In my last post I promised to share ways of preventing and addressing what I'm calling "Mom-xiety", a form of anxiety unique to mothers because of the pervasive idea that the way a person turns out, good or bad, is probably the mother's fault. This is based in Freudian thinking that permeates our culture in ways we don't even recognize.
It's made worse by the way we're bombarded, mostly on social media, with every new parenting trend about everything from potty training to getting into a good school. Every generation comes up with a "better" way to feed, clothe, and discipline kids, and each new thing is usually polarizing. As a result, moms are always re-evaluating and second-guessing every decision. When we think we've come up with what's best, we feel as though we have to defend it or justify it--then someone comes up with reasons we're wrong. All the COVID-related stress doesn't help.
When we have these fears and thoughts, we often feel guilty, and rush to clarify that we "really do love being a mom!" Motherhood is supposed to be this wonderful, warm and fuzzy experience, so when it's just plain hard, we wonder what's wrong with us. What are we doing wrong?
The fact is, we wouldn't have worried like this a couple of generations ago. We'd have just asked our mom or grandma for advice, because mothering is pretty basic. We can't go back to that time, but one thing we can do is limit the time we spend on social media, Google, and reading parenting magazines, books, and blogs. We're all victims of information overload, so beginning here just makes sense.
There will always be things that concern you, especially when it comes to your children, but please remember: FREUD WAS WRONG! Yes, it's possible to really mess up your kids, but moms who do that don't read blog posts about mothering! We all know about kids who didn't turn out so great, and that's always a possibility. We all know that "bad" things might happen to us or a family member. But you can't live your life dwelling on what "might" happen. What I'm offering you today is what helps me to put things in perspective, do the things I can actually do, and turn the rest over to God.
The strategy is to restore peace and order to your thinking by first looking at the things making you anxious and deciding what to do about each. So, after you've reduced the amount of troubling information you're consuming:
Do a "brain dump". Set aside 30 minutes or so of uninterrupted time--get a cup of tea, some paper, a pencil and your calendar, and sit down in a comfortable place. Write out short phrases and words expressing everything that is in your brain, from fixing dinner to the possibility of World War III--anything and everything that's in there. If you cry, it's ok--sometimes when you start recognizing all of the junk that you've actually got troubling you, it's kind of emotional. (BTW this isn't journaling--just words and phrases)
When you're finished, note any everyday jobs in a separate list and set it aside. Take out your calendar and make sure every upcoming responsibility is written on the right date--appointments, birthdays, etc. If you're stressed about things you know are coming up but you aren't sure when exactly you'll do them (Thanksgiving planning, Christmas shopping for example) just choose a day on your calendar--you can go back and more specifically plan for these some other time.
For everything else, fill in the blanks of this sentence, either in writing or speaking: "I'm upset/anxious/fearful about (item on list) because . . . " (My mind tends to spin off into catastrophic scenarios: "I'm so worried about the virus because it might destroy the economy and China will take over the world!") After you've done this, think about each thing as carefully and as objectively as possible:
Can you address your anxiety in any meaningful way? "This is something I have to do something about--I just need to figure out what and how."
Or not "This is way outside of anything I have control over or ability to address." For example, you may be in knots about online schooling, but it's something you have to figure out. The economy, on the other hand, may be worrying you--maybe even a whole lot--but you aren't in a position and don't have the expertise to do anything about it.
Now, either do, delegate, or defer the household jobs and check them off. Take the list of the really big fears you can't do anything about, and make this part of your daily prayers. For each item you're anxious about but aren't sure what to do, bullet two or three possible solutions, such as
Talk it over with your husband and decide together
Ask a trusted friend for input
Check with your child's teacher for clarification
Once you've done all of this (it might take more than 30 minutes, TBH) set the lists aside. Finish your cup of coffee. Offer the biggies to God in prayer; ask him to give you peace and strength to do the things you need to do.
If you do this every now and then, it will be much easier to stay on top of the anxieties you face. Just remember--less social media, etc., regular brain dump, prayer about all of it.
In the next post, I'll tell you a couple of other things I've found helpful to prevent big anxiety meltdowns. Stay tuned!