What do moms really worry about? At MOPS International, we asked this question of our 100,000 moms around the world, and they candidly shared their stories of worry and fear. We were able to sort them into five general categories, according to the order in which they mentioned them.
Fear 1: What if I’m not enough?
Every mom wants to be the best mom she can be, and research shows her top fear is that she will not be able to provide the financial resources and support her child will need, as well as the emotional resilience to handle the ups and downs that come with being a mom. First-time moms also worry about the practical aspects of caring for a newborn. Will I know what to do when she has a fever? How will I get him to stop crying if I don’t even know why he’s crying? What if I can’t handle it? These are natural fears as you face the unknowns of parenting, and it’s common to feel overwhelmed.
Fear 2: What if someone takes my child from me?
I will admit I wasted much time worrying about this myself. Whenever I would hear a story of a child disappearing or being abducted, my heart would race with fear. For me, this translated into an obsessive compulsion to never let my kids out of my sight, and I worried even when they were at a sleepover or out with someone I knew well. What if they wandered off by themselves and I wasn’t there to help? The fear of not being able to control the situation when my kids were out of my sight was sometimes excruciating. Many moms shared feeling the same way.
Fear 3: How will I keep my child safe?
This fear is obviously related to number two, but it covers a broader range. Moms shared they worried about their child getting injured in a car accident, or hurt on the playground at school, or even when they were climbing a tree in the backyard. I talked with a young mom of three, Meghan, who shared honestly about her fear and worry: “I found myself not being able to relax when I saw my kids playing in the front yard with other kids in the neighborhood. What if they ran out into the street or fell in the driveway and broke their arm? It seemed the only time I didn’t worry was when they were sound asleep in their beds.” Can you relate to this? I wish I could say I have mastered this worry monster, but even though my kids are now grown adults, I still find my thoughts climbing up on that crazy-mama ledge of unreasonableness late at night, when I know my kids are driving or out with friends.
Fear 4: How can I protect my children from other kids?
This is a very real fear and hard to get out of our minds, especially when we hear stories of bullying that happen not only at school but on social media. As a mom, when should you get involved? When should you let your children handle it for themselves, and how will you know what’s really going on? These are all questions that swirl in a mom’s head and heart as she worries about her children and what they may encounter as they get older and form friendships of their own.
Fear 5: What if my child has special needs or serious health issues?
While this worry ranked toward the bottom of the list, it is a very real fear. What if my child is born with a serious disability? How will I handle it? For a new expectant mom, it’s good to remind her that, out of all babies born in the United States, less than 4 percent are born with any kind of health issue—and this includes minor issues, such as an ingrown toenail or temporary heart arrhythmia that disappears soon after birth. But we still worry, and this fear is strongly related to the top fear moms identified: Will I be enough of a mom to handle serious issues that may come?
As a mom, do these fears resonate with you, or are there other worries that top your list? As we conducted our surveys and research, moms were so willing to share their fears honestly, but they also mentioned they are often embarrassed about their fears—and a few moms admitted they worry that they worry too much! I think it’s healthy to admit we all deal with fear that brings worry and to know that God understands. I love how God tells us in to bring all of our anxiety to him because he cares for us. Some versions even use the word cast, which means we can literally throw our worries to God; he can handle them! He doesn’t shame us for our fear—he invites us to share it with him.
Instead of shaming yourself for dealing with fear, a healthy approach is to admit you face it. In fact, many moms told us giving their fear a name helped bring it down to size and get proactive. Next time you find yourself anxious about your child or yourself as a mom, see if you can say it out loud, to yourself or to someone you trust, putting words to what is really bothering you. (For example, I’m really anxious about these tantrums Sammy is having and whether I have the patience to handle them). You might find hearing yourself state it in words can make the problem seem more manageable.
In the next article, we’ll share more ideas from our moms in how they address their fears.