I’ve thought more times than I can count that my anxiety is making me a bad mom.
I have cried over it, and I’ve struggled with it for probably 16 years. But, I’m here to tell you that having anxiety does not make you a bad mom.
First of all, if you’re worried and thinking, Am I bad mom? You’re most likely not.
Bad moms don’t worry if they are bad moms. And I would even argue that most moms try their best to be a good mom even if they fail at some aspects of motherhood.
While I have no statistics or science to back this up, I would argue, that those of us that worry about being bad moms are probably some of the best moms out there.
Being a mom with anxiety and depression does not automatically make you a bad mom either.
Millions of mothers struggle with anxiety and depression. Whether it’s something like postpartum depression after birth, or it’s something more long term, motherhood changes us. It just does. And it can change our brains (and our bodies) forever.
That’s just the reality of being a mom.
Not only that, but I would argue that almost 100% of moms have struggled with temporary anxiety and depression. Whether it lasts a day or a year, being a mom with anxiety and depression can feel overwhelming. Parental anxiety is a thing believe it or not.
So what are parental anxiety symptoms?
According to Medical News Today, parental anxiety has some distinct signs separate from regular anxiety. They include:
- avoiding putting a child in relatively safe situations they perceive as harmful
- vocalizing feelings of worry or stress to other people, including a child
- having persistent thoughts that something bad could happen to a child
- spending excessive time worrying over small details relating to a child
After my first child was born, I realized that I had a lot of these symptoms. You can read about my experience with postpartum anxiety here. My anxiety seemed to focus on the well-being of my child and whether or not I was doing enough.
Anxiety consumed my thoughts, and made it hard for me to function and sleep day to day. That, coupled with postpartum depression made those first few months as a parent very difficult.
But, having anxiety and depression did not mean I was a bad mom.
If anything, it meant I was taking my job as a mom very seriously.
So what if you are a mother with generalized anxiety disorder?
While motherhood may have triggered some of my anxiety, it was not the root cause. Several years into my mothering, I realized I needed more help than I was getting. I was burned out, tired, and lashing out at my kids.
It turned out that I was diagnosed by my therapist with generalized anxiety disorder. Suddenly everything in my world made sense. Because I had GAD long before I became a mother.
All the signs were there when I was a child, but no one was clued in enough to what I was experiencing to get me help.
What is generalized anxiety disorder?
Most people feel anxious. Anxiety is something we all experience as part of the human existence. But, generalized anxiety disorder looks a bit different. It’s pervasive, and all consuming.
According to Verywellmind.com there are certain criteria for diagnosing generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. They say:
“When assessing for GAD, clinical professionals are looking for the following:
- The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least six months and is clearly excessive.
- The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.
- The anxiety and worry are accompanied by at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only one of these symptoms is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD):
- Edginess or restlessness
- Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual
- Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
- Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
- Increased muscle aches or soreness
- Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)”
It’s important for you to seek the help of a professional if you’re experiencing these symptoms. If you’re a parent with an anxiety disorder, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
More importantly, if you are a mom with generalized anxiety disorder you are still a good mom.
I have fought the feelings of feeling like a bad mom because I was anxious for many many years. For me, my anxiety made me feel like a bad mom, even though that wasn’t true at all.
Interestingly enough, my anxiety made me an angry mom. Yes, I worried, and stressed about things, but more often than not, my anxiety made me feel rage.
I constantly worried if I was ruining my kids, or causing trauma when they were younger by my outbursts of irritability and anger. While yelling at your kids can be traumatic and damaging, you can also get help for your anxiety.
I eventually sought the help of both a therapist, and a doctor in order to get my anxiety under control.
If you’re feeling like your anxiety is making you a bad mom, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get help. While having anxiety does not make you a bad mom, it’s still important for yourself and for your kids that you get help.
Because believe me when I say that getting help can be life changing for your entire family when you have anxiety and depression.
No, I was not a bad mom before, but I am a better mom than I was since getting help. My kids are happier because I’m happier.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever have bad days or yell at my kids occasionally. But, I can function at a level that is more stable and happy than I was able to before.
More importantly, when stressful things happen like they always do as a mom, I can handle it a whole hell of a lot easier.
Maybe you feel like a bad mom because you think, “My child triggers my anxiety.”
Well, what if I told you that it’s entirely possible that’s true?
I used to think that becoming a mother would be so natural and easy for me. Being a mom is instinctual right? Well, I laugh at that now, because while some things were easy and instinctual, others definitely were not.
Being a mom with anxiety and depression may mean that your children are your triggers. OK, maybe not the mere existence of your kids, but the behaviors that kids can exhibit can be triggering for a mother with an anxiety disorder.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t have become a mom. This just means that maybe you need a little extra help.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve realized a lot of things about my kids that trigger my anxiety.
Kids are kids. It’s not their fault in any way that they trigger something in me that I already had long before they came along.
It’s just that for some of us, being a mom with anxiety and depression means we have to look for the warning signs that maybe we need a little self-care in order to manage the anxiety and depression while being the best mom we can be.
One of the things about being a mom that triggered anxiety symptoms in me was a lack of alone time.
Now that my kids are older, i can manage my alone time a little more easily. But when kids are babies and toddlers, alone time is harder to come by. Kids are clingy little suckers and want to be with their mamas all. the. time.
They can’t help it, because they are kids! But you may need extra breaks, daycare, or a helper to get through the day without losing your shit.
That does not make you a bad mom.
If motherhood triggers your anxiety, take a step back and look at what specifically you need that will make it better.
You can’t get rid of the kids (ha!) so you have to figure out what your specific triggers are and how to deal with them.
Maybe excessive crying is a trigger or lack of sleep. Both of those are a reality when you’re a mom. Maybe you have sensory sensitivity that makes excessive noise a trigger. Have you heard how loud toddlers can be?
To be honest, there could be a million things triggering your anxiety when you’re a mom.
Couple that with a lack of sleep, and it’s a recipe for mom anxiety symptoms.
Anxious mother syndrome is real.
Any mother will tell you that being a mom makes her anxious from time to time. That’s just the reality of the weight of taking care of other people and trying to raise good humans. The things that can cause anxiety never go away once you become a mom.
Anxious mother syndrome may not be an exact diagnosis in the DSM-5, but it’s still real. When we become mothers we put all of our needs last and want so much to be a good mom and do everything just right for our kids.
Some of us even want to do everything perfect. Ahem. Yeah, that would have been me a few years ago.
While anxious mother syndrome is something a lot of us deal with, it’s so so important to get help.
When you’re raised by an anxious mother, it can have implications.
This is why it’s so important to get help. Yes, being an anxious mom is a lot for you to deal with, but it’s a lot for your kids to deal with, too.
Before I go on, I want to emphasize that you cannot create an anxiety disorder in your own children just because you’re an anxious mother yourself.
However, you can feed unwarranted worries or behaviors in your children that if not treated, can make them more scared an anxious of the world around them.
According to Talkspace.com, you can teach your kids the following if you don’t get help for yourself.
These things may include ideas like:
- The world is dangerous.
- Other people are not to be trusted. (This may also manifest itself as unfounded prejudices—e.g. men/women/people who are a different ethnicity are not to be trusted.)
- Unpredictability is something to be feared.
- You need to try to control everything so that you don’t get hurt.
- It is easiest just to stay home and not interact with anyone.
- Don’t take any risks, because it would be worse to fail than not to try.
Some anxiety disorders are inherited, and there’s not much you can do about your child inheriting an anxiety disorder because of your genetics. However, it’s important to recognize that leaving your own anxiety and depression untreated can have implications on your own kids.
But, your anxiety is still not making you a bad mom.
Moms with anxiety and depression and other mental illnesses are not inherently bad moms. They are just different. Much like a mom who has cancer, or a disability, it just means that you have extra challenges to overcome.
The key to overcome feeling like a bad mom when you have anxiety is to get help. It’s as simple as that.
You love your kids. There is hope. And you can get the right tools to help you succeed.
But, regardless, your anxiety is not you. You’re still an amazing mom. And certainly not a bad one.