Panicky parents everywhere, I hope that you read this and feel a little bit less alone.
If you’re no stranger to that sensation in your stomach, like a fist made of ice squeezing your insides, sending your blood ice cold and making your breath catch in your lungs, anxiety in a physical manifestation (or any other manifestation as it can affect us all differently), becoming a parent just adds more to the ‘panic agenda’!
You go from just having yourself and your bills to worry about, to having a brand new, vulnerable little being made of soft injury-prone flesh to take charge of and prevent from finding themselves in some precarious situation on top of everything else. Parenthood is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but for many it marks the start of a new era of anxiety… 18 years (or more) of sleepless nights and fretting over the well-being of THE most important person (or people if you have more than 1 child) in your life.
If you’re finding that your anxiety has significantly shot up since becoming a mummy or daddy, let me tell you, you’re not alone. No one should judge you for how you’re feeling, and if it’s seriously impacting your life, your Health Visitor and GP can signpost you to support services.
Hopefully reading the insight of a fellow panicky parent will help others out there to rationalise in moments of worry, and seek help where needed…
Every single night, without fail even after I’ve literally just checked Max’s nappy and topped up his drink (about 11pm), my head will hit the pillow and the intense worry will immediately float into my mind.
‘He’s not breathing, Katie.’
‘ If you don’t get your lazy arse up and check him NOW, something bad will happen.’
Now, some of you will be reading that and immediately think of ‘Perfect O’, an intense and specific form of OCD leading to distressing, intrusive thoughts. This only happens to me at bed time, and I feel better after checking him, so I don’t think it’s Perfect O and would certainly get some intervention if this started to happen throughout the day, too.
It’s honestly very normal for a tired and emotional parent, after a long ass day, to need to second guess themselves and check their baby is ok to allow themselves some peace of mind and get some much needed sleep. It is OKAY to do this. Always go with your instinct on this front, even if you know baby is fine. It never hurts to check and you’re not some overly paranoid freak for doing it (my own thoughts for a while – I felt ridiculous).
Nutrition and Meals
If Max hasn’t eaten what I deem to be an acceptable amount of fruit and vegetables in a day, I guarantee that I’ll get into a tizz come late afternoon/early evening and start whipping out the vitamin drops, passionfruit & mango smoothie, or even whizz up a quick hidden vegetable soup to try and persuade Max to get at least some decent nutrition in him!
Parents of fussy eaters who LOVE ‘brown food’, I’m sure you’ll feel me here. It’s not so bad if your child actually enjoys great quality unprocessed food but if your little one is a connoisseur of all things processed and has a palate that barely stretches past the culinary delights of a McDonalds Happy Meal, ‘nutrition panic’ is a huge and common thing.
Again – you’re normal. You’re not a shit parent if your child refuses to so much as LICK a fucking cucumber stick (true story) or if you offer your child food you know they’ll actually eat because they don’t yet understand the concept of ‘eat it or go hungry’. Just be persistent, try to supplement their diet as much as possible, and definitely sneak vitamin drops in where you can.
Writer note: I am most definitely sitting panicking after writing this section, trying to list what Max has eaten and drank today that could be classed as nutritious…
Falls & Injuries
With every bang of the head, every tumble and every stumble, comes a wave of ice cold panic and worst case scenarios racing through my mind.
‘Could that bang on the head have a long term impact? OMG…. Could the bang on the head 2 years ago be why he’s permanently wired?! Have I damaged him? OH NOOOOOO, I’M A TERRIBLE MOTHER!’
And… then I realise just how bloody daft I’m being. Sort of, anyway. It doesn’t take away the underlying panic but thinking rationally after giving him a good check-over and remembering that my child is made of some sort of freakishly impervious rubber, I realise that he is fine.
Rinse, and repeat until the next time he throws himself off a piece of furniture, flies down the stairs, or commits some other bizarre act of toddler rebellion.
Long Term Mental Impact Of His Childhood
I know this part will provoke the raising of eyebrows across the UK (and world – say hi in the comments!) but I stress, worry and agonise every single day over Max’s future. I over analyse and critically assess every single little thing that I say and do, every bit of my body language, every raised tone and harsh intonation (however much deserved) and berate myself CONSTANTLY that I could have said/done that better, gentler, softer, firmer, clearer…
In my own head, I can never bloody win. I am my own worst critic – can you relate? I’m sure other anxious parents can. Already prone to anxiety and self doubt, we self perpetuate our fears with our constant assessment and brooding.
What really helps me is when he comes over to me for a cuddle after we’ve had a barney. He’ll climb onto my lap for a cuddle, smiling serenely, and plant a big kiss on my lips as if to say ‘it’s ok that you raised your voice there, mummy. I don’t hate you. I love you.’
He loves me… I love him… He’s happy… He’s nurtured… He’s living his best life… A mantra that all anxious parents need to repeat to themselves every time they find themselves agonising!
Long story short, mummies and daddies… If you can relate, you’re not alone and it is pretty normal. If you’re struggling to live your life because your anxiety has become all-consuming, please speak to a professional. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to confide in your family and friends for some reassurance.
Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx