The stereotypical first-time mom is the one worrying about boiling pacifiers that fall on the ground, insisting everyone uses hand sanitizer before holding the baby, and calls the pediatrician whenever the baby sniffles. Many moms tend to ease up a bit when they get more comfortable with motherhood, their baby gets older, or they have their second. For some, though, mom worry transcends comfort, time, and more kids. Whether you’re a natural worrier or it’s a new phenomenon tied to motherhood, it can be difficult to balance your motherly intuition for your child and being a bit too neurotic. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether you’re being overprotective or your worries are justified.
The New Mom Struggle
Hold the baby’s head correctly, pay attention to development, keep the baby monitor close, make sure they are breathing, check again if they are breathing, don’t let your sick co-worker touch your desk in case you take it come to your little one, and the list goes on. Pregnancy, birth, and parenthood are all incredibly complex situations that carry a lot of scary consequences relating to health and wellness for both child and mother. Because of this, it makes sense that new moms would struggle with worry and what is neurotic worry. In reality, many moms just need to go through this part for their own peace of mind. The neurotic part usually fades with time, but the balancing act takes time to learn.
For most, the worry begins with conception, and there are many concerns that are common during pregnancy that cause women to begin to feel the worry at this stage. With so much new information evolving about health and wellness, it’s common to feel overwhelmed with keeping yourself healthy for your baby. In order to balance this, remember to take a step back and discuss things with your doctor – they will know the most about how you can keep your body and your baby healthy. But know, a little neurotic worry at these stages is incredibly common.
Where your Worry Comes From
The thing about parenthood is that each stage of your child’s life will carry with it new worries. So even if you’re past the new-mom stage, you might be entering the new-mom-to-a-toddler, tween, teenager, twenty-something, etc. stage – each of which carries new worries you’d never had before. In order to combat the neurotic worry that comes from being a parent of a child of any age, it’ll help to understand where the worry comes from. A lot of it comes from fear-based advertising that targets moms and encourages them to buy a product – such as various car companies utilizing fear to assert that their model is the safest for kids. Some comes from new studies about safety, medical findings, and product recalls. Note where your worry comes from, and you’ll be able to draw the line between your intuitive worry and your neurotic worry if you analyze the motivation behind the information you’re receiving.
When researchers recommend a diet that focuses on your child’s heart health, that’s something to consider when buying groceries. However, it’s important to take information like that and turn it into something positive and actionable and not obsess over it. When you read about opioid poisoning rising among teens, take action, talk to your teen, and keep an eye on your prescriptions. Ultimately, mom worry comes from a concern for their child’s wellbeing. Take note of your concerns, analyze them, problem-solve them, and you’ll have a better idea if you’re being neurotic or if you are acknowledging a fear appropriately.
Knowing the Facts
When you hear something that sends you into neurotic worry, remember to do your research. Granted, sometimes doing research is similar to Googling “headache symptoms” and assuming it means cancer, so it’s important to go into it with a level head. Information changes all the time, and it’s important to know those changes in order to keep your kids safe, and keep your worry at ease. Getting conflicting information from family members and friends can be stressful, so it’s important to ask your pediatrician if you’re ever unsure. Many things have changed over the years regarding parenthood, from cats now being considered safe for pregnant women and children to be around, parents putting babies to sleep on their back, to keeping children in rear-facing car seats until they are 40 pounds. With things like this changing, it’s important to keep up to date. And knowing the facts can help set your mind at ease.
Walking the Fine Line
It’s still a fine line to walk between worrying enough and worrying too much. It’s difficult even if you know you’re just a new mom having new-mom worries, or you know where your worry comes from, or you are diligent about knowing the facts before jumping to conclusions. There’s a difference between a ridiculous worry and a ridiculous reaction to a worry, and knowing the difference is vital. Just because your worry is valid doesn’t mean your reaction should be neurotic, and if the worry is neurotic it doesn’t mean a normal amount of concern makes it less neurotic.
For example, it’s common for moms to check to see if their baby is breathing – that’s a valid concern. However, setting an alarm to wake up every 15 minutes to check on them steps over the line from valid concern to neurotic worry. Similarly, texting a teenage child to check up on them is a valid tactic to calm worries. However, if you’re texting them to ensure they weren’t mauled by a grizzly bear, it’s still neurotic even if your reaction wasn’t. Unless they are hiking around grizzly territory or something. In order to walk the line effectively, confide in your family members, spouse, or your child about your worries. Analyze your concern before reacting and think about how implementing too many precautions can harm your relationship with your child and cause unhealthy worry within yourself.
Everyone is Different
Every parent is different and worries about different things. Mothers are biologically tied to ensuring their child’s safety, so worrying about their health and happiness is an incredibly common feeling. The key is balance and stopping a feeling before it becomes obsessive. Take necessary precautions, but steer clear of any precautions that are over-the-top. Bike helmets: yes; an MRI for every headache: no. Use your intuition to help them reach milestones, eat right, exercise, and use good judgement. Trust them and others around them and don’t feel like you can’t ever be worried or send them a text or check on them if you’re concerned – just don’t get obsessive for your sake and theirs. Your worries are okay to have, but acting on them is where you need to exercise discretion.
Some are worried about how to fly with their toddler, and some are worried about their 23-year-old living alone – everyone is different. You love your child and you want to protect them from everything which is why you worry. Just don’t let your worry affect you or your family negatively. What you may feel may be different than others, but taking guidance from other parents that may know the key to balance may be helpful. Talk to your pediatrician or your own doctor about your worries and know you’re not alone in being concerned for your kids.
Moms are allowed to feel worried about their kids; it’s all a part of learning how to be a parent. In many cases, a mother’s worry will subside with experience and time. For others, the process is a bit longer and takes action in order to get their worries to an acceptable level. Whether you’re actively working to become less neurotic about your mom worry or you’re waiting for the feeling to naturally subside, it’s good to be aware of. Balancing your intuition for the wellbeing of your child and being able to identify it between unfounded worry can be difficult, but there are ways to identify it and balance it. It’s a higher tightrope for some than others, but it’s a goal that is attainable for even the most over-protective mom.
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is recently married, enjoys spending time with her family, and throwing a Frisbee for her dog, Titan. Follow her on Twitter!