By Katie Bingham-Smith
My son got up when his name was called to take his driving test. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I could feel my cheeks flush. I gripped onto my handbag like someone was trying to steal it from me as I watched him pull out of the parking lot.
I closed my eyes for a second. It was almost too hard to watch. I knew he was nervous, but he was also excited. I, on the other hand, I had so much motherhood anxiety that I couldn’t breathe. As soon as his car was out of sight, I told myself I needed to calm the heck down.
My kids are in high school and I go through this every year. My daughter recently started a new job. On her first day, she wasn’t sure she could get out of the car. Her anxiety got the best of her for a moment and I tried so hard to play it cool. I told her the hardest part was going to be walking in the door, and then she’d be fine.
It took her a few minutes, but she finally did it. My tears started to flow once I could see she was in the building. I told myself to get a grip. After all, this wasn’t even about me. But seeing my kids nervous and anxious is so hard.
I waited five minutes and sent her a text. She told me she was fine and I drove away, but I couldn’t calm my own motherhood anxiety until I saw her again after her shift.
A Special Kind of Motherhood Anxiety
When they were younger and they’d get nervous about an upcoming event, like a game or talent show, I would get nervous too. But in those sweet, imaginative younger childhood years, their nerves only lasted for a moment and then, they were in it. Sure, they experienced embarrassment and nervousness but, more times than not, they were so resilient.
I remember watching my daughter sing on stage when she was in fourth grade. I could feel my body relax into my chair as soon as I knew she was comfortable. Things like this will be easier when they are older, I thought.
At the time, I thought I would get better at watching them be nervous about a speech they had to give, or a conflict they were having with a friend. I was wrong though.
Even now, when they are going through a tough time, I feel it all.
My heart hurts for them so much because I know how they are feeling and there’s nothing worse than seeing your child anxious or upset and feeling like there’s nothing you can do.
It is one of the hardest things to watch as a mother. When our kids are sad, we are sad. When they are feeling embarrassed or nervous, we feel it too. And when they are hurt, we hurt right along with them.
Now I know that sinking feeling, when my heart pounds because one of my kids is upset and struggling, isn’t something that’s ever going to go away. Nor is it something that I can get used to. It’s just part of being a mom.
But when I see them with their new driver’s license in hand, or their first paycheck, or when they start to get back to their normal selves after a break up, I realize that motherhood anxiety is all worth it. There isn’t much I can do to ease their pain or struggle in the moment except be there. But by being there, I get to watch my kids bounce back from something—and grow even more resilient because they went through a hard time and figured it out. And that is so worth the heart-pounding worry that came before.