‘Can I go camping with my friend?’ Where did this fear come from? Mother Bear instincts? I HAVE to give her the chance to spread her wings.’: Mom details struggles with anxiety, ‘The fear never truly goes away’

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“Carefree. I used to be carefree. Living my life on the edge. Taking unnecessary risks. Driving too fast, drinking too much. My fears were minor, childish. Between the ages of 16 and 23, my biggest fear was being alone—not having someone to love me. I just wanted to fit in and have fun. I thought I had it all figured out. When I got it pregnant at 23, everything changed.

I started having fears which didn’t exist inside my head before. The biggest one being driving. When I’m driving with my kids, an entire scenario will run through my mind. I see a narrow spot on the road and suddenly I see myself losing control and our vehicle rolling over and over. I wonder if we would survive or if I would have to live with causing an accident that took my children’s lives. Or, if I was injured, would I have the strength to help my children get to safety? Would I be able to find something to cut their seat belts with? Would I remember what I’ve learned from working at a hospital to help them without causing more damage?

How long would it take for ambulance to show up? Would I even be able to find my phone to call 911? What if I didn’t have service? What if no one could see our vehicle from the road? What if I didn’t survive and my children’s main parent is gone? What if they had to see their dead mother in the car? I can imagine hearing them scream out for me, begging for help, crying with fear. Would they survive the trauma and still grow up to be good people? Would their father be able to raise them into the humans I foresee? Would my friends and family step up the way I would prefer? Would their dad do what’s absolutely best for my babies?

Courtesy of Sally Selensky

Isn’t it a lot to take in? This is just one of my many fears since having children; driving has a strong hold over me. I have lowered the anxieties some, some days are awful and gut-wrenching, others are fear-free. No one warned me of the overwhelming fears which come with having children. Where does it come from? Our Mother Bear instincts? It keeps me up at night, makes me a wreck all day. Letting your children grow and have their own experiences is scary.

There was a tragedy in my home town. Not the first, and won’t be the last. A 4-year-old who died in an accidental drowning. That same 4-year-old happened to go to daycare with my 4-year-old when they were newborns, making it hit a little closer to home. That same night, my 6-year-old asked to go camping with her friend. My nerves went crazy. I swallowed the lump in my throat and made sure she would remembered to be safe. Life jacket when near or in water, always. Use your manners. Be polite. I did let her go. I wasn’t overly worried about drowning. But, mostly, that she wouldn’t have the love and support like her mom gives her if something went wrong. She wouldn’t be just a short walk away from coming home if something went wrong.

I had to give her the chance to go out on her own and spread her little-kid wings and trust that the family she was with would take the best care of her as possible. My children have always been quite independent. It gets harder by the day to keep them little. I try to have an umbrella of protection over them, even when they are out of my sight. It feels like they actually mature overnight into older, even more independent kids. All any parent can do is trust in the way you’ve raised your children, and have faith your children will be upstanding citizens, even when it is just playing at the neighbor’s house.

I know the fears as a parent never truly go away. They just morph into different fears to fit to their ages. Mothers have a bond with their children. Regardless of their relationship. Mothers can feel their children grow and develop inside their stomachs. We are the vessel entrusted to keep them healthy and growing. Sometimes our bodies fail us for no reason at all, but it all starts there—in the womb. All the fears start flooding into you, as if some sort of maternal dam broke open. All we can try to do is stay afloat and sort through the new and unfounded fears. One day at a time, one fear at a time. Turning to the older generation when the waters begin to get too deep.

It takes a village to raise children. That saying doesn’t just apply to people physically helping you with your children. It also applies to anyone who can help you emotionally. The emotional toll it takes to be a parent is unlike any other. It’s heavy, and it’s awkward. Almost like carrying a box slightly too big for you to carry alone. You can struggle and get it, one step at a time, stopping for breaks to try to get a better grip. Or, you can sit it down and reach out to someone for help. Someone who can help carry the box until you can sit it down and sort through it.

It’s hard to know just how to trust your gut when you have anxieties about your children. Is the fear getting the best of you and causing you to be overbearing? Or is it a real feeling, one you need to take seriously? I get nervous when my kids are at the park when there are older kids present. Not like nine or ten, but teenagers. I get this overwhelming fear those kids will hurt my kids. Whether it be scare them, hurt them, try to influence them negatively, or try to sneak them away. What are the chances of it happening? But I can’t relax—I stay alert. I will call my kids over to tell them to stay away, or I’ll simply make us leave. I don’t know if it is something all moms experience or maybe we just experience it in different scales. Mom anxiety is real. Maybe even fathers experience it. But it is real and it is intense.”

Courtesy of Sally Selensky

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sally Selensky. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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