As a mom who has battled anxiety and depression for almost twelve years, it’s easy for me to think that everyone around me, including my children don’t notice when I’m having an anxiety attack. I have lived with it for so long that there are days I don’t even realize I’m struggling. The weight on my chest feels like it does most any other day, as I’ve become so accustomed to what it feels like. Yet, for my children—especially my oldest son, the anxiety I try hard to mask isn’t always hidden from his curious little eyes.
“Mom? Are you okay?”
I was standing at my kitchen sink, hot tears streaming down my face, elbow deep in dish soap and dirty plates. I had had enough. Anxiety had taken it’s grip on me and I was overwhelmed.The house was a mess. My boys wouldn’t stop fighting. My husband was running late. Dinner wasn’t ready. The baby was screaming. My Bible lay open on the kitchen table, untouched yet again. My coffee mug sat on the counter to my right, still full and ice cold. I felt frumpy as I was still sporting the pajama pants I’d slept in the night before—at 3:00 pm.
No. I was not okay. My mom anxiety was at a high. I wanted to scream it as loud as I could. I wanted to throw the plate that I was holding on the floor and pitch an all out fit. I was tired—scratch that, exhausted from the weight of all of it: mothering, wife-ing, the parenting, cleaning, folding, diaper changing, baby rocking, constant cuddling, consoling, refereeing and bandaging. I was done. I had spent, at this point, eleven years of my life focusing entirely on someone else. It was always someone else. And that day? Enough was enough.
Perhaps the hardest thing about becoming a mother lies not in the job of actually taking on the new role you are tasked with or in taking care of the new human in your life, but in the learning to lessen yourself. I fully expected becoming a mom to change me when I had my first child, but I never expected it to diminish me. I’d always heard stories of moms who claimed to “lose themselves” when they had kids. I could not even begin to grasp how someone could do that. Then, I was thrown into the world of unending diaper changes and nonstop crying. By days end, I was so tired from all of the noise and fussing and whining that I didn’t have time for me and eventually, I didn’t even know who “me” was anymore.
Perhaps the hardest thing about becoming a mother lies in the learning to lessen yourself.
On this particular day when my almost eleven year old asked me if I was okay, the weight of it had just become too much to carry. Rather than telling him that I was fine when he could clearly see the mascara running down my face and could see the trembling of my shoulders as I silently released my stress and anxiety at the kitchen sink, I chose to be honest with him.
“No, son. Mom is not okay.”
I wanted him to see that his mom was a real person, with real stressors and real feelings. That, despite the attempts that I made to keep it all together for him and his younger siblings, there were days when I just wasn’t okay. When I just couldn’t keep it together anymore. Days where, despite how much I loved him and his siblings, being a mom just wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t easy for me. It wasn’t even enjoyable for me. That even though I loved my children more than life itself and even though I would willingly lay down my own life for any one of them without hesitation…some days, I just wasn’t happy.
When I willingly opened up, spoke truth and allowed my sweet oldest baby to see that his mom was struggling and that she was hurting, I gave him a chance to practice all of the things that I had been so desperately trying to teach him: empathy, kindness and the willingness to lend a hand when someone needs it. He wrapped his tiny little boy arms around me and gave me a hug. He laid his head on my shoulder, because he’s almost as tall as I am now, and told him that it was all going to be alright and that he loved me.
Then, he scooped up his almost-two-year-old sister, who had been screaming at my feet for more minutes than I could recall, and carried her into the living room and started to play with her so I could finish my dishes.
I didn’t get any “me time” that afternoon, or any afternoon that week. I didn’t run away from my stress the second that my husband came home. I didn’t even get the rest of the house clean that day. But, I did see that the countless hours that I spent tirelessly and endlessly caring for everyone under my roof were not in vain. I also realized that “losing myself” in the role of motherhood is not only normal, but it is good, holy work. Losing ourselves is never a negative connotation the way that the world seems to portray it. Losing myself, losing my pride, losing my sense of “all about me” makes me more like Jesus.
Jesus tells us plainly throughout scripture that we are called to deny ourselves and follow Him. Maybe some of us can deny ourselves on our own; learn how to let go of our own selfish ambition without needing someone to force us to do it. Yet, for me, I am not disciplined enough or selfless enough on my own to deny myself of the dreams, goals and ambitions that I have. So, God gave me children. Those children have forced me to become less of who I am for the sake of becoming more like the one who created me.
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