I am a chronic worrier, a bit of a pessimist, an over-preparer, and prone to occasional panic attacks. And since becoming a mother a few years ago, all of these tendencies are now focused on my son and his soon-to-be baby brother.
Growing up, I heard so many times, in so many ways, how unsafe the world was. As an adult, reflection has made me realize how the "safe" isolated homeschooling world my parents confined me in was actually incredibly damaging to me and many of my peers, while my adult experiences in the "dangerous" outside world have been very positive and affirming. I have been able to overcome my deeply ingrained childhood perceptions for myself, and feel like a functioning and happy member of the big outside world.
However, I am unexpectedly having to go through the same process again, now that I am in the role of a mother. All the progress I made for myself, I am having to do again, this time for my son.
Hours, days, weeks, and months of continuously caring for his little infant needs really affected me. I had never felt so needed and so intensely protective before--my entire life was about him, his happiness, his well-being, and I couldn't spare any attention for myself or my marriage. After all, no one could take care of my little baby boy as well as my husband me--we knew him better than anyone and loved him more than anyone!
It didn't help that I had a huge falling-out with my mom and my mother-in-law at around the same time that my son was born. And it also didn't help that we were living in a relatively new area with no long-term friends around. No local family, no close established local friendships, plus drama with both of my son's grandmas--that situation made it easy for me to continue for a long time in my hangup without ever acknowledging to myself that I was deathly afraid to leave my baby with another person besides my husband.
As my son got older, I saw other parents that I respected leave their babies with babysitters, or in daycare, or with family and friends, and I thought nothing of it. It seemed like the right choice for them, and once they got through the initial adjustment, it seemed like their choice really benefited the whole family. But when I tried to imagine myself in the same situation, I would be flooded by panic attacks and vivid imaginations of what might go wrong. My old fears were coming back to haunt me--not for myself but for my son.
With a lot of encouragement from my husband and my friends, and a realization that I was going to either fade from existence or crack under the pressure, I left my son with someone I trust and went out on a quick lunch date with my husband. I sobbed, I thought about my son constantly, and I was in a rush to get back to him. It really wasn't much of a date, more of a milestone, because for the first time I saw that my son could be fine without my husband and me--he didn't cry at all when we left or while we were gone!
Since then, I've gotten more and more comfortable leaving my son with a small group of people I know and trust. And he has helped a lot by never crying when we leave, not even once! However, I'm now stuck on the next step--finding and using a babysitter. Once my second little one arrives, it will be a far bigger imposition to ask for babysitting favors, and much harder to return the favors as well. The time has come to find and learn to trust a babysitter. The thought absolutely terrifies me. But I will eventually push through this fear as well, and enjoy the benefits it will offer to me (sanity!), my marriage (better communication and more affection!), and my kids (more social confidence and self-reliance!).
I want to always be there for my little boy and his soon-to-be baby brother; I don't think that will never change. But I can balance that desire with my other desire, to see my sons learn to navigate the world when I'm not around and gain confidence in themselves. And I need to give them space, little by little, for that to happen.