I Am A Great Mother vs Anxiety
“I am a great mother.” This phrase can seem so difficult to say. I had a difficult day a little while back and my hubby made me take his hands and say “I’m a good Mum.” After managing to say that he then said, “OK, now say I’m a great Mum.” It took a couple of goes, but I finally got there. But why was it so difficult?
Since having Evie, I have had a lot of anxiety and there are many things that have contributed to it. The first I think comes from my own (and other peoples) expectation that I have to be the perfect Mum. I have to be able to do everything, on my own, and if I don’t then I must be doing something wrong. When writing it down, it seems so silly. The phrase “it takes a village” has never been more true when it comes to raising a child! I am fortunate to have a fantastic support network of family and friends around me that often lend a hand. When I accept the help, I usually do so with an overwhelming sense of guilt, but why? Surely we deserve a break? I am trying SO hard to be better about making time for myself and taking offers of help so that I can have some much needed me-time.
I remember when Evie was just a couple of months old I would be anxious about taking her out. What if she needed feeding? What if she cried? I remember countless occasions where my husband and I would be trying to go out and I would be so worried about her becoming unsettled that we would wait until her next feed, feed her at home and then try to go. Looking back, I wonder what all the fuss was about, but as a first time mum I was so ridiculously tired (physically and emotionally) that simple tasks like going out seemed so hard. My anxiety of going out was rooted by this fear of what other people would think. That somehow if Evie was crying that the people around me would think I was a bad mother.
What I’ve learnt as she has grown is that what those other people think simply doesn’t matter. I remember one instance really clearly where I’d gone to lunch with a good friend of mine and taken Evie with me. She became unsettled and I knew she just needed a sleep. I stood up at the table, singing to her, rocking her and soothing her to see a lady at the next table tut and shake her head at us. I turned to my friend feeling angry and said, “I can’t believe she’s tutting me. I’m actively trying to get Evie to stop crying, it’s not like I’m sitting here and letting her wail away!!” My friend very calmly just said, “You need to stop worrying about what other people are thinking. Some people just want a reason to complain. You just focus on you.”
I’m not sure if my friend realised that what she said in that moment was exactly the right thing. There are still times when I’m out with Evie and the anxiety kicks in when she starts to fuss. I try now to take a moment, take a breath and just focus on her; what does she need, why is she upset. I’m not always successful and sometimes I get flustered, but it’s a work in progress!
My life changed pretty drastically and very quickly when I found out I was pregnant with Evie. Up until that moment, I had been living in Chicago, teaching regularly to pay the bills whilst pursuing a performing career. When I found out I was pregnant, I was in a great place career-wise and felt as though all of the hard work and auditioning was finally starting pay off and gain momentum. It still feels as though the arrival of Evie brought all of that to a sudden halt. I see many mothers working in the performance industry that have continued to have careers whilst having a family, but for me I find it hard to see how the two can go together, at least at the moment. It has meant that I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about what I’m going to do for a career. Do I need to do something completely different now? Is there a way to still perform that won’t have me away from home for weeks at a time?
I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t change having Evie for anything in the world, but I still feel as though I’ve lost a big part of who I was before she came along. I’m not sure that I’m completely ready to let go of that yet and perhaps I don’t have to at all, but it is a big part of my life that I’m trying to figure out.
One of the many reasons that made me want to start Little Evie & Me was the fact that I was going through all of these feelings, but feeling so very guilty for having them. Surely I should just be happy that I have this wonderful new little person in my life? What I felt was lacking was a sense of “reality” that I could relate to, especially on social media. I remember seeing other new mums and thinking, “Why am I not managing like that?” What I’ve come to slowly realise is that I think ALL mums are muddling their way through. They’re taking each day as it comes and sometimes it works out great, whilst other times it’s really messy. I suppose some mums just hide the messy days better than others!
I am trying everyday to work through any anxiety I have. To acknowledge why I might be feeling that way, but not let it overpower me. For me, I’m fairly certain that it’s the anxiety that gets in the way of me being able to say, “I’m a great mother.” Even if I don’t say it out loud, I try to find moments in the day where things are going well to simply think it to myself. To give myself a mental pat on the back. Even if it’s just, “Well done, she’s taking a nap!!” however short that nap might be!
Recently I shared a post on Instagram from @honestlymommy on the same issue of saying “I’m a good Mum.” and I really feel it’s important to keep the message going. If you’re a mother reading this, you are GREAT. What we do isn’t easy and it’s difficult to remember all the good things we do sometimes. Today, try saying, “I’m a great mother.” Say it out loud, to yourself, to your partner, to your baby, even to the dog (Margie’s a great listener!). Whoever you say it to, mean it and believe those words. Even (or perhaps especially) on the messiest of days.
Little Evie & Me xx