We were very excited to connect with Colleen through a blogging group we are a part of. She is a seasoned mom who does it all. She is a mom, a teacher, a wife, a blogger and an advocate for her daughter with severe anxiety and OCD. Even with all of this going on in her life she was nice enough to take some time out to share her expertise with us.
Please help us welcome her into our Mom of Fame, she is another deserving mom who we are honored to have join us. Also, be sure to check out her blog, Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy, it’s a great resource for moms dealing with similar circumstances.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
My days are busy as a mother to a 13 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. I work as an elementary teacher and a blogger. My husband is a high school Athletic Director. In our free time, mainly school breaks, we spend as much time as possible outdoors and traveling. Our favorite places to visit are Hilton Head Island, SC and the mountains of Colorado. Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy, my blog, focuses on being a parent of a child with severe anxiety and OCD. These mental health issues are often invisible and carry a negative stigma, making it difficult for others to accept, for school to accommodate, and in finding quality health care. It is a lonely and isolating position, and with my blog, I hope to reach families in similar situations, allowing us to support and guide one another. My hope is that anxiety will not take away the joys that all children should experience.
What is the best piece of advice you were given about motherhood? Did you take it? Would you give that piece of advice to someone else?
Sitting around a group of friends, feeling ready to explode, I remember hearing the same refrain…”make it through the first few months and it is smooth sailing”. I repeated that chant over and over during the first few sleepless months while I struggled to nurse and find pockets of time to rest. Around 6 months of age, life improved and I thought, “I made it through the hardest part of being a mother”. WRONG. Each stage of childhood seems to have hard moments. The challenges vary greatly from throwing tantrums on the store floors when they are not allowed to get a new toy, to feeling heartbroken that they were not invited to a birthday party, to finding clothes that fit but do not show off too much skin. Looking back, I believe that advice was given with the best of intentions but I felt like it was false advertising. I believed the advice, using it through the first months of a newborn. It was valid advice for the first year or so, seeing that around 6 months into parenting I felt like I had a handle on things. However, it did not hold true over the course of my child’s 13 years. I would be more honest in using that advice. The first few months are definitely the most challenging in terms of learning to be a mother and building your confidence, but not in terms of raising a child. More sound advice would be that each child has his or her own needs that will ebb and flow over time. As they grow and change, the challenges will change as well. Take each stage and find the joy that comes with it, all the while knowing these moments won’t last forever.
How is motherhood different than you imagined it would be?
I naively thought since I was a kindergarten teacher, with a class of 20 students, parenting one child would be a breeze. I was comfortable with the parenting in the sense of relating to a child, interacting, finding fun opportunities, and all of the joy that comes with watching your child grow. However, I was unprepared for the mental side of raising a child. There is so much emotion and responsibility tied to being a mother. That connection is with you at all times, always thinking about your child, the decisions, you need to make, the what ifs of life, and the guilt of mistakes of working full time. The mental strain from always thinking and worrying about your child is so much more profound than I imagined.
What are your three strengths when it comes to motherhood?
Acceptance– I accept my children for who they are, with all the good and bad that comes with self discovering and unique individuals.
Empathy– I believe that no matter what my child is feeling, it must be validated as important in order for them to trust and seek my help and comfort.
Fun– I make sure to see the world through the eyes of a child. I want them to be as carefree and have as much fun as possible. They are past the age where everything is “magical” but I still try to make as many opportunities as I can fun.
Describe a time where you were completely overwhelmed as a mother.
My daughter suffers from debilitating anxiety and OCD. To see her suffering and in pain, and not be able to take it away, is heartbreaking. I research, make appointments, meet with schools, and accommodate our lives in the hopes of easing her anxiety and providing her needed resources but it can become overwhelming and hopeless at times. Hearing her ask “why am I like this” or “will I ever get better” and not having a solid answer tears me apart. Going to a therapist has helped me put her needs into perspective and given me tools to better manage my thoughts and feelings.
Is there anything you feel that you have lost about yourself since becoming a mother? What have you gained?
As a mother, I have lost a sense of security that I once felt. I see so much pain and suffering in our world and that trickles down to my kids. I try to allow my kids the freedom to be kids but the daily barrage of terrible news makes me vulnerable to the need to overly protect my children.
However, the confidence and understanding I have gained as a mother outweighs all of the negativity. I am so much more open minded and realize that every family faces their own daily struggles. I want to help and encourage others rather than judge and criticize.
What do you want your child(ren) to learn from you?
No matter how hard life can seem each day, there are still moments of joy and happiness that can be found. Learning to be grateful for small moments has a profound impact on the way that you see life. Recognizing the feeling of warmth from the sun, hearing your child giggle, a bedtime snuggle, or enjoying a warm coffee are all worth celebrating.