Social media is full of stories, good and bad. If you happen to check the news there's some frightful incident or other that leaves you with a sense of dread and the more terrifying 'what if' notion that usually takes a few days to fade. This week, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I came across an article written by a mother who lost her four year old to a sudden illness. It did not help that my son was peacefully sleeping right next to me while images of the smiling little boy tore my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I could not even finish reading the post because all I wanted to do that very moment was kiss my son, hold him close and dispel the fears that crossed my mind for a fleeting second.
Instant access to news everywhere is great but it's also reason why almost every parent suffers some fear or anxiety today. Emails and forwards detailing some horror or the other, videos of caregivers beating tiny babies entrusted to their care, reports of child abuse and neglect in the places we least expect are reasons enough for even the strongest parent to rethink certain choices that might have otherwise seemed easy. For some of us, the fear losing our child possibly from our own experience of loss makes us over protective and anxious.
Before my son was born, a very close friend (and mother) mentioned how she'd stopped reading the newspapers because of stories or incidents that were bound to cause her anxiety. I probably did not understand because I felt she was being rather extreme and obsessing about everything. It all changed after my son was born and I realised how fragile my thinking would get whenever I heard about certain incidents or worse when something happened so close to where I live, or to people I knew. I tried to imagine what it might have been like for my parents and it came as no surprise that some of my own fears were probably because of the negative feelings and paranoia my parents must have felt. For example, my fear of water because my father always worried that something terrible would happen if I went too close to the water (so I never did). They probably read scary stories that caused them to hold their breath in certain instances and worry that something might happen.
Recently, another friend and I began talking about some of these irrational fears and feelings that a mother might have and as she spoke her mind out, I remembered how paranoid I was when my son was a baby, a few days old and I would constantly wake up to check if he was okay and still breathing. I remember asking my mom if that was a normal thing to do because somewhere in my mind I was terrified that something might happen to my baby (reading about baby related incidents probably caused this fear).
If there's one thing I have learnt in the past two years as a mother, it's that living with this unpleasant emotion called fear is a waste of precious time. It forces you to make parenting choices out of apprehension and anxiety thinking about something that hasn't even happened to you. It's important to be cautious but fear can contradict situations where we need to nurture instead of be anxious. My own fears of sending my son to preschool will be overcome only if I meet other moms, ask lots of questions and find ways to mitigate possible risks. You might have valid reasons that cause you to fear losing a child but instead of spending each moment living in uncertainty, try to focus on dispelling those fears (like my friend, skip unnecessary news feeds and alerts if required). Parenting is loaded with a million worries, a thousand fears, a trillion 'what-ifs' and a ton of negative feelings. It's natural to be protective and we all have nightmares that we unknowingly signed up for the day we became Mother's. Don't let these fears control you instead just hug your child a little tighter and live every precious moment to the fullest.
Is there any specific fear you've faced as a parent? Do share your thoughts Moms and let me know if this article was helpful.