Worrying about Worry

Carla: First an official announcement: We are lice-free and have been for more than a week. I am declaring us done!!!! We nailed those suckers fast and never heard from them again.

Second, lice have now taken the top spot on my “things I hate about motherhood” list. The former champ has moved into second place. Want to know what it is? Alright I’ll tell you. I hate the paranoia. I hate how worried I am all the time, the dull anxiety that flits around every day and every situation. I used to be reasonably carefree and now I live with this vague sense of dread. And I hate it.

When I first became a mother, I was nearly paralyzed by the worry. I didn’t know how I would manage to leave the house, drive a car, leave my child with a sitter. And while I have obviously done all of those things, I am never completely at ease.

The worst part of paranoia is the dreams. I mean, even in sleep I can’t get away from my own worrying brain. A couple of night’s ago I dreamed my sweet boy was in a boat on an icy lake. He fell in (of course) and I jumped in to save him, struggling to hold on to him while swimming through the frigid water to get us both to shore alive. I hate those dreams.

And before anyone feels the need to tell me I just need to trust God, please know that I do. I really do. I believe that God will hold me up should anything actually happen to one of my children. I believe (perhaps a bit less) that God will sustain my children should something happen to me. But that doesn’t stop the worry, the fear, the awful sense of dread. So tell me my sisters (and Steve), what helps you deal with the paranoia of motherhood?

Caryn: Congrats on the delousing at your house(ing)!

I have to confess: As a mom, I’m not a huge worrier. Doesn’t plague me. It’s NOT because I trust God so much because I do worry about other areas of our life. Like finances. (Years ago, I prayed that God would help me “connect” with the “give us this day our daily bread” part of the Lord’s Prayer and, OF COURSE, that’s the one prayer that God decides to wriggle his nose and bob his head for me on. Thanks, Jesus. Love you too.)

But as a mom, I don’t, for example, panic when they’re away from me. Take last week: my in-laws took my kids to the Wisconsin State Fair (the very same one the hero mayor of Milwaukee got clubbed at) for the day (glorious!). Someone asked me if that “worried” me having them trapsing around some weird fair in another state without me. Honestly, it hadn’t even occurred to me to be worried. Not to say I didn’t shoot up a couple prayers for their safe travel and that they’d have fun, but I didn’t worry. I know they’re in good hands with my in-laws, etc.

But now that I’m thinking about this, I realize that as they’ve gotten older, new worries have bubbled up. Mostly to do with the ways I’m messing with their lives. Like when my daughter tells me she wants to live in one of those “shiny” houses, I realize that maybe lack of housekeeping skills will indeed ruin her life. Or when my son spends these last few weeks non-stop terrorizing his sister (the shiny one), I worry that this is how seriel killers start out……

But for me, the worrying isn’t a constant. I have to think about it. And now that I’m thinking about it, I’m worried about that.

Carla: Maybe only good mothers worry.

I was thinking more about this, how really this is a control issue for me. The stuff I worry about is so random, so out of my hands, that it drives me crazy. I take no comfort in knowing that the vast majority of child abductions are done by people known to the child. Sometimes a stranger grabs a kid and in my mind, there’s nothing to say that won’t be my kid. Same with freak accidents and illnesses and boats drifting in icy lakes. I want so much to keep my babies safe and I get all paranoid when I think about all the ways I can’t.

I suppose it’s part of the process of letting kids grow up–realizing that you don’t have control over everything and that something awful might very well happen to them. I would love to know how other parents get to that place because I’m sick of having this knot in my gut all the time.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. I struggle with constant worry like you, Carla. It’s worse when I have a baby in the house, but it never really goes away all the way! I’m hoping it’s partly hormonal. Maybe it’ll go away with menopause … something to look forward too 🙂

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  2. Posted by jerri meigs on August 21, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Worry is a manifestation of fear….Isaiah 41:10 says that we shouldn’t fear and that God is our strength. I think that we rob ourselves of opportunities to see His awesome power when we worry. In my mommy-world, laying those worries that crop up at the foot of the cross sometimes is an hourly event, sometimes it’s only daily. Carla, I encourage you to know that you are not alone in your worries as all mothers do, but you are REALLY not alone when you let the Lord take care of things.

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  3. I also struggle with worrying and pessimism in general. “Do not be anxious about anything…” is a passage that God is constantly pointing me back to. He reminds me to think of those things which are good. But, I admit, I constantly have visions of things happening to me and my eight month old son. Like me falling down the stairs while I’m carrying him. Or him dying in a fluke plane incident because we had him on our laps (pray for us, we’re flying in ten days again!).

    I’m not exactly sure what “causes” this worry. But I do know that it is common. Another blogger I follow (www.babyrabies.com; she’s not a Christian, but she’s hilarious and I relate to her really well) has an entire section on her blog about irrational fears that she has concerning her kid.

    My husband tells me it’s what makes me a good mom. I think it makes me a nut-case.

    In order to deal with this I pray… A LOT. I pray through my fears, imagining them and asking God to change the scenarios in my head. God has actually given me a vision of an angel holding onto my son on the plane. Does that stop all of my worrying? No, but it helps.

    I also remember. I remember how good God is to me and how he has taken care of us in the past. I remember how I didn’t fall down the stairs that one time my toe caught on my pant leg while carrying 6 week old Jack – an occurrence I can only attribute to Him. He is always working in this world even though kids do die in freak accidents (my biggest fear). I just need to remember that and keep returning to him.

    Hope that helps.

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  4. Oh, I could have written this post. In my experience, life can change in a moment. The day already started may have a completely new definition by the end of it. We wake up, make a series of choices- mostly mundane, but one of them can be completely life-changing. Speeding. Cutting someone off. Turning before the light turns red. Turning your back. Cutting that hotdog just a little bit bigger this time because it is faster. Walking away from the grocery cart for 15 seconds. All these small, little risks we take daily. After all, what are the odds that something goes wrong this time?

    The problem is, things go wrong all the time, all over the world. Sometimes I just stop in the middle of my day and think about what would have happened if. It would all be over. What would my life look like if? What would the lives of my boys look like if?

    Anxiety sits in the pit of my stomach like a big, stubborn rock. I try to tell myself to trust God, not to be anxious.

    However, then a little voice in the back of my mind says peevishly, “Trust God, sure. I trust God. But trust Him to do WHAT exactly? Protect my children and promise that they will always be safe, warm, comfortable and loved? There are children all over the world dying of disease, starving, tortured, exploited. God loves those children as much as he loves the boys he sent to me. Why should mine be given special treatment? What exactly am I trusting Him to do?”

    How do we resolve the fact that we are supposed to have faith in God and have no anxiety while still knowing the horrible things that happen to children and parents every day in these evil times?
    I suppose the faith we are supposed to have is in His plan, in His love, and that he is never changing. I suppose that if it were part of the plan for me to lose my children, I would have to do it, but I am not sure I could survive as a whole person past that point.

    Maybe this whole response shows a lack of faith on my part.

    All I know is that it has happened before, and it may happen again- we are just cruising along in our day, doing mundane things, making mundane choices and then one of those choices may be a last choice. Choices made on autopilot. Life changes in a moment. What moment will be the last one together? Will I be on autopilot? Frustrated at my toddler? Stressed at the to-do list? Thinking terrible thoughts about my husband, children, self or body?

    It haunts me, a fear that never leaves. What if? Then, that fear is compounded by additional worry that it shows a complete lack of faith in God to even have that worry… and around and around we go.

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  5. Posted by April G. on August 24, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    This is another thought-provoking post! I think I “worry” most about finances because we are really struggling lately. But I don’t know if it is worry as much as it is fear. I occassionally worry about losing my children, but overall I have a lot of peace in the parental realm. And I think this is because of my life experiences. My mother was not a really healthy person, to say the least. She grew up in a family of extreme abuse and dysfunction. She, as a result, struggles with mental illness and various alcohol and drug addictions. Among other things, she smoked marijuana while pregnant, didn’t have any prenatal care, and didn’t allow the doctors to give me a life-saving surgery until I went into a coma and almost died. My sister and I certainly did not have the ideal childhood, but we turned out okay. We are both relatively healthy, well-adjusted, successful adults. On the other hand, my sister did her best to do everything right during her pregnancy. She wouldn’t even take a tylenol. She was very careful to do things right, but her son was born with a very serious congenital heart defect, needed extensive medical interventions, and still died at only eleven weeks old. She did everything “right” and my mother did a lot “wrong.”

    When I found out I was pregnant, I was immediately struck with worry. What if I had a miscarriage. It was then that I realized I could live my life with worry, or I could accept that I could do everything right and still suffer a great tragedy. Some do everything wrong and things turn out fine. It wasn’t really in my hands completely. That allowed me to really let it all go that day. I do my best, but I don’t fret over what is not in my control. I try to enjoy every minute with my children (some days that is hard) because I know some don’t get that priveldge and I am not guaranteed another day. Every day is a gift. If I lost my children today, I would be blessed for the time I had with them. My sister taught me that.

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  6. Posted by April's Sister on August 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I have thought about this and re-read this and thought about it some more. It really hits home. And I think the bottom line for me is that bad things happen to good people.

    I used to think that if I was a good person, a good wife, and a good Christian, I would be spared from some of the tragedies that you read about or hear on the news. I used to believe that if I sent up enough heartfelt prayer, God would come in like a knight in shining armor and deliver me from nightmares. But that isn’t reality and He never promised us that we would be spared heartbreak. And I now know that control is just an illusion.

    Sometimes I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. I live in fear of having my heart broken like that again. So to that end, I have no solution as to how to go through life without fear and dread in the back of your mind. And if anyone finally figures it out, I’d love to know, because I don’t think the answer is as simple as trusting God. I did trust him once and my whole life was shattered. Don’t get me wrong, I love Him with all my heart, but the two of us have a few trust issues that we need to work on. LOL

    As my sister said, I absolutely feel blessed for the short time I had with my son. Every day I send up prayer in thanks for my son. Every day. The grief I know pales in comparison to the joy I had with him. But I am still left to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and it seems it will prove to be an endless task. Because of this, I am afraid; because I am afraid, I worry.

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  7. Posted by Robyn on August 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I can only imagine how you (April’s sister) must feel. Because if I ever lost my daughter I really think I would lose my sanity. I don’t see that I would have any reason to live. And, I don’t think I would ever trust God again. Ever. Maybe when I got to heaven, but probably not before.

    By nature I’m not much of a worrier. I just figure there’s no point in wasting time and energy worrying about things over which I have no control. And the things I do have control over, well, I just do the best I can and that is good enough, most of the time. But I do worry about that: losing my child. Because that is the one thing I can think of that I don’t think I could ever get over.

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  8. Posted by Laura S. on August 27, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Just when I thought I had all of the electrical outlets stuffed with safety plugs I realized that the big outlet in the bathroom, the one that is five feet off the ground, the only one without safety plugs, is being “cleaned” by our two year-old with her wet toothbrush as she stands on her step stool. NICE…

    Now the outlet is very clean and has the plugs firmly in place. Geeeeeeez these kids will give us heart attacks, one after the other.

    I have no real tips to ease the worries – but once again am amazed at your writings and the way they pinpoint exactly what I am dealing with.

    Glad to have good company in my worries – I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

    Reply

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