the end of my work day, I still get shaky and feel an unmistakable pressure begin to build in my chest. I simply cannot get to him fast enough.
Then I get him in my arms and all of the stress and anxiety disappear…for a moment or two. We smile. We hug. We laugh. We play. And then it’s bedtime, which brings on a whole new level of stress. Will he go to sleep easily tonight? And will he stay asleep? Merely wondering gets my heart rate up! Some nights he goes to sleep without a peep. Other nights are a major struggle. On the nights that he resists sleep, as the clock ticks away while I relentlessly try to get him to sleep, my mind wanders to all of the things I still have to do to prepare for the next day. While I love sitting on the floor of his bedroom and rolling around with him at 8 pm, in the back of my mind, I am thinking “I have to make his oatmeal. What should I make for his lunch tomorrow? I have to pack the diaper bag. Did I unpack it yet from today? What should he wear tomorrow? What’s the weather supposed to do?” and a million other things like that.
Once I finally get him to sleep (or give up and send my husband in to get him to sleep, which he is often much more successful at than I am!), I stagger out into the living room. Inevitably, my husband says “What do you need me to do?” A simple question, right? Ask him how I react most nights. He’ll tell you that I stand there looking dazed for a minute before I even answer him. And inevitably, most nights my answer is something like “Nothing. I just need to make his food.” I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why I never say to my husband “Hey thanks! Could you please make his food for tomorrow?” Maybe it’s because I want to give my husband a chance to relax. Maybe it’s because I think I can do it better. But I think more often than not, it’s because I haven’t quite figured out exactly what needs to be done yet. I haven’t decided what food he should get for the following day, so I can’t even get to the point of telling my husband what needs to be done. So I trudge into the kitchen and figure it out as I go. I make his food. Then I pack his diaper bag. Then I pump.
It’s usually about 9:30/10:00 by the time I climb into bed. And once I do, the anxiety starts up again. I lay in bed and wonder how long it will be before he wakes me up to nurse. And if I wake up on my own and haven’t heard a peep from him, I wonder if something is wrong. Then I lay in bed wondering if I should go check on him and risk waking him up with the noise the door to his bedrooom makes when you open and close it, or if I should just let him be and go back to sleep. Then I wonder where the cat is. He’s usually in my arms when I wake. If he’s not there, I worry about him, too. By the time I finally do drift off to sleep, it’s usually almost time to get up, which happens at an obscene hour now (5:20 am most days).
As I sit and write all of this, I can’t help but wonder how much of the anxiety I feel is normal, and how much is self-induced. How many of the things I take upon myself would my husband readily do if I were able to relinquish the control and allow him to learn to do it? It’s not as if my husband would let our son starve if I didn’t make his food! Perhaps he wouldn’t go to the extremes that I do, like pulling every speck of membrane out of an orange for him, instead of just buying a can of mandarin oranges with the membranes already removed! But alas, the boy would not starve. Maybe the extra outfit in the bag wouldn’t be the one I would’ve chosen, but the boy would not be naked.
A friend of mine told me a story about her husband forgetting to bring along a sippy cup when he took their young son on an outing one day. The young boy was apparently complaining all day. As my friend was telling me this story, she said that it was a mistake her husband would never make again. All I kept thinking was “yes, but your son must’ve been thirsty!” Maybe I am just an over-protective mom, but the thought of “mistakes” being made where my son is concerned just does not sit well with me. If I can keep him from being thirsty by putting the sippy cup in the diaper bag myself, I will — every time. It’s silly, I know. Again, it’s not as if my husband (or hers!) could not find a bottle of water or juice somewhere and allow the child to drink from that. So why is it that as a mother, I feel like I have to do everything? And do all mothers experience this? Does it go away with time? To the more experienced moms out there, please share your secrets for letting go, and allowing yourself to accept the help being offered by your partner. And to the new moms in the same boat I’m in, I give you credit, support, and a venue for writing about it in the comment section of this blog!