Confessions of a Worrying Mother
Growing up, I went to Catholic school, dutifully and regularly going to confession wherein we admitted our wrong-doings to the priest. I’ll never forget how much I’d tormented myself about the 3 check-marks I’d received for doing unapproved cartwheels in gym class (resulting in having to write a term paper about hockey, I still don’t understand hockey…), and how relieved I’d felt when I was told God had forgiven me for those blissful but sinful cartwheels.
I can’t explain why, but there truly is something cathartic about making a confession; to a co-worker, a friend, a significant other. It gives us the chance to unload a burden, and hopefully receive forgiveness, or the reassurance that we’re not alone.
Today, I need to make a confession. I am a worrying mother.
I don’t just worry about normal mom things: don’t play in the street, don’t run with scissors, don’t do drugs.
I worry about things like whether or not I may have had a toxin overload while I was pregnant with my daughter and if that affected her IQ. What if she doesn’t make it in to the college of her choice because there was too much fluoride in the water?
Most people laugh off all the conflicting information we receive about what to eat and not to eat. Are eggs okay? Did I recently hear that bread was okay again? What’s this about wine being good for you? Not me. I’m seriously worried that I’ll get it all wrong and my child will end up with an autoimmune disease because I didn’t know which lettuce to buy.
Last spring, after basketball season was over, my 12-year-old child was in phenomenal shape. I asked my husband if he thought she was too thin. He said, “no, she’s looks fantastic. She’s just been working out 7 days a week. You have nothing to worry about.”
Instead, I worried. And bought her a huge bag of Starburst to quickly put some meat back on her bones. (And subsequently worried about everything scary that is in Starburst.)
If none of this resonates with you, before you write me off as the only crazy out there, there’s a good explanation:
1.) My parents. It turns out that the environment we’re raised in has a lot to do with how much we worry. Whether or not our parents were worriers, or passed things on to us that cause us a great deal of anxiety.
2.) I can’t help it. As a mother, my brain is completely hard-wired to make caring for my child one of my highest priorities. Check out this article on www.theatlantic.com : What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother.
3.) I was bullied in middle school. This is a thing (see link below). I’m not sure that’s the real issue, but I’d love to pin it on those mean girls from 8th grade. (I also probably have a few things to let go of…) Bullying by peers has effects later in life.
The degree to which I worry is high, but I’m hardly alone. In my research, it turns out that most mothers worry. Again, we’re biologically programmed to do so, but for those of us who feel closer to the extreme end of the scale, we’re not as rare as I’d thought.
From the time our children are born and we’re up all night checking to see that they’re still breathing, until they leave for college and we’re up all night wondering if they’re still alive, we’re joined by millions of other moms doing the same.
I probably have enough worry and anxiety stored up for the entire human race, so if you’re a worrier, you can stop. I’ve got you covered.
The truth is, though, that I WANT to stop worrying. You can imagine that we worriers have more than just parenting on our minds. We worry about the stock market, terrorism, global warming, politics and aging parents. Sometimes I’ll even indulge in a little worry about Armageddon and The Illuminati.
I’ve tried so many things throughout my life — medication, yoga/meditation, prayer, exercise (albeit not consistently…let’s be honest), diet changes, journal writing; yet I’m still a gigantic worrier.
Part of me knows that I’ll never truly let it all go, but the other part of me knows that the healthiest thing I can do is to at least let some of it go.
I stumbled upon a post on Camille Styles (this is a beautiful blog by the way if you’re interested), giving some good advice on how to worry less.
- Worry Constructively — about the things we can control
- Find an Outlet
- Put it on Paper, our brains become overwhelmed with too much we “want” to get done.
- Determine what you really want, instead of focusing on what you don’t.
- Spend time in positive visualization, rather than negative.
- Question what is really under your control.
- Do what you can and then let the rest go.
- Break the habit
- Decide when it’s gone too far and is unrelenting, it may be time for some extra help.
So, the concept that worrying is actually a habit is new to me. I honestly had no idea, and this comes as a relief to me. I’m normally pretty good at making habit changes, once I’m aware of them and I decide I want to make the change (like quitting coffee, which I’d previously thought inhumane and impossible). Now, it’s a matter if figuring out how.
Deep down I know that I haven’t given “finding an outlet” a fair shake. Finding myself back on that yoga mat every morning needs to happen.
Visualization and thinking about what I can control has never really occurred to me. Somehow I have had this notion that worrying about things is constructive — that I’m doing something.
The truth is that if I, and people like me, don’t get our worrying to a more manageable level, it can steal our joy. I sometimes feel robbed of a moment when I look on it in hindsight, because I realize later that when I should have savored a sunset at the beach, I was worrying about whether or not I’d offended someone earlier that day by something I said, or if we’d worn enough sunscreen.
To any other chronic, extreme worriers, please raise your hands and tell me you’re out there. I’d love to hear what you do to cope with your worry. In the meantime, I want to relax today with a glass of wine. But first, I just need to quickly worry about all those sulfates…