There’s a common saying making its way around social media—kids don’t need a perfect mom, they need a happy one. I only halfway agree with this statement. No, kids don’t need a perfect mom (which is good, because they’re certainly never going to get one), but they also don’t need a mom who is always happy. Kids need moms who are well. My kids definitely don’t have a perfect mom, and it’s unreasonable to expect they’ll always have a happy mom. What they do have is an anxious mom, and she’s not always crushing it when it comes to motherhood. Nor is she always well.  

I have struggled with anxiety my whole life. Really, my whole life. As a child I was flippantly misdiagnosed with asthma when I was actually having panic attacks. The (incorrect) belief persists to this day that kids can’t possibly have anything to be anxious about, fed by the opinion that anxiety is always and only situational, a choice, and avoidable. 

If only, if only. 

Now that I have all the joys and pressures of adulthood, in addition to three very high-needs children, it’s rare that anyone dares to question my experience with anxiety. Now that my life is busy and full, the uninitiated find no fault with my shortness of breath, panic, and rage. Now, they reason, there’s really something to be anxious about. 

I’ll let you in on a secret about anxiety: sometimes there’s nothing to be anxious about. That’s the thing about anxiety—sometimes it’s in reaction to something, sometimes it’s chemical. Sometimes my brain overproduces chemicals that put my body into a state of fight or flight. Sometimes everything in my life is rainbows and cupcakes, and I still find myself with a tight chest, clenched fists, racing pulse, and a mind full of terror. 

This is when I take my medication. 

RELATED: I Take This Little White Pill

Medicating mental illness is a hot topic in some circles, and that’s fine. I’ve made the choice for myself, after much prayer and even more suffering, that medication was necessary to help with the crippling anxiety I often face. 

Being so hypervigilant and on-edge put me into states of rage, anger I was taking out on my children. My mind was telling me we were in danger, but my mouth was telling them to shut up. My heart was pounding as though I was running for my life, but the rest of me sat frozen, unable to participate in activities that made me feel like I had no control. Here were three beautiful and smart little people who I loved deeply, and I couldn’t enjoy them. 

I wanted to be the mom who played with them.

I wanted to be the mom who could bake with them without needing to hide afterward and catch my breath.  

I wanted to be the mom who went on field trips without sweating in fear. 

I wanted to be the mom who spoke to my children with love, not out of irritability. 

I wanted to be the mom who made my children feel wanted, not like inconveniences. 

And so I took the medication. 

RELATED: Being a Mom With Anxiety is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

I took the medication that slowed my heartbeat and evened my breathing. I took the medication that took the edge of panic off just enough for me to be able to participate. I took the medication that wouldn’t make me a zombie and didn’t allow me to remain a monster. 

Do I still yell sometimes? Sure. Do I still fight against paralyzing and terrifying anxiety? Every day. But am I helpless against it? No. 

I have a counseling degree. I believe in the power of prayer. I know the benefits of therapy, of breathing exercises, of quiet time, healthy diets, the great outdoors, plenty of water, exercise, and oils. I also have a very real anxiety disorder, and none of these things correct the chemical imbalance that causes it. 

I tried to be the anxious mom who overcame anxiety. I tried to be the anxious mom who treated anxiety naturally. I tried to be the anxious mom with the testimony of healing.

But I have accepted that I am the anxious mom who takes anxiety medication . . . and because of it, I’m a better mom. 

I’m a better mom when I’m able to breathe. I’m a better mom when I’m able to speak gently. I’m a better mom when my need for perfection or my fear of harm don’t hold me hostage and keep me from participating in my children’s lives. And I’m humble and honest enough to realize that I’m a better mom when I take medication for anxiety. 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Jennifer Vail

Jennifer is married to the very handsome man she's loved half her life, with whom she juggles 3 hilarious, quirky, sometimes-difficult-but-always-worth-the-work kids. She is passionate about people and 90's pop culture, can't go a week without TexMex, and maintains the controversial belief that Han shot first. She holds degrees in counseling and general ministries, writes at This Undeserved Life, and can often be found staying up too late but rarely found folding laundry.

Once Upon a Time You Got All of Me

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife on wedding day, color photo

First there was us, and now it’s them. We have four little hands that need us, and it’s so hard to get lost in parenthood and forget that at once upon a time it was me and you. I promise you, it won’t always be like this. It won’t always be this hard. I remember when we would go for leisurely walks and long Sunday brunches. Now it takes us an hour to leave the house for a 15-minute walk. I want so badly to spend hours lying in bed, talking like we used to, but now I’m so tired...

Keep Reading

I Was Raised by an Easter-Only Mom and I Want More for My Kids

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and daughter read Bible

Motherhood is not for the faint-hearted, and women tend to look to their upbringing for guidance. We may not even realize we’re doing it! But being a godly mother is even more difficult when you weren’t raised by one. The questions are endless: How do I model forgiveness? How do I set the right priorities for my household? How do I explain baptism to my 6-year-old? Is it okay to have undiscipled friends around my children? Do we have to pray over every meal? Is the occasional swear word acceptable?  These questions may be less intimidating if you were fortunate enough...

Keep Reading

We’ll Get Through Daddy’s Deployment Together

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother, father, daughter selfie, color photo

“I didn’t think we did that anymore.” I wish I could attribute that to one person, but I’ve heard it from multiple people when I’ve mentioned that my pilot-soldier National Guard husband is deploying overseas. Yes, we still do that. Men and women still suit up every day to carry out various missions, both valuable and confusing, around the country and the world. And for the whole of 2023 that includes my husband. My partner, my co-adventurer. The one who will use our flight and hotel benefits from his day job to visit Hawaii for three days on a pre-deployment...

Keep Reading

Our College Visit Disaster: What You Should Learn from My Mistakes

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Mom and teen daughter selfie, color photo

With a song in my heart, I got in the car to drive my daughter to our first college visit.  We drove two hours to a school nestled in the mountains. It was a state school, not too big, not too small.  She knew plenty of alumni from her high school who attended there, and I was convinced it was going to be the perfect fit. We pulled up to the student center, and I jumped out of the car. I glanced around for her and realized she was still sitting in the car.  “Mom, I’m not getting out. I ...

Keep Reading

I Was Never Good Enough for My Mother, So I’m Done Trying

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman walking away

I’m on a path in life that is so different from what I ever imagined growing up. It’s a path I’m not even sure I consciously choose. And it’s a path that exhausts me. I grew up with a narcissistic mother, and I was the scapegoat. No matter how I tried, I could never gain my mother’s love. It was love that was tainted with conditions and taken away at any time—and that was often. And thus, I tried harder. Best grades, best behavior, cleanest room. It never worked. I was too fat. My thighs were huge—make sure they were...

Keep Reading

Even When it Feels Like I Can’t, I Keep Going

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom holding toddler

When I feel like I can’t do one more thing. When I am overwhelmed and touched out and lost in the logistics of it all. When my physical and mental energy are depleted. When the length of my to-do list needs more hours than I have. When I am so bone tired that I’m sure I just can’t go on. And there is still more to do. And the only choice is to keep going– I keep going. I dig a little deeper and find strength I didn’t know I had. RELATED: Check on Your “Strong” Friend, She’s Faking it...

Keep Reading

I Am an Immigrant Mom

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and toddler in sunshine

I have many moments of What did I get myself into? during the day, especially when one of my kids is screaming at the top of his lungs and the other is having a make-believe experiment in the kitchen. We’ve heard countless times that raising kids is hard, but raising kids as a first-generation immigrant is harder. Obviously, there is no competition for who has more struggles or whose life is harder because child rearing is hard. Period. But this piece is specifically aimed at shedding some light on the unsung heroes, our so-called, first-gen immigrants raising kids in a...

Keep Reading

What Happens When She Wants Another Baby and He Does Not?

In: Faith, Marriage, Motherhood
Husband and wife, pregnancy photo, color photo

I am on my knees, folded over, with my head resting on the carpet. I am in my closet, which doesn’t see much of the vacuum, and it is the only place I can find to sob out of sight. I feel hollowed out and defeated as if I have run a marathon and was cut short at the finish line. I cry out in prayer, pleading with God to soften the heart of my husband. I desperately want another child, and he desperately does not. I take a deep breath and dry my eyes because my 4-year-old outside the...

Keep Reading

Everything I Know About Motherhood, I Learned from My Mom

In: Grown Children, Motherhood
Mother and daughter walking down snowy path, color photo

I lay in a hospital bed, and the doctor placed my brand-new son into my arms. As I held him close and stared in wonder at this tiny new life, the gravity of being totally responsible for another person settled in with an enormous weight. I could hear my mom’s voice in my mind, “Support the head, hold him close, let him feel you breathe.” Words from my youth when she taught me how to comfort my crying baby cousin. The first lesson I had in taking care of a baby. When I brought my son home from the hospital,...

Keep Reading

God Gave Him Bigger Feelings

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy on playground, color photo

He came home from school last week and asked, “Why do I get so angry but my friends never do? Why am I not the same?” And it broke me. Because he is passionate and intelligent and kind and intuitive and beautiful. He didn’t always seem different. We never paid attention to how he would line everything up in play. And we would laugh it off as a quirk when he would organize everything dependent upon shape, size, and color. He was stubborn, sure, but so am I. And then COVID happened, and we attributed the lack of social skills...

Keep Reading