When You’re A Mom With Anxiety, Even Leaving The Kids For A Hour Is A Struggle
I’ve always been an anxious person. As a young child I was so worried about being kidnapped that I lined my stuffed animals up along the foot of the bed in hopes that if a kidnapper came in the middle of the night they would take one as a decoy and leave me sleeping (naturally I placed the toys I liked the least closest to the door). My anxiety has always been like that- profound, but generally manageable- until I became a parent. Suddenly I found myself with crushing panic over the thought of being away from my kids.
It’s not that I think I’m the only one who knows how to care for them. One of my sons will shun my hugs in favor of Grandma’s, and on the rare occasion that we have a sitter, the kids cry when she leaves. I know they are able to bond with other adults and I want them to have that, it’s an important part of healthy development. My fear isn’t that a caretaker won’t be able to figure out why they are crying or that milk will be served in the wrong sippy cup. My crippling fear is that a horrible, terrible, life altering accident will happen and I won’t be there to save them.
I know this is a stupid fear to have- that the kids can and do get hurt on my watch all the time. Just this morning one of the boys tumbled down a step right in front of me and I wasn’t fast enough to grab him. The rational part of my brain is aware that in a true emergency, I’m not going to be able to dial 911 any faster than another adult. My mother is a CPR instructor, both my husband and I are certified. We have baby locks and furniture straps and gates and no curtains or chairs at the kitchen table because we’ve done all we can to combat every Final Destination-esque scenerio my overactive imagination can come up with. But I still find myself fighting that rising wave of panic and that feeling of being unable to breathe when I’m faced with being away from them for any length of time.
Unless I never want to get a pedicure again, or have a meal with my husband at a place without a kids menu, I need strategies for managing my anxiety over leaving my kids. What works best for me is doing small amounts of time. The gym is less than five minutes away, so I can go for an hour class and be back in less than 75 minutes round trip. If we get a sitter, I do better with either a meal out or a movie, not both- any longer than two hours that and I start to imagine things going wrong and can’t enjoy myself. We bring a cell phone and a tablet with Wifi with us so we are always reachable when away and yes, I am that person who has it out on the table (on mute) just in case it goes off or I feel the need to check in.
I will admit that it’s a work in progress. My boys turn two in less than a month and I still have days when I see an ambulance as I’m leaving the gym and am absolutely convinced that it is headed to my house, days when I can’t focus on my workout because I’m imagining one of a million different ways they could be getting hurt right now, or even the days when I just can’t bring myself to go to kickboxing class at all.
But I will keep pushing myself, because they will continue to grow up and eventually will go own to live their own lives. Unless I want them to live in the basement. Which, actually, doesn’t sound that bad.