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I’m pretty sure worrying is part of the parenting job description. Dads worry, moms worry. Working moms worry, and so do stay-home moms. We probably worry about many of the same things.
Sometimes, though, I feel like I worry too much.
I worry about my job. I worry about my health. I worry about my kids’ health. I worry about my extended family—so much that I recently visited a therapist to help me sort out what I should be worrying about and what I needed to try and let go. During one of those sessions, the doc asked how I was doing in general, and I said, “Oh, fine. Every January, I spend the first two weeks wondering if this is the year I’m going to die.”
Yeah. It can be a bit much. Most people would probably never know I’m a raging hypochondriac, or that I hate opening the mail for fear of getting something from the IRS. (I’m meticulous about my taxes BECAUSE I WORRY! But then I worry that maybe something went wrong or I filled something out incorrectly, or maybe they’ll just decide they don’t like me because, well.. maybe just because.) I try not to let people see how much I worry because I know that worry is a) not healthy and b) usually not rooted in any form of reality.
I’m not sure where I got this constant inkling that an anvil is about to fall out of the sky. I didn’t lead a childhood of deprivation, and nothing truly terrible has ever happened to me, my husband or my children. But the truth is that I sometimes walk around feeling like I’m about to be crushed by a piano.
I say “sometimes” because I have developed some strategies to help me stop worrying—or at least not worry so much. For example, I tell myself that…
Nothing ever happens like you think it’s going to.
I’ve lain awake at night imaging full scenarios wherein I get a terrifying diagnosis or a child struggles with one of the myriad of behavioral issues that can plague young people these days. And then I remember that when things happen – good or bad, most of the time they never happen the way I would have expected. And most of the time they’re never as bad as I’ve imagined. So it really doesn’t do any good to imagine at all, now does it?
Everything I worry about can’t happen at once.
This little nugget hit me while I was commiserating with a friend during a particularly stressful time. I was worried about bed bugs after coming back from a work trip. I was worried about my husband losing his job due to the crappy economy. I was worried about some spot on my skin that I was sure was cancer. I was worried about a million things concerning my youngest, who’d just been born, and my oldest, who was experiencing a bit of sibling jealousy.
Then I realized how ridiculous it was to worry about so many things at once, and I was right. Statistically, the chances of them all happening simultaneously were pretty slim. I did not have cancer. We did not get bed bugs. My husband did get laid off but, because I’d worried, we had plenty of savings in the bank. Which leads to my next revelation, which is that…
Some worrying is good.
It gets me to the doctor for important check-ups. It makes me a great colleague and employee because I don’t miss deadlines or leave things until the last minute. It also means I try to plan for all contingencies when I see a possible disaster looming. Having cash on hand made it a lot less worrisome while my husband was looking for a new job. So a little worrying can be productive and protective. But beyond that, I have to remind myself of this one, simple fact:
It’s OK to be OK.
I’ve started to realize that I often actively look for things to worry about. It’s like I don’t feel comfortable being content—like part of me needs an imminent crisis to obsess over. I could psychoanalyze that for hours, but the real revelation is that, rather than learn to stop worrying, I need to learn to be comfortable with being OK. Worrying really does rob us of the ability to appreciate all of the wonderful, not-worrisome things that are happening right now. And so, my resolution this year has been to embrace and enjoy those moments, without looking for an anvil. There probably isn’t one anyway.
Fellow moms, what do you worry about, and how do you deal with it? I’d love to get your perspective, so please comment and share!