Worrying. It’s something all parents do. I am guilty of it, especially when I lie awake at 3 a.m., with the silence of the house ringing in my ears. I worry about what I forgot to do, what I need to do, what I should have done, and what I already did.
Parenthood is hard. There is always something to be done, someone who needs assistance, and multiple things to worry about. The list is endless but may include everything from feeding your kids healthy foods, to your child’s friendships, to what others think about your choices. Some worries are valid, but many are not worth the time and effort. What if we could learn to let them go?
1. Personal Expectations
Before I became a parent, I had high expectations for myself as a mother. I had things I wanted to do and things I declared I would never do. After my first child was born, I quickly realized that I would change my perspective on most pre-child declarations. “Let go of the idea that you will be the perfect parent because it won’t happen.” says twin mother Aly Ridgeley. When parents accept that they are doing the best they can, at that moment, for their kids, they will be able to cross this worry off their list.
Do you worry that you don’t spend enough time with your child? Do you feel guilty you were not able to breastfeed your child or that you missed a soccer game? Do you feel bad you forgot to remind your son to grab his lunch on the way out the door? The guilt of these things and more can weigh heavily on a parent but you have permission to let it go. It is okay if you miss a game or a school party. We all have to make choices and sometimes those choices cause unnecessary guilt. Once a decision is made, move forward and let go of the feelings of guilt. They will only rob you of enjoying the present.
3. Outward Appearances
A tidy house, a perfectly decorated home, an amazing wardrobe, all organic, home-cooked meals, the perfect marriage, smart, athletic, creative children, and a partridge in a pear tree. We want it all and we want it to be perfect, or at least appear that way. This picture is lovely but it is not a realistic, reachable goal. It is easy to get caught up in what our families looks like to others. It does not matter if your children wear perfectly coordinating outfits. Is your child dressed in weather appropriate clothing? Great. Does it match? It’s your lucky day. Social media puts so much pressure on us to keep up with what we believe others are doing. I have a secret for you, Pinterest is not real life and what is posted on Facebook is typically the best of what is going on in reality. Embrace the fact that no one is perfect and nobody's expecting you to be.
4. What If's
Parents often worry about things that haven’t even happened yet. What if he gets sick? What if she falls and gets hurt? What if I forget something important? What if he doesn’t make the team? What if’s are not worth the energy they use. Acknowledge they are unnecessary and decide not to waste time on them. Face the problems in front of you rather than worrying about issues that do not exist.
“Don’t compare yourself to other parents. Your family is unique. Your circumstances are unique. It would be like comparing apples and oranges.” says Lacey Rodriguez of Leavenworth, KS, “Do the best you can for your family and forget the rest.” Comparing yourself to other parents is never a good idea. Your parenting style for your children will always be different from others, but that doesn't mean it is bad. Another pitfall is comparing your children to their siblings or other children their age. Each child has their own unique personality and will develop at their own rate. If you feel your concerns are valid, consult your child’s doctor for peace of mind.
Every parent makes mistakes and it is easy to spend time worrying about what should have been done differently. The past cannot be changed and although it's not easy to do, we must let go of things we cannot change. We can learn from our mistakes and continue to do our best in the future. Parents have permission to let go of past mistakes and teach their children to do the same.
I am a recovering control freak. With each child we added to our family, I was worn down a little more. When our triplets arrived, it finally dawned on me that I am not in control. Once I realized (and accepted) this fact, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Yes, my husband and I are still in charge of the household, but I cannot control what happens in life. It’s a roller coaster. Instead of trying to steer, throw your arms up in the air and enjoy the ride.
Sarah Lyon is a part-time freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to six children, including two-year-old triplets.