Here at ABQ Mom, we care about your self-care! It’s so important as moms to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. Since it’s a brand new year, we want to get it started off right by focusing on you. Each Sunday in January we will tackle a different aspect of self-care. This week’s topic is mental health and the worry load of motherhood. Sound familiar? Read on for some great practical advice. Here’s to a healthy, happy new year!
It’s Not Our Job to Worry, Mom
“It’s my job to worry.” We’ve all heard a mom say this. Usually this comment is made after providing a motherly warning (“Drive slowly in the snow!”) or peppering a teenager with questions (“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”). I understand the sentiment behind the comment. When a mother says, “It’s my job to worry,” she is actually saying:
“I care about you.”
“I love you so much that I want everything to go perfectly for you.”
Or, “I will do anything in my power to help you if something is wrong.”
But I’m here to tell you that it’s not our job to worry. It’s not. It is our job to take reasonable measures to keep our children safe and happy. And it is our job to provide occasional warnings and reminders. It’s not our job to worry.
In my experience, many moms tend to struggle with worry. Maybe it’s because we’ve felt our babies’ tiny little feet kick our ribs and now they are walking around in this dangerous world all by themselves. Maybe it’s because we rocked them and watched sweet, feathery eyelashes flutter off to sleep and now they think they are autonomous human beings who can make their own decisions. Whatever the reason, mothers really struggle with worry. And Google certainly isn’t helping us.
I am no exception. If one of my children is having a problem, you better believe I’m going to try to solve it. I’m going to try to solve it NOW. I’m going to solve it by thinking and thinking and thinking until I’m exhausted and confused. I have been so deep in thought (worry) about an issue at my son’s school that I loaded my children up from an outing at the park and drove away with the stroller still sitting on the sidewalk. This is a pep talk written for myself as much as it is written for you, but I never want to say the phrase “It’s my job to worry.”
It is NOT my job to worry. It is my job to model for my children how to live in a world full of uncertainly and not allow worry to get the best of me. And it is my job to model how to cope well with the inevitable fear and anxiety we’ll face in this life.
Sometimes I think we moms believe that the more we worry and fret over our children the more we love them. But we don’t need to prove our love through worry. We’ve already proven that by waking every three hours to feed them, by sweeping countless floors and washing countless dishes, by wiping their tears (and butts).
Worry is a vicious cycle. The more we obsess over something, the harder it is to refocus on something else.
Fellow stay-at-home moms? It is a special challenge for those of us who have ALL day to think about something with very few distractions.
If you sometimes get stuck in a bad cycle of worry, my best advice is to force yourself to take a break, even a short break, from thinking about it. The best way to force a mental break is to fill your mind with something else. Call a friend and really listen to what is going on in her life. Watch a favorite show. Work on a project and put on an interesting podcast. If you are a stay-at-home mom, get out of the house and interact with other humans.
Sometimes it can be effective to put a time limit on your “mental break.” Say to yourself, “This problem does not need to be solved in the next 30 minutes. I’m going to take the kids to the park for 30 minutes without thinking about this problem.”
I often find that if I force myself to take a mental break from worrying, I feel quite differently about the problem when I think about it later.
Most commonly, the problem doesn’t feel as urgent or horrible as I thought it was. I often feel as if I am seeing things more clearly. I am less confused and emotional and a plan of action seems more apparent.
Mamas, let’s make a goal to break the cycle of worry. Let’s take any reasonable measures we can to keep our kids safe and happy and then let it go. I’m going to give it my best effort, and I hope you’ll join me.
*These tips apply to those moms who worry occasionally but are able to find relief through good self-care and coping mechanisms. If you are dealing with excessive, all-consuming anxiety that is frequently out of proportion to the problem, then you may be suffering from a clinical anxiety disorder. In this case, I would encourage you to seek help from your doctor or a licensed mental health professional.
Originally published January 2019.