Shortly after my second child was born, I realized that something must be wrong with me. My heart would start racing for no reason at all, my arms and legs would tingle, as if I had been laying on them, and I constantly questioned my memory. The more I obsessed about these symptoms, the worse they became. I finally saw a doctor.
The diagnosis I was fearing to hear, never materialized. The doctor compared my life to that of a star athlete who has trained to the point of exhaustion. It was at that point that I realized that in my pursuit to be the perfect wife/mother, I was setting goals that were causing me to become ill.
This condition didn’t magically appear overnight. My motto was “I’ve got it. I can do anything! I’m supermom.” This motto evolved from the culture surrounding me. As I observed the other mothers in my sphere of friends, I found myself secretly envying their lives. They had the perfect house and the perfect kids. I felt as if I spent every spare moment chasing a toddler and cleaning a house. I would fall into bed at midnight and wake at six in the morning. Other mothers had time to shop for themselves and pamper themselves with massages. I went six months without a hair appointment and it showed. In addition to be the perfect wife/mother, I was trying to run a business with my husband.
I was the queen of work schedules. In addition to a work schedule, I had a cleaning schedule, an after school activity schedule for my kids, even a play time schedule. We had 20 minutes we could spend at McDonald’s before we had to make out next stop. I would get so frustrated if my schedule was off by even a couple of minutes.
After my doctor lectured me about relaxing, I went back and started questioning my priorities. Becoming ill would not benefit myself or my family. I realized that the perfect mothers I were observing had assistance from others. A cleaning lady that came in twice a week ensured that their homes were clean. College kids were instrumental in driving their kids to after school activities. I eschewed baby sitters while other mothers were quick to take advantage of some extra “me” time. Family members in the area, my family lived in another state, picked up the slack.
I did not vanquish my anxiety attacks overnight. It took a couple of years for me to manage the attacks. The first thing I did was to rip up the majority of my schedules. I had to force myself to deviate from my set routine. I made a hair appointment and tried not to stress over the precious hour I was sacrificing. I went for walks and learned to appreciate the beauty of nature. Exercising in general allowed me a brief respite from my worrisome existence and helped me to break the cycle of anxiety. I stopped watching and obsessing over the news. Forget about reading enlightening books, I started reading for enjoyment. I still suffer occasionally from anxiety, however, I recognize the symptoms and quickly take steps to ensure that the condition does not escalate. The most important thing I learned is I don’t have to be perfect.
As I look around me, I notice dust on the dresser and that my rug needs to be vacuumed. It’s okay. I will get around to eventually. I’m happy and relaxed. Being perfect is exhausting.