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Motherhood Has Changed Me … for Better and for Worse

Motherhood changes you. mother with baby on beach

And I’m not just talking about your boobs and pelvic floor. Motherhood has changed my mind and my heart; my body and my health. It has changed me for better and for worse.

For starters, motherhood has made me anxious.

I never used to worry beyond what I considered a normal level. Now that I’m in the depths of motherhood, I find myself thinking about the worst case scenario in every single situation, especially in regards to my children. Plane, boat, and even simple car rides or trips to the grocery store (baby snatcher when I leave my cart unattended!) are now tainted by the “what if” scenarios that are highly unlikely, but nonetheless possible.

I am very concerned about car seat safety. So concerned that I insist on installing the car seat myself for our babysitter. My oldest was rear facing until she was five years old. We take car seats on airplanes. I will admit that we have flown with under-two as a lap baby because we aren’t Rockefellers, but trust that this was a major discussion at the time of purchase that still left me concerned. I was very anxious for the first few flights, and I am secretly happy that our youngest will be two soon and that we will no longer have a choice. (Send flight vouchers; my in-laws live across the country).
 
It took me six years to allow anyone other than myself or my husband to drive my child anywhere. I leave a car door open (but not running, because carjacking) when I’m returning my shopping cart to the corral so that just in case I get hit by a car, my child won’t be left in the car unattended.  Highly unlikely, but nonetheless possible.
 
I ensure I’m wearing my Apple Watch with 911 capabilities if I take out the trash or get the mail after dark. 
 
One person told me her electric garage door chain broke once and the door came crashing down, so now I do not allow the kids anywhere near the door when it is in motion.
 
Last week I almost took my oldest to pick up the youngest from daycare without shoes, but thought, “what if we get in an accident and need to stand on the side of the road?”  
 
Motherhood has altered my brain to think in “worse case scenarios” nearly all the time.

I am so anxious that I have an emergency binder. 

I jokingly call it the “If Gretchen dies” binder. It is insane (like, literally borderline crazy) how often I think, “my husband needs to know this in case I die tomorrow.”
He is a senior enlisted solider with 20 years of military experience and a Master’s degree; don’t tell him but he is literally the smartest person I know. However I still worry that if he didn’t have me, he would never know where I keep the backup diaper pail bags and the password for our electricity account. Would he know who our childrens’ dentist is or how I manage the Amazon Subscribe and Save?!
 
These would be the things to cause a breakdown if he lost his wife. Why he was drowning in too many batteries and vitamins and how to make it stop. 
 
I find myself thinking this so often, I actually caught myself saying “so you–er, I mean we will just have to _____ next year during tax time” as if I weren’t going to be here. I find myself often telling him things about the daily minutiae of household management that he really doesn’t need to know–in case one day he does. (I’m sure he only absorbs about 25% of it, but it makes me feel better.) 
 
Last week I was shopping in a downtown gift shop in our town and came across this book–apparently my “binder” is not a new idea. I considered buying it, but knew they wouldn’t have everything I want to include.  Mine is a small three-ring binder that can be easily updated by removing and adding pages. (If you are interested in the book above, here is an Amazon link for it!) 
 
For a long time, I was very anxious leaving my children with anyone. This was largely due to the fact that they were boob monsters, and it seemed that there was only one way to calm them, and I was it. As a result, I rarely left my kids except to go to work, and I seriously limited that. I rushed home for lunch/nursing breaks and as soon as I was finished with my last client.
 
Recently I went to work and the girls stayed home with my husband, and I felt zero stress about leaving them. I even stayed 30 minutes “late” to finish up my notes as opposed to trying to do them at home while being constantly interrupted. Mama has come a long way. 

But motherhood has made me take better care of myself.

This is partly fueled by anxiety and the belief that no one can take care of my girls as well as I can, and I want to live as long as possible for them. I think most people need their mom to live forever. I want to be a phone call away when my younger daughter needs to vent and cry about her crappy day. I want to give her as much free babysitting as possible if she has children of her own.
 
But we also anticipate that our older daughter will live with us indefinitely. Due to her developmental delays, we don’t expect her to live independently, and I can’t fathom having her live anywhere else, even when she is an adult. She is six years old and only 34 pounds, but I still carry her multiple times a day. I need to stay in relatively good shape, so that I can continue to support her, now and in the future.
 
As such, I need to live forever. If anyone gets any leads on the magic elixir, give it to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and then me, please and thank you. I need to keep my overall health in order so that I don’t have a heart attack or need a knee replacement. I need my back, heart, and lungs to work for as many years as humanly possible before I become a burden. 
I want to be one of those 95-year-olds who are still be-bopping around town. I can’t promise I’ll still be running 5Ks, and I sure as heck won’t be gardening. But I am interested in still being an “active senior.”
So while my health wasn’t a priority before, it definitely is now. Not enough that I don’t eat a ton of junk, but enough that I do annual skin checks with my dermatologist, go to the dentist regularly, and try to maintain a healthy weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol level through exercise and making better food choices when I can. I recently had two minor issues that had a nagging, “what if it’s cancer” air about them, and I actually took the time to make my own health a priority and get to the doctor. (Spoiler alert: I’m fine x2.)
 
I also bought some life insurance, which PSA, you should too.
 
 Even if you don’t work outside the home and have an income that your spouse would miss, he or she will have a heck of a time paying for childcare that was previously not in the budget. Childcare is expensive. You’re also cheaper to insure when you are younger and healthier, so get it now. We have the $100K policy through the military SGLI program, but that will expire when my husband retires, so I obtained a private policy as well. 

Motherhood has changed me, more for better than for worse.

Overall, I believe I am a better me since having my girls. I can re-frame my worry as “being more cognizant.” I used to get into little fender benders every year or two; I have had ZERO since having children. (Except for that one time I scraped the side of our car getting into our matchbox-car-sized garage in Germany. But that doesn’t count.) Sure, I may be less patient but I think that comes with the territory. It’s much easier to be patient when no one else is depending on you for sustenance and care.
 
So I take the good with the bad. My kids and motherhood have made me a different and a better person. 

I know I’m not alone. How has becoming a mother changed you?

Disclaimer and a note on axiety: I am a mental health professional. I don’t have true, full-blown Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I use the word “anxiety” somewhat loosely in this post. While I do not think my anxiety is as serious as some people out there, I do believe it qualifies as anxiety nonetheless, as it is a worry that I can’t quiet. If you are worried about your anxiety or other issues of mental health, I urge you to seek help with a professional.

Are you looking for help now?

Military OneSource

Tricare Mental Health Information

National Network of Depression Centers

Mental Health America Affiliate Resource Center

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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

(If you are in an immediate crisis, go to your local emergency room)

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One Response to Motherhood Has Changed Me … for Better and for Worse

  1. Avatar
    Barbara Zimmerman November 2, 2019 at 10:21 pm #

    You have made a marvelous adjustment to motherhood anxiety, sweet Gretchen. All of us became more nervous and developed that ‘worst case scenario’ foresight that seems automatic with the arrival of children. As the adoring Grammy (Dammie per the youngest) of four precious grandbabies, I’m all the more grateful for extreme caution and every safeguard of our sweeties!! I rest better knowing I passed along to you such completely understandable paranoia.

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