Parenting Anxiety: When Should You Seek Therapy?

November 7, 2023

Monochrome image depicting interconnected hands. Three hands each resting on the next, symbolizing family support. The big hand represents seeking therapy, the smaller one shows feeling vulnerable, like with parenting anxiety. It highlights how getting support, like therapy, is crucial during tough times.

We all know that parenting comes with its fair share of worries, challenges, and ups and downs. From sleepless nights and endless diaper changes to teenage attitude and questionable decision-making, it is no secret that being a parent can be tough (to say the least). But what happens when those everyday concerns turn into an almost constant feeling of not being good enough? If you find yourself regularly stressing about your parenting abilities or asking yourself if you are doing a good enough job, it might be time to explore it a little further.

The Parenting Roller Coaster

Let’s face it – being a parent can feel like riding an emotional roller coaster. Parenthood is filled with incredible highs and the lowest of lows. One minute you are totally rocking it, and the next, you are questioning every life choice that you have ever made. When you are at the highest peak, you feel this surge of love like never before, total euphoria. You are excited to celebrate all of the firsts as your chest bursts with pride. When things are going well, the bond and connection are like no other. But then we hit the freefall. You are completely exhausted because of sleep deprivation and the constant go, go, go. Or, you suddenly have a teenager who thinks they know everything. They test every boundary and push every button. And the questions…oh my goodness, the questions. Do they ever stop? This is when the doubts creep in. You ask yourself, “Am I doing enough?” You scour social media and find picture-perfect families everywhere you look (side note – it’s a trap! DON’T BELIEVE IT!) It is certainly completely normal to have doubts and worries from time to time. I mean, after all, you love your child with every fiber of your being and you want the world for them. But how do you know when your concerns have become a bit too much?

When Does Your Anxiety About Parenting Become Too Much?

1. CONSTANT SELF-DOUBT: It is okay to occasionally wonder if you are doing the right thing. In fact, it is totally normal to question your parenting choices now and then. The reality is that nobody gets it right all of the time. However, if you find yourself second-guessing regularly, it might be time to seek help. Anxious thoughts like “I’m a terrible parent” or “I’m failing and I can’t do anything right” can definitely take a toll on your overall health and wellness. It can lead to feeling stressed, sleep difficulties, and even impact your physical health. Sadly, that distorted lens that you are looking through ends up coloring your entire experience of parenthood.

2. IMPACT ON DAILY LIFE: Are your worries about parenting consuming your thoughts throughout the day? Do you find that they are interfering with you participating in activities that you used to enjoy? It might be a sign to consider therapy. Ideally, parenting enriches your life, not overshadows it. To be the best parent that you can be, not only is it important to dedicate your time to your child, but it is essential to nurture your own interests, passions, and well-being.

3. PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS: Sometimes your anxiety shows up physically, like with frequent headaches, stomachaches, or trouble sleeping. If a medical explanation for these symptoms has been ruled out, it might be linked to your fears about being a good enough parent. The stress and tension that comes along with self-doubt can have a direct impact on your overall health. If this sounds like you, professional help is a good idea.

4. AVOIDANCE BEHAVIORS: Are you avoiding situations or activities because you feel that you will mess up as a parent? Are you afraid to take your child out in public or to interact with others because you fear judgment that you are doing something wrong? This could be a sign that your anxiety is becoming overwhelming. Avoiding social interactions, play dates, or even fear of leaving your child in someone else’s care might point to a need for additional support. By avoiding these things, you are attempting to protect yourself from possible failure as a parent. However, it ends up isolating you from important social interaction, personal growth opportunities, and support from friends and family. Therapy can help you break this vicious cycle.

5. NEGLECTING SELF-CARE: Once you have a child, it is expected that it is your job to take care of your child. But, when did it become less important to take care of yourself? Think about it, you are constantly putting your child’s needs first thereby neglecting your own physical and emotional needs. Even the idea of self-care gets a response of “what – never heard of it.” It seems that relaxation is a luxury in a faraway land. While you might think that this is the best for your child, the reality is that it is a disservice to both of you. You cannot be the best parent that you can be without taking care of your own needs first. So, if you find yourself neglecting your own self-care and relaxation needs, it is time to address those feelings with a professional.

Let’s dive into why therapy can be a game-changer when you are in that “Am I a bad parent?” mode. Look, we have all been there! We have all had a time or two (or more), where that doubt creeps in and we start to question our parenting skills. That’s where therapy comes in. Think of therapy as your partner parenting partner. There is someone there to have your back WITHOUT judgment. There is no road map to parenting and these little creatures do not come with instructions. Think of therapy as a tool to help you find your way when you get a little lost. It is a place where you can share your worries and fears without feeling like you’re failing. As an added bonus, you will learn strategies and tools to help handle tantrums, communicate more effectively with your kiddo, and keep your sanity intact. Remember, therapy isn’t just for major crises; it is a place for you to get to talk about the small stuff or just the regular daily grind too. By working through your concerns, you become a more confident parent. So, if you have ever doubted yourself as a parent, remember that therapy is here to remind you that you are already doing way better than you think! Just by asking yourself “Am I doing a good enough job?” – guaranteed you are. Therapy will give you that little extra boost that you need to be able to tell yourself that too!

Who said we have to do all of this alone? It is a heavy burden to believe that you are expected to have all of the answers and the confidence to tackle it all. The truth is, every parent, regardless of how long you have been doing it, has moments of uncertainty, stress, and self-doubt. Parenting is a huge undertaking, and it is absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed at times. Reaching out is a testament to your self-awareness and honesty.
As mentioned above, it is hard not to fall into the trap of social media. Everywhere you look, there are pictures of perfect little families and ultra-cooperative children. Behind that one glorious shot are about 30 others of eye-rolling, fussing, threatening, and probably even a little cussing.
Perhaps the most important reason to seek support is because YOU MATTER! Your well-being not only as a parent but as a person, matters not only to you but your loved ones, especially your child. Your child’s overall health and well-being are closely linked to our own. When you are stressed and overwhelmed, everyone feels it. By making time for yourself, you are helping to nurture and create a stable environment for your child.
Remember, seeking therapy doesn’t mean that you are failing as a parent. Rather, it means that you are taking important steps to being the best parent you can be. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Your well-being matters not only to you but also to your child!

I offer a 30-minute free phone consultation to anyone looking for support. Contact me today and I will help you get started

Related Posts