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Why Parents Worry

Does Becoming a Parent Make You Paranoid?

I'm a paranoid mom. You probably are, too. With kids, whether you're at the park or at home, you're in safety mode, as in, don't let them be dangerous. I stop at sharing Facebook warnings about what's considered dangerous, such as, well, everything. But I do worry. Modern life is dangerous (to children), from Crocs to cinnamon to going outside.

I blame the internet and the scary stories other parents tell you, including grandparents and strangers on the street. But there's an entire section of my brain devoted to storing the large number of things that might hurt my kids. That's what good parents do. Lately, though, I'd love to give the paranoia a break.

There's one in every Facebook group, the safety parent. The watch out, don't go, don't do, I've heard that, no, no, and no. Recalls and accidents. I know people are being helpful. Online moms groups are basically forums in which people ask for advice — apparently, not a single birthday party occurs without a mom being mainly responsible for it (or dreading it) — and I get it. Some people are good at giving advice. It's more what constitutes danger. Somehow, in the broad world of the internet, danger amounts to some very small things, things that average humans aren't very equipped to anticipate, like the tripability of Crocs. And maybe we all learn to shrug off these less-persistent, even laughable warnings. I feel like I'm kind of dumb not to. And yet, I'm not allowed to ignore them, either.

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There's no doubt being a parent is terrifying. I've been the learn-from-my-horrible-experience parent. When my daughter had a febrile seizure, I felt the need to tell every parent I knew. But that doesn't stop me from wishing the safety parents would give it a break. It makes small dangers loom large and rare dangers seem much more prevalent. The naysayers probably aren't much more paranoid than I am, they just have a habit of trying to scare the bejeezus out of people. And as a mom, I can't afford not to know. I may laugh it off, but now that I know, I basically have to worry. There's no middle ground for mom worry. That is a real burden.

It's tough to know whether becoming a parent makes you paranoid, since the parent-net trades in horror stories. It's a downside to having kids today, because I have to ask myself, are they crazy? Or am I crazy? Should I be worried about a trafficker trying to steal my child at Target? Is it possible to hold on to both of my children at Target while we are in the store? Could I tape them into the shopping cart? Or should I be more worried about those detergent pods that look a lot like candy? I don't buy them (that would be irresponsible), but maybe they'll see them at someone else's house and have no idea what they are. I never ask if there are Tide pods at other people's houses. Sometimes, my child scooters without a helmet. She climbs the chain-link fence without shoes on. She drinks the bath water. They're crazy, right? But not me. I'm not. I'm just being made crazy by all the well-intentioned paranoia.

Every parent can list the dangerous things they did as a kid and survived to tell. When adults were nowhere around. Back when kids did things "on their own." We all think we had more freedom than our own children. With fewer tethers, too — no cell phones! Those wistful stories have lost their grip on me a little, because we parents are not going back in time. All parents have worried, worry, and will continue to. The thing that kills me is that if we could worry just one magnitude less, we'd probably have more fun. We'd definitely be more fun. Worry less, more fun. Enjoy parenting. Is it still possible?

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Emily Faulstich
Product Credit: Left: Gap shirt / Center: Everlane sweatshirt / Right: Equipment sweater
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