My son is 22 months and he loves his Mama somethin’ fierce. He is much more attached to me than my daughter was at this age. If he loses track of me in the house I can hear him from the other room saying, “Where’s Mama? Mama!” I always answer back. “I’m right here Buddy!”
When he finds me he climbs on my lap and says, “What doing Mommy?”
His favorite place to fall asleep is in the crook of my right arm. When he wakes up alone in his crib he cries, “Mama! Come get me. Your bed.” He’s my youngest (and probably my last) and of course he gets most of what he wants.
There have been some significant changes in our house in the last couple of weeks and because of it, my anxiety has been on Level Red High Alert. Coinciding with these changes was a rash of attempted child-abductions in Seattle where I live. On three different occasions, three different people tried to snatch a young child in broad daylight. It appears the incidences are unrelated.
But what is related, is that the only time I left my house for a week was for school and gymnastics class. I was so paranoid. For a whole week I wouldn’t even take my eyes off my children in our fenced-in backyard. Then one night, while lying in bed with my son tucked into my right side, I suppressed a panic attack. I looked up the sexual predators in my neighborhood (again). I left the outside lights on all night. I double-checked the window locks and I had to take medication to fall asleep. For a straight week I could not stop thinking about the possibility of my children being abducted.
Eventually, the anxiety abated. I became calm(er) once again. I thought back to the night with my son when I was clearly unhinged and I couldn’t understand how I let my thoughts whip me into such a frenzied state? Normally, I am a rationale person. I know the child abduction statistics. I mean, I don’t even live in Seattle proper.
But this is how anxiety works. Panic attacks are the activation of the body’s most primal fight or flight response. But the reaction is not from actual danger, but a perceived, imagined danger. Danger you fabricate with your thoughts.
I thought about that night a lot – laying next to my son trying mightily to slow my breathing and trembling heart as he slept in the crook of my right arm. Eventually, I uncovered the parallels; the hidden meanings of my fabricated thoughts and my real life, and I came to a conclusion. You see, for a week or so this recent big, family change had me feeling out-of-control, and the more uncertain I am of the future, the easier my anxiety latches onto any reason to illicit a response, in this case, it latched onto the recent attempted child-abductions.
The new, big change in my life is that two weeks ago I reentered the workforce for the first time in almost three years. In fact, as I write this, I am on a plane—my first business trip in as many years.
I’d been thinking about going back to work lately, but I hadn’t planned on doing it this soon. An opportunity presented itself to me out of nowhere and I could NOT say no. It is the “perfect” job for me right now. I get to work from home with flexible hours. I will be able to be there for my kids when they need me. I’ll be doing things I enjoy doing. I get to write and read other people’s writing. I get to use social media and interact with mothers on a daily basis. I get to create and use my business acumen. I get to help people. You.
One of the best parts is that this job found me through this blog. They know that I write openly here and that is not a negative, but a positive.
After weighing all the positives and negatives there was only one answer. I had to take it. More than that, I wanted to take it. But… and there’s always a but.
I know myself well enough to know (or at least figure out) what’s been happening in my mind and body for the last two weeks. I know that when life starts spinning in all directions I get nervous. I start wishing for eyes in the back of my head, more hours to the days, and a crystal ball to tell me what’s going to happen tomorrow. All are impossible things to have, and it makes me start to worry that I’m doing something wrong. Missing some crucial piece of information. That if only I can stay one step ahead, I may never fall.
I want to succeed at work, but I’m not scared of failing either. I’m also not scared of making mistakes or not having this position work out in the long run. I know I will give it my all and that will be good enough, and at this stage, work can’t scare me anymore anyway. Not after what I’ve been through. I’ve got a firm grasp on what’s important every night in the crook of my right arm.
What’s got panic rising in my chest is thinking of that little boy walking around the house crying, “Where’s Mama?” and his Mama is not there to answer him.
My true, repressed fear is that my children will flounder–get metaphorically lost–at least in the short-term. For this reason I have fixated on the near impossibility that they will get really lost. Forever.
I put my career on pause and stayed home for the last three years for a reason. I wanted to be with them when they were babies. I wanted to have that experience with them, for them, because I love them so very much and I never wanted to regret not being there for the most dependent years. It’s not the right decision for everyone but it was the right one for me. It was also an opportunity I was fortunate enough to have, and also one that was handed to me by The Universe due to circumstances beyond my control.
But now my daughter is four and my son is almost two, while they still need me a great deal, The Universe has handed me another sign that it’s time to go. It might just be to my office to do some work for a couple of hours, or away for one night on a business trip, but still, it’s time to go.
But Buddy, don’t you worry because I’ll always be right here. Right here. I promise.