Most mornings, I wake before my three children.
I’d like to say that I usually get out of bed right away and start my day with some sort of productivity and a pep in my step, but that’s not the reality. No, more often than not, I lay there dreading the chaos that I know is about to ensue. With three kids age 4 and under, life is a little bit crazy at the moment — to say the least. It’s exhausting physically and emotionally. But I’ve always reasoned that it’s normal when you have kids.
However, I’ve recently started to wonder if maybe it isn’t actually “normal.”
I’ve always been a bit high strung. I appreciate organization and having a plan and I loathe being late or change of any kind. And I really, really hate not being in control. I once cried because my husband rearranged our bedroom furniture while I was out. Despite my Type-A, Monica Geller-esque leanings, I never would have considered any of this to be a “problem.” Admittedly, I wasn’t always the most pleasant to be around due to my inflexibility, but overall I was still a pretty fun person.
And then I had kids.
It happened slowly, but over time these things that were merely leanings, became more pronounced aspects of my personality. Things that used to be simple annoyances, like little messes around the house or running late, suddenly became much more. Toys left scattered on the living room floor would elicit a physical response from me. Forgetting my grocery list at home would send my heart racing. Kids bickering in the backseat would cause me to sweat and feel inordinately overwhelmed and angry. It started with small things when my first child was born and over these past four years has gotten to a point where I started wondering if this was how all moms felt or if maybe it was something I needed to address.
But, with the busyness of motherhood, I had the perfect excuse to continue pushing it aside — until one afternoon it all came to a head.
I was picking up my daughter from day camp one afternoon about a month ago. I was toting around a newborn baby while attempting to collect her things and in the shuffle, one of the wiggly eyes on her craft project came loose and got lost. She became upset immediately upon noticing so I attempted to help her look for it. After about five minutes of looking, it became apparent that we weren’t going to locate this missing eye and I told her as much. Her response was to go completely ballistic. She threw herself on the ground in a fit of tears and screaming. At this point other parents were beginning to stare as I helplessly tried to contain the situation while holding my brand new baby who decided to join in on the cacophony with her own angry wailing. I could feel my face getting hot as the anxiety and anger rose in my chest; a lump forming in my throat. It was all I could do to maintain my composure as I all but dragged her back out to the car, her kicking and screaming continuing the entire way.
Finally we reached the car and as soon as the doors were shut, I proceeded to nurse the baby in an attempt to calm her while the toddler continued to rage. About a minute into this debacle, my daughter reached out and hit me — and that’s when I completely lost it. I don’t even remember what I said, but I was screaming. I have never been so unhinged in my life. At the end of my 30-second tirade, I looked at my daughter. She looked so genuinely terrified of me that it absolutely broke my heart. Together, we dissolved into a heap of tears.
In that moment I knew I needed help.
I knew that this anger and anxiety I was feeling wasn’t normal for me. Of course it’s normal to get upset with our children when they are behaving badly and sometimes yelling just happens, but this? Well, this was different. It was almost an out-of-body type of feeling — like I was looking at someone else having this breakdown.
Once I had calmed down, I apologized to my daughter and we hugged. Then I called my husband and told him I needed to talk to someone about how I was feeling and he encouraged me to do it. I started texting friends for counselor suggestions and by the end of the afternoon I had made my very first appointment with a therapist.
It was a little bit scary to admit to, but after my first appointment — where I discussed my feelings of anger and anxiety — I feel hopeful that it can get better.
I want to be a better mom, but not only that, I want to simply feel better for myself. For so long I convinced myself that I just had to keep pushing through in survival mode, I needed to just keep getting by. But I’m realizing that even though I may be able to function at a high level despite these feelings, I don’t want to just get by. I want to thrive and there is no shame in seeking out counseling to help me get there.