These are the words that actually came out of my son’s mouth: “Well, I’m just saying that to me it doesn’t seem like everything you do is that hard. I’m the one that’s stuck in school for 6 hours and you just take care of two autistic kids in the morning and then 22 kindies in the afternoon. So I’m just saying that it doesn’t seem like that much work and surely not hard.”
It was at that exact moment that my mind went a flutter with a hundred reasons why being a mom of two children with anxiety related disorders, being an employee as well as self-employed is emotionally and physically taxing.
I fought back the urge to argue with my eleven year old for two reasons:
- He’s 11, and arguing at 8:00 a.m. will get us nowhere.
- It’s my perception of what he said that’s got my knickers in a knot, so it’s not fair to take out my stress on him.
I told him that my day and his day were stressful in their own way, and that we are both entitled to fill our needs for comfort and calm however that looks and feels.
Since my daughter was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder many years back, the road we have travelled has been extremely volatile. When she was younger, the emotional rollercoaster of getting her out of the house was physically demanding. Now years later, the constant attempts to give her the needed tools to make her day more manageable are emotionally demanding. I had my own little breakdown in 2009, which led me to the emergency room thinking I was on the cusp of death when I was “only having a severe panic attack.”
In the last two years my son has begun his own journey with anxiety, panic attacks and trauma healing, so in our house there is always something to be openly dealt with, acknowledged or discussed. This way of communicating is perfect in my opinion, as it allows everyone to feel like their feelings are important and valuable. The caveat is that since I’m the one that’s home, and I deal with all the meetings, appointments and emotions – I’m the one the kids want. As great as Dad is, he can’t calm a panic attack as well as Mom can and he can’t find the right words to help bring calm to their breathe. It’s not his fault – he just hasn’t had the same kind of one-on-one experience that I have had with both the kids. This kind of emotional support is so hard on a person. You feel for your children and you want to help them in any way possible, however the toll it takes on you is very real, very physical and very emotional.
So after a few years of some very attuned parenting I have learned a few things that keep my sanity in check, because after all if Mom isn’t well the whole house feels it.
A meltdown usually occurs after school when all the “holding in” that my kids have done can be sustained no longer. It involves crying and/or verbally defiant behaviour. You’re basically a temporary punching bag, because it’s safe for them to let it all out.
- I acknowledge as best as I can that the behaviour has NOTHING to do with me or anything I’ve done. It’s all about them coming down from that emotional, anxious tension – and it needs to be released. Once the situation is back to a calm state:
I go to a quiet place (my room or the bathroom) and take a few minutes to decompress from all the anxious energy. I practise my deep breathing and I feel the tension ease from my shoulders. It is a simple task, but it helps in so many ways.
- As parents we always make excuses – that we don’t have time for ourselves; however we MUST make ourselves a priority.
Every day I walk the kids to school, I take an extra 15 minutes to walk back home the long way. It’s my time to reconnect with my mind, body and spirit before my day really gets started. If I can’t walk first thing in the morning I make sure to fit it in somewhere in the day.
- It is so easy to get caught up in all the negative energy around us, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
I have started writing affirmations on the mirror in the bathroom to remind myself of where I am at and where I want to be. Each time I head in there, I read it and like a sponge take it all in. Guess what? It’s really working. Each and every day I feel more empowered and more positive.
Remember that tender, loving care is crucial to our physical and emotional well-being. Next time you think “I don’t have time”, remember that you are important and you deserve it. What’s your way of keeping yourself physically and emotionally well?