I’m a mom. I have three beautiful, wildly different, funny, intelligent, amazing children.
And I have anxiety and depression.
My mental illness colors everything I do, but I contemplate it most vividly in the scheme of my parenting. And because I’ve had these illnesses for longer than I’ve had children, I literally don’t know what it is like to parent without it.
I worry about my children in the same ways and manners most parents worry I’m sure. Are they healthy? Are they happy? Did they do their homework? Eat their vegetables? Clean their room? Are their friends being nice? Do they need more structure? Less structure? Am I letting them have too much screen time? Is this activity/tv show/friendship appropriate?
But its highly possible that I worry about these things much more intensely than other parents. Much more frequently. Basically constantly.
I find it hard to let go of a worry, but instead continue down a dark and twisty rabbit hole of “what ifs” to go along with the basic worry. What if my child is too hot in that sweatshirt today? What if she is wearing that sweatshirt to hide her body because she is suffering from body image disorders? What if she is wearing that sweatshirt to hide scars from self-harm? Am I doing enough to boost her self-confidence? Am I talking openly and honestly with my kids about mental health, body positivity, and keeping the lines of communication open so that they will come to me if they need help? What if? Am I doing enough? What if? What if? Forever.
And then I worry that I’m damaging them. That by being me, me with all my illnesses and issues and genetics, I’m raising up broken children in a broken world, to become broken adults.
The truth is, I don’t know. And that is the scariest part of all. I’m honestly overwhelmed with the gravity of it.
I do know I’m doing my dead level best, which still might not be enough. But I’m grateful to have my husband who will look at me and tell me I’m spiraling, and I need to take a break and breathe. I’m grateful to have a tribe of my own that I can say “hey. . .am I overthinking this?” (The answer is almost always ‘yes’).
Parenting is just hard. Kids are complicated and challenging and exhausting. And they keep growing up and throwing new challenges at you and giving you a new list of things to worry about (Hello College! Goodbye seeing my child safe in her bed each night! I’m going to be SUCH A WRECK.)
Mother’s Day is coming, and on some level, I’d like to be pampered and celebrated, because please yes someone else do the laundry and scrub the toilets while I sit here with my cup of coffee. But on the other hand, motherhood is a complicated title and arrangement that I wouldn’t have without those three beautiful, exhausting noodlemuffins. And while I’m not feeling up to the task most days, overwhelmed with the difficulty of raising these children to adulthood, keeping them safe and whole and kind and brave, and then letting them go off and make their own mistakes, I also cannot for a single minute imagine my life without them.
Because despite my natural pessimistic, worrisome nature I can still see the beauty in my children. In their laughter, in their dancing, in their learning, in their growth. I can, in one minute feel my heart racing beyond the capacity of my chest in fear for them, and in the next be struck by the amazing light in their smiles. I can be battling my own depression and still see the artistry behind their curious questions and want to cover them with kisses as their wild curls blow in the wind on the playground. They are both my greatest fear, and my greatest joy.
I am ridiculously grateful to have these children, for the hope they breathe into my life, and for the chance to tell them about me, to be there to talk to them about mental health and getting help when you need it and how much God loves them. I’m hopeful that, despite my genetics and my hand in their upbringing, or maybe even because of it, if they ever find themselves, or a friend struggling with mental health that they will find the courage to reach out and seek help. That they won’t hide or feel shameful, but instead remember their mother’s story, and that they will have had someone who went before them and told them about bravery and hope and love.
And so I’m hopeful that there is purpose and design to my children being mine.
Hopeful. Exhausted. Grateful.
Which I’m pretty sure is just the definition of motherhood.