What would motherhood be like if I didn’t have anxiety?
I’ve wondered this so many times over the last six years, especially when I meet a mom who exudes joy and seems to always be so loving and present with her kids. Or one who is unphased by the noise, chaos, and overstimulation of motherhood. Or who, when asked if she struggles with her mental health, is able to shrug and truthfully answer no.
Each time I’ve wondered, what must that be like? Because for me and my own journey through motherhood, anxiety is a very present, very real companion.
My anxiety makes it hard for me to be in the moment with my family because I’m always thinking about what needs to be done.
It throws me into an overthinking, worried spiral every time one of my kids gets a sniffle or has a bad day at school.
It challenges me to be patient and gentle because my anxiety often manifests as irritability.
It keeps me up at night because my busy mind just won’t rest.
What if something happens to my kids?
Am I projecting my personal issues onto them?
Am I screwing this up? Am I screwing THEM up?
My anxiety interrupts moments that are meant to give me a break. Any time I drop my kids off anywhere—even with fully capable and loving grandparents or friends—my heart sinks.
Will they be OK?
What if they need me and I’m not there?
People tease me about being a helicopter mom, but they don’t know how hard I’m fighting those tendencies behind the scenes.
In a lot of ways, anxiety has cast a shadow on my motherhood . . . and I resent it deeply.
Last year, though, I had a conversation with my therapist that changed my perspective just a little bit. “When you’re feeling extra anxious or you’ve been irritable with your family, what do you do next?” she asked me.
“Well,” I replied, “I apologize and explain that Mommy is having a hard day and feeling extra overwhelmed—and that I need to take a few quiet minutes to myself so I can reset.”
“Casey,” she responded gently, “do you realize how many valuable skills you’re modeling for your kids in those moments?”
And she was right.
It’s so easy to focus on the ways anxiety makes motherhood harder. I beat myself up over losing my cool or getting in the way of my kids being kids because of my own fears.
What I don’t recognize and appreciate nearly enough are the things I’m teaching them as I navigate my struggles.
Things like apologizing when we make mistakes.
Understanding we’re all humans with big emotions, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.
Learning how powerful tools like meditation, alone time, medication, and communication are when it comes to battling our inner demons.
And my kids are truly picking up on these things—I see it in our everyday lives together.
It’s the reason when I’m having an especially tough day, my kids recognize that and treat me with extra compassion (gosh, I love their sweet, empathetic hearts).
Or how my 6-year-old will gently remind me to take deep breaths when I’m overwhelmed or worried.
Or the reason I found our 3-year-old sitting on her bed reading a book alone the other day—because she was upset with her brother and knew to find a quiet minute to calm down, no prompting required.
We see anxiety in motherhood as such a negative, and believe me, I know it makes so many parts of life more challenging. I wish it wasn’t part of my story—if you’ve read this far, I bet you do, too.
Here’s the thing, though: I truly believe being an anxious mom isn’t all bad . . . and it sure as heck doesn’t make us weak.
Yes, it takes extra work, extra intention, and extra grace every single day.
But maybe it also makes us more compassionate and equipped to help our kids through the tough stuff. Maybe it gives us perspective to understand them better. Maybe we can use everything we’ve learned to teach them coping skills we didn’t have at their age.
Being a mom who struggles with anxiety is really, really hard—there’s no sugar coating that.
But maybe, just maybe, we can use it to make us all a little bit stronger.