This is a guest post from Erin of The Caffeinated Mom.
Is there anything in this world that can bring out the paranoid side of a person more effectively than becoming a parent? From the moment the nurse hands you that tiny, helpless little person, your life’s work suddenly becomes keeping that precious being alive and happy.
The fear of potential danger begins as soon as the second blue line on the pregnancy test appears and literally goes on for eternity. So HOW do we as parents maintain our sanity, while simultaneously keeping our children safe? How do we deal with mom-level worry?
There are certainly reasonable things to worry about, like choking hazards, water safety, etc., because it’s our job to keep our children safe. And of course, there are totally absurd things to worry about, like accidentally poking your kid in the eye with a fork as you unload the dishwasher. (Or is that just me..?)
I’m writing this to you because I consider myself a “super worrier.” Here’s a glimpse at my internal dialogue while I appear to be having fun with my kids at the park.
“Oh, there are WAY too many kids here today. That big kid looks like he wants to push my daughter off of the bouncy bridge, I can tell. Whoa, wait a minute. Does that kid have pink eye?? I need to get a closer look. Oh geeze, I can only imagine what kind of germs are all over that railing. Please honey, don’t put your thumb in your mouth. Man, those bark chips are total choking hazards. Oops, better not call them bark ‘chips’ or the kids will think they’re food. Ewww, what is that on the ground? Umm, who’s the creepy looking man over there? Oh wait, those must be his kids. Hmmm, let’s see how I can look nonchalant and still be within arms reach of the slide in case my kid falls off the edge. Whoa, her cheeks are looking red, did I put on enough sunscreen?”
Have I mentioned how much I love going to the park?
After our first baby was born, I found out just how heavy and intrusive worrying as a parent can be. I had serious trouble sleeping when she was an infant. I would lie awake and stare at her with paralyzing fear that she would stop breathing. Even when my husband would take her for a few hours so I could nap, I would lie awake and run every possible scenario of how she could be harmed through my mind on an endless loop.
The anxiety about my kids has felt almost suffocating at times. I’ve caught myself wishing my children would hurry up and grow out of their current phase so I could stop worrying about whatever perceived dangers they were facing at the time. After months and months of living under this big, dark cloud, I knew that I had to find ways to better manage what I was experiencing. I want to savor every moment with my children and be delighted in each incredible phase they grow through, instead of worrying the years away.
If you’re feeling the same way, there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel. Here are a few healthy ways to cope with MOM-LEVEL worry..
Equip Your Kids
“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” ~Pat Schroeder
In the long run, I think this is the most important strategy to squashing your fears as a parent because you’re giving the kids the tools they need. If you’re worried about something, it’s a red flag that this is something your kid is not equipped to manage on their own. Worried about head injuries? Put your child into a tumbling or gymnastics class so they learn how to fall safely. Worried about bullies? Talk to your child and give them tools to deal with different scenarios.
We can’t assume that our kids will always make the safest choices. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to provide the necessary tools and confidence in themselves to make wise decisions. Let’s “roll our sleeves up” and get to work.
Focus your parenting style on what you HOPE for your kids, not what you FEAR.
Instead of: I have FEAR about what kids at school will be like as my children get older…
Think: I HOPE that my daughter makes lots of kind, awesome friends at school!
Instead Of: I FEAR that my son will end up with a job he hates someday..
Think: I HOPE that my son finds a career that he loves as an adult!
Trading our mindset of fear for one of hope will not only help diminish our own fears, but it provides a positive framework for our kids to envision their own futures.
Relax & Reflect
When you’re tired and stressed, your mind is much more likely to drift into a state of frustration, worry, and anxiety. Self-care as a parent is crucial, and it’s something you should routinely schedule into your life.
Talk to people in your life that you trust. Your spouse, your parents, your friends. Talk about your fears and your worries. They can provide support and encouragement, and offer different perspectives to help reframe some of the worry you might be experiencing.
Trust Your Instincts
Give yourself permission to listen to your gut. If there’s something that you’re really worried about, it may be because your incredible mom instincts are kicking in. Give your inner voice the respect it deserves and take the time to think it through. Why are you feeling that way? What’s bothering you about the situation? What can you do to meet your kids needs and keep them safe in a way you feel comfortable with? It’s your duty to keep your kids safe, and it’s definitely okay to say “no!” sometimes.
Talk to Your Doctor
While there’s a certain degree of worrying that comes along with parenting, it can sometimes develop into a level of anxiety that can take the joy out of watching your littles grow. There is nothing wrong with seeking help for anxiety or depression. Your doctor is a great resource to help, both with medications (that are safe for breastfeeding moms!) and non-medication routes. Don’t hesitate to reach out. (If you feel you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression, Postpartum Support International is a great resource.)
We worry as parents because we love our children, and that will never change. There are ways to listen to our “worrying” instincts and still find incredible joy, even if it involves a helmet, knee pads, and a tracking device..
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” ~Winston Churchill