Do you ever have that nagging feeling in your gut that something is not right? Has it become a constant companion so familiar to you that you don’t know what life without it was like? Are you parenting in fear?
Most of my worries follow a little pattern that includes the surprising ability to spiral out of control without me even noticing. The feeling springs up as a little pang of fear in my gut; it then grows, picking up speed, swirling into my brain and filling it with worry; then it sucks me into a funnel of anxiety, till I bottom out in a puddle of panic. When I land, I am a mess— depleted, confused, and useless.
The circle of fear-worry-anxiety-panic is a circle that most moms have experience with. We love our children and it is natural to fear for them. But it is not healthy to make parenting in fear a habit. A mom must learn to leave the circle of fear and find peace in parenting. Accomplishing this requires awareness of how and when and why you fall into the circle. The point is awareness. If you are aware of how your fear begins, you can head off panic and end up a useful rather than useless mom. You can break the circle!
Start by identifying fear.
Fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, whether the threat is real or imagined; the condition of being afraid.
Way too many of my thoughts fit this description. Perhaps it is because of the ages of my children: they’re big. Little children, little problems; big children, big problems. Maybe it is because I don’t like surprises and you can’t control life or your children. Whatever the case, distressing emotions are not healthy and can lead to the second stop on the circle, worry.
Worry: to give way to fear; to allow one’s mind to dwell on troubles; to torment oneself with disturbing thoughts; to fret.
Fear does not lead to worry unless you give it a license to. In other words, the circle could easily end at fear. Worry is fraught with tormenting thoughts that do not need to exist. Worrying can become a very bad habit. It can easily grow until it consumes our thoughts and gives birth to the third stop around the circle, anxiety.
Anxiety: uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune that develops into a state of apprehension and psychic tension.
I promise I did not make up these definitions. They are in the dictionary. Anxiety is a state of apprehension and psychic tension. This is where we become useless to our children and the situation. We are so wrapped up in the problem that, no matter what happens, we see and react to it as if it were catastrophic. You may be in this state if more than one of your children is telling you, “Mom, calm down. It’s not that big a deal.” By this point in the circle, you are spinning faster and well on your way to the final phase, panic.
Panic: a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior.
Well, the panic may be sudden, but trust me: it was preceded by the slow and stealthy growth of fear, worry, and anxiety. Please note the description of a mom with “hysterical or irrational behavior.” Have you ever witnessed a mother chew out a coach for not playing her child? She panicked because her child was not getting the opportunity for success that she wanted him to have. Have you ever had a teacher tell you how a mother screamed at her because her child failed a test? That mom panicked because she thought her child was not achieving. She was anxious about her child’s success to the point of irrational behavior, and she was miserable in her state of apprehension and psychic tension. That mom, in that moment, was useless to her child.
You do not want to be that mom.
There is only one way out of the circle and that way is to trust.
Trust: the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, and strength of God.
Trust is really believing that God is bigger than your child and your problem. Trust is letting go of control because you know He is in control. Trust will end the circle of fear, worry, anxiety, and panic. How does one trust? Prayer is guaranteed panic prevention.
More on that in The Passionate Mom.