In the Crook of My Right Arm

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.

7 thoughts on “In the Crook of My Right Arm

  1. I completely understand your anxiety Shannon, although my kids are much older than yours. My desire to further my own personal goals and what I feel is an intrigal part of my life’s purpose must be balanced by my deep commitment to be a “present” nuturing mother. Some days the mental struggle in my head is enough to exhaust me. But, I think you are very right to see that new job as a way the Universe is talking to you, especially if the circumstances of the position are “perfect” for your life right now. Congratulations.

    No doubt your son will be just fine if you aren’t there every time he asks. A conscious parent has a wonderful stand in when he/she cannot be there themself.

    Best to you in this new endeavor!

  2. Shannon,

    Congratulations!! I am SO excited for you. You found a Plan C! (Or was it D or E or F).

    I know you’re nervous and there’s anxiety (no one gets anxiety as much as I do, I promise you), but wow, this is really everything you could have asked for — writing based, motherhood based (I’m assuming since it led from this blog), being able to be home while working — what an amazing, wonderful opportunity for you and your family!

    And, by the way — yes, you are right there, but…. you owe it to your children to be more than just their mom — to have your own identity, too. Sometimes, being a few steps away and not totally right there — is considerably healthier for them, and for you.

    And a well-rounded, fulfilled, multiple-dimensions-to-her-life mother is much better than one spending every second of every day devoted only to child-rearing. It becomes too much, they don’t develop the independence and freedom that is a necessary part of their development, and eventually — they do grow up, move away, develop their own interests — and you want there to be a Shannon with her own life and interests and accomplishments outside of theirs.

    Plus — while they are little, if the times you are away, your husband steps in to become primary caretaker — he gets a chance to develop his own relationship with his children. I found that when I went back to school when my kids were little, it changed so much for my husband even to have those few hours where he was primary. He would come home from work and help always before, but it was under my direction and watchful eye — I was still primary and he secondary, until I spent more time away and he had to become primary. It makes a difference, and I think it was always really good for them all.

    So — don’t think you are shorting them or harming them. I’m not saying staying at home moms are harming their kids, I’m just saying having balance is always a good thing, and it sure looks like you’ve found a path with balance (being able to work from home) for now, and that’s amazingly awesome, and I am SO SO SO happy for you!

    Your kids are going to be fine, I promise. And so will you!

    And when you’re not, you’ll pick yourself up and make it better.

  3. Congratulations on the new role, which does sound fantastic. I know the anxieties of which you write, but also feel certain you can and will impress on your children in the most essential and powerful ways how much you ARE there for them, no matter what. xoxo

  4. I love this, Shannon. I have the same reaction to change or stress. Once the panic starts to build, I come up with more and more reasons I should be panicking. It’s a vicious cycle, until I get good sleep, slow down, stay present in the moment. And there are some things I cannot shake. I still check my kids’ breathing every single night and they are nine and six. Honestly, if they are deeply asleep and I can’t hear the breath right away, I’ve been known to poke them. It’s true. Crazy, right?
    I am so glad you took the new job though! You certainly helped me. :) I guess we’ll both have to muddle through the anxiety ups and downs somehow. Wonder twins power?

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