Yesterday was a normal day. I woke up late, as usual. From there, the morning snowballed, the way it always does, and I was swept up for the ride. I don’t think I caught my breath until after I dropped my son off at daycare. I was walking down the stepping stones leading to the parking lot when I was finally able to think instead of just react.
And that’s when the anxiety started. Before I even made it to work, before I even made it back to my car, the wheels in my mind started turning.
Did I tell him I love him? I think I forgot to tell him I love him. I know he gave me kisses, but I didn’t say “I love you.” What kind of mom am I?
My child knows I love him. The sensible part of my brain knows this. The reasonable part of me screams this even as these thoughts float through my head. I shouldn’t let it get to me. I shouldn’t allow my insecurities to manifest as unwarranted worry. But I can’t stop it.
I make it to the car and call my husband, feeling heavy. I tell him I think I forgot to tell the baby I love him. He speaks out loud the words I have tried to soothe myself with, “He knows you love him,” and I am finally able to forgive myself and escape the weight of the worry, until the next time.
I’m a worrier mom, an anxious mom, and I hate it.
My worries range from the plausible to obsessive to the irrational. I worry I spoke too harshly to my son and that’s what he’s always going to remember. I worry he didn’t eat enough. I worry because I was doing dishes or laundry or making dinner and he might have felt ignored. I worry I put him in time-out when he really needed just to be held instead.
I look in on my son sleeping in his crib multiple times before lying down, because I can’t remember if his breathing was even, or because I don’t think I looked at his hands and feet to make sure they weren’t stuck in between the bars, or because I can’t remember if his face was too close to his pillow.
I worry about the bad things that could happen during the day, even though I have no real reason to think they will. What if he breaks free from the grip of my hand and runs into traffic? I always hold his hand, tight. What if he falls off the slide and lands the wrong way? He’s 2 now, and strong, and broken bones heal. What if I didn’t tell him I love him and it’s the last time I see him? There’s no reason to allow myself to ride that train of thought.
But I do. I can’t stop myself, and I hate it. As an anxious mom, I have a battlefield raging in my mind all day, every day. Energy that could be spent having fun with my child is expended on squashing the worries that nearly consume me. It’s not healthy.
It’s worse than not healthy. It’s completely exhausting. My mind is always fixated on what I should be doing, what I shouldn’t have done, and what I need to do next time instead. I dwell on the details no one else remembers but me. I replay conversations and reenact events in my mind, worrying if I did or said the wrong thing. I hold on to the mistakes my son will never remember and reprimand myself long after he’s forgotten. I know it sounds crazy to anyone who doesn’t worry. I sound like a nut job. Truth be told, sometimes, I worry I really am crazy.
That is stupid, right? I worry because I’m worrying too much! I wish I could just let the day happen and not analyze it. I wish I could flip the switch and turn my thoughts off, or at least down to a workable level. I just haven’t found how to do that yet. But I will—for my boy.
I don’t want my anxiety to be something he ever inherits from me. And I know the day will come when my son will be able to sense the worry, to look at my face and see it, to feel it hang all around us, and he might think there’s something to worry about too. I never want him to be the worrier I am. I won’t teach him how. He doesn’t deserve that.
He deserves a warrior mom instead of the worrier mom he has. That’s what I’m working toward; I just haven’t made it there yet. For now, he has to settle for me, the worrier mom. And although I hate the “worrier” in that title, I love being the mom my son has made me, and he knows this.
Even if I worry he doesn’t because I forget to tell him, he knows.