Before I dive in, I want to be really honest. I’ve never been a kid person. Actually, when I was in my twenties I always said that I would never have children. After really talking and thinking it through, my husband and I both landed on the desire to have one child.
Adam and I both love to travel, spend lots of time adventuring, and are a bit ‘financially conscious’ to say the least. To be a little more blunt, we both want to see the world, do fun stuff, and spend our money and time on things other than kid stuff! And you know what, that’s okay! It’s okay not to have kids. It’s okay to only have one kid. It’s okay if you want to have five kids! Having children or not having children is absolutely your choice.
There was also another big factor for both of us - our mental health! I struggled with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia for 15 years, and Adam is a bit of a worrier. The reality is, having a child is overwhelming at times, and it changes every aspect of your life. And it definitely challenges your mental health! So for us, only having one child just makes sense.
Knowing who you are and what’s important to you is a good thing, and there’s never any reason to be embarrassed or ashamed by it.
When people say that you can’t prepare yourself for motherhood, there’s a whole lot of truth to it. There are so many challenges, highs, and lows, and things that you never would have imagined yourself having to figure out. But, there’s also a whole lot you can do to prepare yourself for motherhood! Like working on your mindset!
Your mindset matters. So much of how you handle life’s challenges is about your mindset. When I found out that I was pregnant I knew that I had to make a healthy mindset even more of a priority. I remember when my therapist asked me how I felt about becoming a mom, and I remember telling her that a huge part of me wasn’t ready for what was to come but that I was going to be an amazing mom regardless. I had learned so much throughout my anxiety recovery journey, and how to have a healthy mindset was a huge part of that.
So I took it up a notch with practicing positive self-talk. Had I been a mom before? Well no, but many, many women have! And my reality… I have always been incredibly strong, determined, brave, and capable. I could do it, I just needed to remind my brain of it when I started to question myself and my capabilities. I would stand in the mirror and say things to myself like, “Shannon, you are strong and capable. There are many unknowns ahead but you’ve always figured it out. When you need help, you will ask for support because support makes you stronger. You are going to be one heck of an amazing mom!”
Positive self-talk is so powerful. Your brain needs to hear healthy, productive, positive, and kind messages often. If you don’t remind your brain of what you are capable of, it’s gonna believe all of that other stuff, that stuff that isn’t true!
Alright, so how has motherhood changed my approach to anxiety…
I better recognize anxiety for what it is, as well as its causes. It’s funny how becoming a mom highlights so many of the obvious things in life. Motherhood comes with lots of uncertainties, firsts, overwhelm, and stress, and all of these things naturally and commonly cause anxiety. Anxiety is a part of life! And it’s your reaction to the anxiety that will either help you or hurt you.
When I feel anxious, I acknowledge it for what it is. I tell myself, “Shannon, you’ve got a lot on your plate and being a mom is stressful. You are anxious. It’s okay to be anxious.” Acknowledging that you feel anxious will help you to process it and work through it.
Previously when I felt anxious or panicky, the causes didn’t always seem so obvious, but now they’re glaringly obvious. Oh yeah, I haven’t gotten enough sleep in days… Oh yeah, I haven’t been able to do any self-care today... Oh yeah, I have been engaging in negative self-talk… Oh yeah, I haven’t been sharing how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing with anyone. Oh yeah, I haven’t been asking for support when I need it...
Experiencing anxiety has causes. And the best part is, you are in control. You can make changes that will allow you to work through the anxiety and panic in healthy ways. And I don’t want you to drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what’s causing your anxiety, because sometimes anxiety just happens, but it will help you to be more mindful so that you can acknowledge the things that are obvious.
If Amelia is living in the moment, so can I! I often catch myself watching my daughter playing, laughing, walking, running, smiling, learning, and I literally stop to put myself in her shoes. I get as present as possible with her. Because rather than be jealous of her ability to be present, I practice being present. Yes, it’s harder for adults to live in the moment because let’s face it, we have lots of life happening, but it just means that we have to work a little harder for it.
Now, I am very conscious about making decisions that keep me more present. I put my phone away more often. I get out in nature as much as possible. I do the things I enjoy doing with intention. I don’t say yes to things I don’t need to do, or to things that can wait. I tap into my senses by acknowledging how things feel, smell, sound, taste, and look. I write down my thoughts so that I can get them out and process them. I take in all of the moments of joy.
And in general, Amelia keeps me more present because I have to be in order to keep up with her!
A healthy habit for Amelia, a healthy habit for me. As a mom, I’m so much more conscious of making healthy habits a priority for me because I do it for my daughter every day. I’m constantly making sure that Amelia is drinking enough water, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, playing outside, learning new things, hearing positive messages, etc. Now when I check in with her on these things, I’m also checking in with myself.
These are the things that we so easily lose sight of, but these things are so incredibly important. I talk a lot about healthy habits because they help to prevent unnecessary anxiety from creeping in in the first place. They are like these amazing anxiety preventers that help us to more easily experience peace and joy.
Kindness really is key. You should hear the amount of kind messages that I give my daughter in a day! One day it hit me, why the heck aren’t I giving myself messages like this every day? Things like, “You’re doing a good job!” and “You can’t do it yet, but you will get there if you keep trying!” I know it sounds silly, but goodness gracious does your self-confidence and happiness grow when you hear messages like these. And why shouldn’t you give them to yourself?
I’ve also learned to give myself a whole lot of grace. Being a parent is hard! Sometimes I make the wrong choice, sometimes I do something so silly, sometimes I say the wrong thing… And what do I do? I acknowledge it and remind myself that it’s okay to not be perfect (or even close to it)!
Being kind to yourself instead of beating yourself up will relieve anxiety and panic, and will improve your self-esteem and increase your happiness!
I love Amelia, but I am the most important person. Amelia is a constant reminder for me of how important it is to take care of me, and to make myself and my mental health a priority. If I’m not healthy, mentally and physically, I’m not able to fully support her.
It’s often easier for us to help others, and be empathetic to others, but helping ourselves and being empathetic to what we’re struggling with is often more of a challenge. But it shouldn’t be! Dedicating yourself to you and your mental health, truly making yourself the most important person in your life, will allow you to fully be present for those you love.
Overall, motherhood has reminded me in so many ways of how I can prevent anxiety and process it in healthy ways. It’s also reminded me that I do have control of making choices that will either help me or hurt me.
Becoming Amelia’s mom has changed my perspective and approach to life in so many ways. It has brought me back to the basics, and I think we all need to be reminded of the importance of the basics.
Amelia is now 2 ½ years old, and in the past 2 ½ years I’ve seen more growth and awareness in myself than I ever have. And having her didn’t do that for me, I did it for me. She has just reinforced many lessons that I needed to revisit!