In Her Words
The Mommy Fear Factor
Lifelong anxiety is part of the bargain
I have a blue boogie board that I always take with me to the beach.
For years, that board and I braved the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. But when I was on vacation with my girlfriends this past July in Rehoboth, Delaware, something stopped me from barreling into that cold green water.
The undertow was really strong, and the waves were huge. As I stared at the mountains of unrelenting foam rushing toward me, alarming thoughts raced through my head. I could drown and die. I’d never see my son again. He’d grow up without a mother. Who would pay for his college education? Who would buy him his pajamas or read him bedtime stories?
Once upon a time I wouldn’t have hesitated to charge into that water headfirst, my trusty board serving as a handy life raft to propel me back to shore. When I was single and childless, there was less to lose.
Boogie boarding used to scrape up my knees and fill my suit full of sand. Sometimes I’d bang an elbow in my journey back to shore, but I didn’t care. I relished in the fact that I could ride the waves alongside kids who were decades younger than me, hair flopping around my face, my nose filled with the scent of salty water.
Then I had a kid of my own, and everything changed.
I had to grow up, and see my childish hobby through the eyes of a rational adult.
My mother had always been a nervous, fearful person. I once asked my father about it, and he said, “Your mother never used to be afraid of anything, until she had children.”
What is it about motherhood that turns us into quivering scaredy-cats?
It’s not just my own mortality I worry about. My crazy, active toddler seems hell-bent on working toward his first trip to the emergency room. Every week there’s a new bruise on his face, another skinned knee. Every minute there’s another rescue mission to get him off whatever piece of furniture that’s serving as a launch pad for his next bungee jump.
And then there’s that terrifying moment in every mother’s career, when the toddler learns how to climb out of his crib. This leads to sleepless nights where you lie there, listening for signs of him crashing headfirst from the crib to the floor. You place huge pillows around the crib and beg your husband to childproof the room and trade in the crib for a toddler bed.
This produces new worries about the child learning how to unlock the door and getting out of his room.
I realize that it’s never going to stop, that I’ll be worrying about things until he’s long out of the house, paying his own mortgage and engaging in things that I’d never do in a million years.
Like go surfing on a boogie board when the waves are high and the undertow is vicious.
I just hope I live long enough to see him do those things.
Jennifer Lubell is a healthcare reporter in Washington, D.C., and fearless manic mom to Alex, who just turned 2.