When Mom Is Not Enough

I am the picture perfect mom on paper. Patient, creative, loving, a former teacher, funny, and I stay at home. By all accounts, my children should be perfect too. They have had every opportunity life has offered. Baby classes, toddler classes, preschool, the latest toy, a playroom, their own rooms, two loving parents, more vacations than they can count, and many hugs and kisses. On paper, to the outside, we are the perfect family. Husband, wife, two daughters, and of course, a dog. 

My girls are kind, sensitive, and overall great children. For real.

But we saw it coming for years with my oldest. For years we turned a blind eye. For years we squashed one problem to only have one more creep up months later. 

Even as a toddler, she was brilliant. She was mastering skills that were well beyond her years. She was asking questions of things she should not understand. Her emotions were so strong, I once googled “Can a two year old be bi-polar?” I asked all the time if she might be on the autism spectrum. She was {is} not bipolar. She was {is} not autistic. She was {is} anxious, a worrier.

Being a worrier can present itself in many ways. Sometimes, it looks like separation anxiety, and sometimes it is more extreme. Hindsight being 20/20, we are lucky – her anxiety, her worry, is not extreme. It does not prevent her from participating in daily tasks, but it does prevent me from wanting to hang around her when she is all worked up.

From huge tantrums at 2 to nail biting at age 6, to the incessant questions making me want to hide in a closet and actively ignore her, to her aggravation about possibly being late, quite honestly – she is exhausting. Before getting on her first cruise, she asked us if the boat would sink like the Titanic. I did not even know she read a book about the Titanic! After explaining just how the ship works, she was fine. She boarded the cruise without incident and had a fantastic week. I don’t think I realized how severe her worries were until the meltdowns happened.

After holding herself together all day long at school or on a play date, she would meltdown in such a fit. Words of “I hate you,” and “I don’t want to live here,” filled our home. Throwing toys and screams filled our home. The only thing that settled her was time alone in her room – and that was after I physically had to place her there.

Still, we managed because she is a GREAT kid. Smart, witty, empathetic, a terrific friend, an amazing person. The outside world NEVER saw these behaviors; they still don’t see these behaviors. So perhaps these behaviors were just for our benefit? Attention seeking?

The meltdowns came and went; the questions came and went, so our need to pay attention to her came and went. 

Until her worries came … and never went.

At age 8, she is a wonderful child who, thankfully, bites her nails and picks her nail beds until they bleed. I say thankfully because this is how she communicates with us how she feels. We know when she is worried. Her hands show us when she cannot tell us. When she is not ready to share, her hands share.

One night a huge meltdown occurred. My husband and I were both home to witness it, and we were finally able to admit that we were not enough. She needed more than we could give. She needed more than I, her mom, could give. Even as I type that, I feel like a failure. It is not true – I am not a failure. I am just not enough, and admitting that was our problem.

After that night, I called friends who are social workers and psychologists. They told me she most likely had “generalized anxiety.” That I was right; therapy would help.

When I asked my daughter about her worries, she knew she had them. She expressed them all to me, and I have to say she has WAY more worries than I knew about. When I mentioned seeing a therapist, she said yes. 

She willingly went to therapy. She willingly spoke to her therapist. She asked to go back. She left her therapy appointment skipping and happy – like the proverbial weight had finally been lifted off her shoulders.  And now, she has had four sessions.  Every other week she sees her therapist, and every other week she learns coping skills to navigate herself in the world she is growing up in.  My husband and I are consistently reminded what a great, honest, and loving child that we have, and we are so proud of her {and us} for seeking the help.

I do not know how long she will need therapy, but I do know this is the best decision I have ever made. My only regret?  That it took me 8 years to make it.


  1. Thank you, thank you for writing this article. What I needed to hear. Same thing happens in our home. We need to take this next step.


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