Elizabeth Neal Psychology
Relationship and Individual Therapy
Some theorists believe that a certain amount of worry and anxiety beginning in pregnancy is important in the transition to motherhood as it functions as ‘work of preparation’. In fact, research has shown that some mild anxiety in late pregnancy correlates with a positive adjustment to motherhood. The riskiest cases are when there are no signs of worry at all and when women are overwhelmed with excessive worry.
Worry, like guilt can serve us well when we have creative solutions to the sources of our concern. Both worry and guilt thrust us into corrective behaviours – behaviours that allow us to put in place creative solutions to those things that keep us up thinking at night or distracted from our tasks during the day.
The very fact that we love means we will worry. One of the life lessons in motherhood then is acceptance of the experience of worry - that we will regularly experience worry to some degree, simply by being responsible for our children when they are little and maintaining relationships with them as they grow older through their teenage years and as they become parents themselves.
No matter how many parenting blogs we’ve read, we will all at times worry we are still not getting it right with our kids – and the very fact that we’re reading them means we will likely be even more prone to worry itself.
We worry about the future
When we are thinking about the bigger picture, watching the events of the world around us, we will all worry about our children suffering in some way in the future when we will no longer be there with them. Some of us worry about what the state of the world will be and that our children could be hurt by a warming planet or at the hands of violent others.
Some of us worry about those more immediate daily struggles and the idea of getting through another day with meltdowns and battles terrifies us in the same way as those bigger worldly issues do.
We worry about our influence as a parent
We all worry about not being consistent enough.
We can be terrified of the feelings that arise in us at times – feelings of fury, rage and anger. We worry about what it means to feel overwhelming frustration towards the little person we also love and feel protection for.
We can also be terrified of feeling ambivalent or wanting desperately to escape from our child.
Or feeling nothing at all.
We worry about the times we have been rejecting and how we may have hurt a little heart.
We worry about not being there enough and yet so desperately need to turn away at times. And then we worry about what we do when we take that moment for ourselves – that extra cake, the extra glass of wine, the extra time on social media.
We worry about losing ourselves
We worry that we’ve lost our sense of self, identity or purpose, or that the one that used to flourish might be suppressed forever.
We worry that we are not living up to the maternal image we perceive society prescribes for us.
We worry that others are judging us – friends, grandparents, other women, our children.
We worry about turning into the mother we never wanted to be or that we’re letting down the mother we idealize.
We worry about our most important relationships
We worry about our relationship with our spouse or partner and wonder when we will ever get the time so desperately needed with each other to reignite the spark.
We all worry about our children’s ability be kind to themselves and others as they move through their own journeys as individuals.
All of us worry about missed opportunities and what could have been for us or those we love.
But to worry is to be human, to harbor compassion and respect. To be human is to fall and make mistakes and to find to creative ways to restore from them.
I have come to understand that both worry and guilt (I will talk about guilt in a future blog) are essential aspects of being in relationships – particularly in relationships with our children. It’s through mild and at most moderate levels of worry and guilt that we become sensitive to identifying the things we need to correct in creative, restorative ways. If we can as much as possible see worry and guilt as the wings in which important messages are sent, we can start to be creative in repairing those areas that need a little more of our love, time and focus. It’s important to note however, that excessive worry and guilt that lead to behaviours that isolate us or harm others need special professional attention.
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