What I said:
“Sometimes, you just can’t do what is only best for you.”
But society says:
“Always choose you first.”
“Always make yourself a priority.”
“If Mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy.”
AND I AGREE.
Not choosing what was best for me recently was extremely hard. Trust me, I want to pick myself. But sometimes you just can’t. In this situation, my daughter needed me to pick her first.
In 2019 my daughter, the apple of my eye, really started struggling with severe anxiety, and we knew we needed help. As an educator, I knew what she was experiencing was beyond the typical anxiety that children feel, so we took action to get the help we needed.
Honestly, my daughter is my hero. The mental fight she deals with each day is a mountain she has to climb, knowing not everyone understands her.
But here we are, and I have done everything I know to do – sought help, talked to all the right people. I even fought with my mother way too much over what is right and wrong (because every girl needs her momma when she is in a dilemma), and STILL, things have gotten worse recently.
So, I did what all good moms do. I vented on Facebook.
I’m not “That” Mom. I hate to admit, I adore my children, but I also LOVE when they are in school, and I have those precious hours to work in quiet, get my to-do list accomplished, and just have time to myself.
I’m incredibly passionate about my work. I am also very conscious about caring for my mental health and adding anything to my personal plate.
It wasn’t in my best interest, but it was in hers.
You see, my daughter had anxiety attacks every morning before school. She went to a great school with caring teachers, everyone was doing everything they could, but I knew two things:
- This was no way to live. The fight to get to school each day took a physical and emotional toll on my daughter and our family.
- I could homeschool.
Before my current career, I was a teacher. I knew homeschooling her would allow us to pay better attention and seek additional mental health counseling. Also, waking up each morning without big school removed a considerable trigger and stressor from her daily life.
It worked; it has been a significant change.
But for me, can I talk about myself and be selfish for a moment?
I didn’t want one more thing on my plate. Could I handle running a non-profit, running a home, maintaining my own mental health, and homeschooling?
I didn’t know if I could, so I said, “I hope that by choosing her this time, I realize I am really choosing myself.” Because the truth was I was tired of the fight, I was tired of the toll it was taking on me to see my daughter struggle every day and feel like I just didn’t know what to do. It felt right to choose her, even at the expense of my personal space, alone time, quiet time during working hours, and energy toward this new effort.
I knew if I chose her at this moment, maybe it would give me the space to figure out a better way to live and help her.
Right now, we are managing well. It’s not easy, but it was right. It wasn’t ideal or perfect, but it was right. My daughter is the bravest child I know. Knowing the mental challenges genuinely inspired me to face the challenges I feared by making this big decision for her.
People ask me if it is hard being a mom of a child with several mental health diagnoses. The answer is yes, but I always look at those same people and say, “But it is harder to be the person fighting the battle with your diagnosis every day.”
I, too, have struggled with anxiety, with many thanks to my doctor; I have medication that works for me, therapy, and great friends to talk to. Still, I am not a child facing that struggle, feeling like the world is always out of my control, waiting for someone (like my mom) to choose me first to ease the burden of my diagnosis.
So, I say again, “Sometimes you just can’t do what is only best for you.”
The truth is, by choosing what was best for her, I did what was best for me, too. Because that is how being a mother works, at least this time it was.
Guest Contributor: Becca McKeithen