Taking multiple young kids out in public is a stressful business. Twin moms are more prone to anxiety yet I’m determined to find a sense of calm. I hope to enjoy public activities with the kids again because recently I come home exhausted and overwhelmed by the anxiety of twins. But is it them or is it actually me?
I was always the chilled Mom with my firstborn singleton and now I find myself being watched by strangers everytime I’m out in public. I always seem to be the one flapping my arms and wailing at a toddler ready to chuck himself over the edge. It’s isolating, embarrassing and sometimes humiliating; and I wonder whether it is little to do with the Twins behavior (and the ‘watchers’) and more about my personal issues with anxiety.
Back in September last year, I wrote a post about keeping twin toddlers safe in open spaces. The Twins weren’t quite two and were new to exploring on their feet. I was proactive in my efforts for leaving the house with them, it was tiring but we had fun. I presumed it wouldn’t take long before they could follow instructions more reliably and the stress of public outings would be a short-lived problem.
Eight months later and they do indeed listen to instructions. They will nearly always stand next to me, hold my hand and “Stop!” when I ask/shout. I can explain basic rules like “You can go over there but you can’t go there,” and most of the time they listen and behave well. So why am I so stressed about danger?
The Swim Meet Panic
I ambitiously signed my daughter up for rec swim team this summer. She practices four times a week and has at least one ‘meet’ per week. The swim meets are at a different location every time so I have no idea what to expect. The first few weeks I wussed out and arranged childcare for her twin brothers, but while I sat watching I noticed how many little brothers and sisters there were happily running about. I also saw how many parents had a minivan busting with kids. If they can do it, I can, right?
This week I decided I was going to take the Twins. I looked up the venue and they had a splash pad so that would keep them busy and I wouldn’t have to worry about them throwing themselves into the main pool from opposite ends.
But the night before I had the most awful nightmare that I left them in the bathtub in a Hotel. When I returned they were both floating face down. I can not erase the image from my head.
I never leave the Twins in the bathtub alone but the drowning dream was obviously connected to my swim meet anxiety. The swim meet itself was extremely stressful, but only for me. The kids had an amazing time, they loved splashing around and running about outside. But I arrived late which led to the flapping arms and acting like the World was about to end. There was a 4ft deep pool next to the splashpad which I was sure the Twins were going to end up in… was is the dream was a sign… I shouldn’t have come… the anxiety of twins totally had the better of me.
Recognizing & Dealing with The Anxiety of Twins
Last time I shared about my anxiety I had not yet seen a doctor. I advised all of you feeling the same to go see someone so I figured it was time I took my own advice. I asked the doctor about the fatigue I had been experiencing and he asked me a number of test questions of which 90% I answered yes to. He diagnosed me with Anxiety Disorder (why do they add the disorder bit? I now feel faulty).
As suspected he suggested medication, the treatment for anxiety is the same as depression. I thought about it but decided to leave it for now. I have no doubt that the drugs would help my anxiety but I just feel uncomfortable taking medications… what can I say, I’m stubborn. I am aware, however, that therapy and medications are there when and if I feel the need for them.
In diagnosis came acceptance. I am a little faulty right now and that’s OK. What makes me deal with stressful situations better? What trips went well and why? Instead of focusing on the public disasters, I’ve been trying to keep track of the wins… more of those, please.
How I Reduce the Anxiety of Twins in Public
- Allow more time. Running late is my anxiety trigger, every time. You’d think I was late for the Queen the way I panic over being a few minutes late for an event or even school. Ridiculous, I have three kids, I’m always going to be late. But… if I’m organized, plan well and allow extra time I’m less stressed and the anxiety is kept at bay.
- Put a cap on my danger list. I’m not going to be able to stop freaking out about the dangers the Twins face anytime soon. But anxiety gets overwhelming when the mental list on replay is long. So recognize sensible dangers, take them seriously and allow yourself the concern. Stop trying to stuff them to the back of mind and write them off as being ‘silly’ (I can’t be the only one that does that?!). You are worried about the safety of your kids and that’s OK. Just keep the worries sensible.
- Get involved in the fun. Anxiety is so much worse when you’re just watching. All I can think about is “Where are they going to go next?” or “Is he too close to the edge?“. I realized recently that when I used to take my daughter to the park as a toddler I was more involved in her play. I didn’t just watch, ready to catch if she fell. Jump about, climb, swing, laugh… it’s as good for you as it is for them.
I am more aware of my anxiety now than I have ever been, which feels weirdly good. I know it’s worse when I’m pre-menstrual and I recognize the physical signs of it. I will continue to work on the anxiety of twins in public because it’s really not their fault. They are good boys and I can do this.