Weekly Column: motherhood and worrying


© 2008, Stephenie B. Freeman

I am raising children and it scares me half to death. 

While pregnant with our first child, an uncontrollable fear, like nothing I had never experienced before, appeared without warning.  I was completely afraid of having children—not afraid about actually giving birth, but instead fearful about caring for and protecting this little person from everything scary in the world.  I had wished for, prayed about, and worked hard to get pregnant, and now that I was having a child of my own, I wasn’t sure if the whole thing was such a good idea.

I had come down with a case of the “what if's” that most soon-to-be mothers get.  The “what if” questions arrived nightly and ironically coincided with the child-induced heartburn that I had also developed as a result of pregnancy.  In case you've never seen one, a burping, crying pregnant person is not a pretty sight.

At the time I assumed that my fears were directly related to the pregnancy, perhaps connected with the hormones that were hysterically racing through my body.  Once the baby was born, my nerves would relax and all would be right with the world once again.

Stop laughing.  

Then late one night as I fed my newborn, the worry gripped my heart and wouldn’t let go.  What if something happened to him? What if I wasn’t a good mother?  What if someone figured out that I was mothering without a license and took him away from me?  I tried my best to write off the whole experience as a bad case of the baby blues and assumed that the worry would eventually stop, but after years now of regular, reoccurring, daily worry, it is quite clear that it is here to stay.

Author Richard Carlson, of the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, tells us to not to worry or stress about the small stuff because “it is all small stuff.” 

Obviously, Mr. Carlson has never been a mother.

My mommy worrying ranges anywhere from the absurd to the extreme.   

I worry that my kids eat too many Goldfish crackers.

I worry about one of them tripping during soccer and knocking all of their teeth out.

I worry that if they jump on the couch they might fall and break their neck.  I’m not sure what the odds are of that happening, but I don’t want to be standing in an emergency room as the doctor explains it to me.

I worry that they will get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and it will all be because of something that I did or didn’t do like give them too much sugar and not enough broccoli.

I worry that they will never like broccoli.

I blame a lot of these worries on my parents.  Years worth of warnings to “don’t do that” and “stay away from this” have left me a paranoid and fearful person/parent.  Their cautions and concerns were justified.  It was their job to keep me protected and safe.  Apparently being a worry-wart is a genetic trait that can be passed on from one generation to another much like spider veins (which I do have) and hair loss (which thankfully I don't.) 

I carry around my mommy worry like I do the extra twenty pounds that I have gained since having children, accepting it for what it is, but desperately wishing that it would all go away. 

I have come to understand and accept that worrying is a necessary and important part of being a parent.  Worrying keeps us from the extremes, like the emergency room or the evening news, but no matter how much any of us worry, it will never prevent or protect our children from the things we can’t control.  We can’t watch our children all the time or be with them constantly.  We can’t even force feed them broccoli or cure their love of Goldfish crackers.  As a mommy, I will always worry about the small stuff, the large stuff, and unfortunately, everything in between.

Which apparently means I'll be doing a lot of sweating.




2 comments :

Kaylan said...

This article is all for me isn't it...? :) Definitely going through this daily!

Dawn said...

Girl, I could have written the very same thing. I'm such a worrier when it comes to my kids.

I've even worried when they were small that they would drown in a toilet.

My best friend on the other hand, worries about nothing. It freaks me out how non-worried about things she is. It's not right.

When my kids even go stay with the grandparents I have to go through a whole list of things because if I don't and something happened I couldn't live with myself. Thankfully they don't take offense to this as they know it is something I have to do and has nothing with them being able to take care of them.