Being away from my children for a night was not the disaster I had anticipated.
2020 marked my fifth year of being a mum, every single night since my first daughter was born. I mean that literally because my youngest daughter is about to turn 3 and I’ve never spent a full night away from her. I have spent 3 nights away from my 5 year old but only because I was in hospital after giving birth to her little sister.
Sure, I’ve been for nights out with friends but I've always returned that same night, ready to parent the next morning. When I found a great deal for an overnight stay at a city hotel, I bought a voucher with the intention to have my first night away, with hours of uninterrupted sleep.
But...I waited 6 months to use it. This was partly due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdown, but I have to admit it is also because I just didn't want to leave my children, even for just 1 night. I've always joked how much I want time away from my kids, but when it came to the crunch, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
I’ve been through counselling to help me deal with lifelong anxiety issues, and I'm sure my reluctance to spend a night away from my girls comes down to a lack of control. Of course I trust my family to care for them, but thoughts of my my youngest waking up in the night, crying out for mummy, break my heart.
What if someone forgot to lock all the doors? What if one of the girls wandered out of their bedroom in the night and out into acres of land at my mother’s house, got lost and I never saw them again?
Yes, far-fetched I know. But these types of thoughts were enough for me to delay going away, until the time came when the voucher for the hotel was going to expire and I knew what a waste it would be not to use it. So I booked it, left the girls with their beloved Nanny, and my husband and I checked into the hotel for a 24 hour break.
Of course nothing bad happened. Both children went off to bed when instructed, slept through the night and woke up without issue.
How often does anxiety stop us mums from doing the things we want and need to do, or things that could make our lives easier. I know I'm not alone in harbouring anxiety about low risk situations, for fear of something happening to my kids.
Another mum I know is paranoid about both her and husband travelling on an aeroplane at the same time without their kids, out of concern that the kids will be left without a guardian if the plane crashed.
I've also had discussions with a friend who says she feels like her child is a fussier eater because she took too long to switch her from pureed baby food to proper food, because she was so scared her baby might choke.
These highly unlikely but not impossible scenarios are ones us anxious mums play out in their heads on a regular basis. It's fed by the incredibly sad news stories we hear of abduction, meningococcal disease, children falling into swimming pools, and parents unintentionally reversing into their children in the driveway, that increase our awareness of all the things that could go wrong.
Anxiety is something all mums carry in our all-consuming need to keep our children safe, even from things that can't hurt them, or that we can't prevent.
The best thing to remember when you start to have nervous, far-fetched thoughts like me, is to remind yourself that you are worrying about things that probably won't happen and that we live in a world with seatbelts, smartphone tracking apps and 24-hour hospital emergency departments, should the worst ever happen. So if someone offers to babysit your kids so you can have a night away, don't hesitate to say yes.