We’re hard on ourselves as mothers. That’s all there really is to it, honestly. In some ways, that’s what makes a mom so amazing, they’ll literally do anything for their children, but in other ways, it’s also led to this incredible identity crisis among women around country.
When I had my oldest, I was set out to be that picture perfect, plays with the baby all day, does the Pinterest crafts, makes the organic baby food mom. And for a (very short) while, I was her. We painted, and I laughed when she spilled glitter on the floor, and we stained our hands crazy colors with tie dye projects. That was mom #1. The one who was carefree and full of whimsy.
Somewhere after my youngest was born is when mom #2 started to rear her head. She was not the mom I had pictured at all. She was easily flustered, EXHAUSTED, and very easily annoyed by seemingly small things. To the point where she would yell, and then immediately think, “why are you this upset over something so pointless?”
In so many ways, I realized, I had completely lost the person that I once was, and it was scary. While motherhood provided a whole new journey for discovering who I was going to be, in the moment, I felt helpless, abandoned, and lonely. And I was taking that loneliness and loss of identity out on my kids. I had become the sad mom. The tired mom. The mom who ate away her feelings. The mom who had little interest in playful moments. I felt lost.
What they don’t tell you when you become a mother is that all of those things you once defined yourself by as an adult, slowly begin to fade. And this beautiful and messy life becomes an endless array of routines, nap schedules, drop off and pickup, activities, loads and loads and more loads of laundry, which color is our favorite cup today so we don’t have a melt down, and ALL of the questions about if what we are doing, and the choices we are making are the “right” ones. It’s very overwhelming.
And then somewhere along the way, to add insult to injury, I began to experience severe anxiety attacks. I remember waking up in the middle of the night one night, after having a (terrifying) dream that my son had fallen off of a hotel balcony, with one of the absolute worst anxiety attacks that I had ever had in my entire life. I cried for hours, shaking and sobbing uncontrollably, replaying the dream over and over again in my head, with the anxiety worsening at each replay. If you’re unfamiliar with anxiety, please understand, it’s not something that we can simply shut off. It’s not something we can “talk ourselves down from”, it’s not simple “worry”. It’s suffocating, and takes a huge mental and physical toll.
This is the time in the story, where I started to seek relief. I had this uncontrollable urge to find myself again. To start being the mom that I wanted to be for my kids. Releasing the added pressure of comparison to the Pinterest mom, and the ideal of the “perfect” parent, and really just having this strong desire to be a little better each day than I was the day before.
I sought alternative methods, through becoming a certified Reiki healer, and utilizing meditation and yoga. I focused on my holistic wellbeing through finding a healthier nutritional plan and taking my pent up energy out daily through exercise. I began to invest in books that would grow my mind, and inspire my creativity; and yes, in a lot of ways these things helped, but they didn’t really and truly treat the cause of the symptoms, so mom #2 would make her appearance, and immediately feel the regret and shame that comes with not being the person she wanted to be.
Two weeks ago, I visited my doctor for an on-going pain issue with my shoulder. After discerning that the cause of my pain was due to a compressed nerve, she prescribed my a medication for nerve pain, that is also widely used to treat anxiety and depression. Now, if you know me, I’m extremely cautious and very close minded (yes, I’ll admit this!) when it comes to taking medication. My husband usually has to force me to take an excederin for a migraine. I’m stubborn, and I like utilizing natural techniques when I can. But also, in some ways, I feel that the stigma that surrounds taking prescriptions for things like anxiety is so high, especially among women and moms, that many of us don’t seek professional help for the fear of being made to feel “less than.”
So I’m here to tell you, that after two weeks of taking this medication for my nerve pain, I have also seen a HUGE change in my anxiety levels. For the first time since I can remember, my brain doesn’t feel so overloaded. I don’t feel like I am constantly on fast-forward. I feel like I can breathe again, and I feel like slowly, but steadily, I’m making my way back to that person that Mom #1 wants to be.
Sometimes the things that scare us, and the things that we resist the most, are the things that we NEED the most. Please know that seeking help doesn’t make you “less than”. Please know that Mom #2 is in no way a “bad mom”. Please know that if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. And please be okay with taking a breath and letting it go. YOU are the best project that you’ll ever work on. You are not selfish. When you’re pouring love and healing into yourself, you have so much more to give to those around you.
“Your job is to fill your own cup, so it overflows. Then you can serve others, joyfully, from your saucer.” ~Lisa Nichols