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Family Health

My Anxiety Makes Me Feel Like A Bad Parent

Sep 13, 2017

It’s OK to say that your kids stress you out these days. It’s socially acceptable to complain about road trips with your kids or how much they argue for screen time or getting them out the door in the mornings. Everyone laughs it off because, hey, we’ve all been there!

Only, some of us are more stressed out than others. Some of us have a lower tolerance for the craziness that comes with kids and find ourselves nearly unable to cope on a regular basis. We’re the ones who, after our toddler's fifth epic meltdown, end up sobbing as well and surprising our kid into silence. This has happened to me on more than one occasion.

My anxiety over my newborn son dying of SIDS felt like it was choking me at times.

It can be challenging to convey just how hard things are to other parents when you have depression or anxiety. Well-meaning friends are quick to tell you that everyone feels the way you do. Rather than reassuring you, this can make it feel like what you’re going through isn’t valid even when you know it is.

I remember when I first started telling friends that I had been waking up to check if my newborn was breathing several times a night. The response from virtually every mom I told was, “That’s completely normal!” Except it wasn’t normal at all. I was waking up every hour and not on purpose. My anxiety over my newborn son dying of SIDS felt like it was choking me at times. If we hadn’t been so short on money, I would have bought one of those movement monitors you strap to your baby’s stomach in the hopes of finally getting four or five straight hours of sleep.

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Now that my children are a bit older, I have different things to feel anxious about. Take trying to corral my two-year-old out the door on time, for example. Most parents will admit to losing it occasionally while getting their kids out of the house, but how many have full-blown anxiety attacks? How many people feel like they can no longer breathe as their toddler runs away screaming from the front door, refusing winter boots for the third time?

So when friends respond to my complaints in a dismissive and condescending way, as if all parents feel like this, I want to scream.

My anxiety makes me less tolerant as a parent, and I hate myself for it. I’m consumed with guilt over the amount of yelling I do. I disappoint myself regularly for not trying to reason just a little longer before berating my kids. And, yes, all parents lose their temper at some point, but those of us with anxiety or depression have a far shorter fuse.

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But I am aware of my shortfalls, and I’m regularly looking for ways to improve. I try to create just a little bit of space before I react — space for me to take a moment and ask myself if this is really the ideal way to handle a situation. And at least that kind of self-awareness does bring a tiny bit of joy when I realize I have given myself that moment and reacted with more patience.

Those moments don’t happen every time, but I’m working on it.

Article Author Glynis Ratcliffe
Glynis Ratcliffe

Read more from Glynis here.

Glynis Ratcliffe used to be an opera singer, but after her daughter begged her to stop singing and be quiet for the millionth time, she decided to use her inside voice and write instead. Two years later, this mom of three writes regularly about parenting and mental health for online publications like Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, Romper, YMC and The Washington Post, as well copywriting, editing and ghostwriting for anchor clients in various industries. Find her on Facebook, Twitter as @operagirl and her blog, The Joy of Cooking (for Little Assholes).

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