According to a recent poll, parents spend about as much time worrying about their kids as they do working. I'm not even exaggerating.
The study, conducted by Lice Clinics of America (side note: lice is something parents definitely worry about), looked at 2,000 parents and found that parents spend an average of 5 hours and 18 minutes a day worrying about their kiddos, which amounts to about 37 hours a week.
Reasons for worrying range from whether their kids will make friends to them getting good grades and to their overall physical health (hello, hypochondria).
Is this not the most relatable study in the world? I don’t know about you, but I spend an ungodly amount of time worrying about my kids. It started from the second the two pink lines appeared on the pregnancy test and persists to this day, even with more than a decade of parenting experience under my belt. (Hate to break it to you, but parents of older kids worry as much, if not more, than parents of little ones.)
The more I talk to fellow parents and share my own fears, the more I realize that I am not alone.
When my children were newborns, I worried about SIDS, reaching milestones, whether or not they were getting proper nutrition and sleep, and whether they would catch the plague or roll off the changing table. Toddlers and preschoolers worried me sick, especially once they were roaming all over the house and the playground and knocking things over and trying to escape.
Once school started, the litany of social and academic worries began. How easily will they make friends? Will they share, sit still and do their homework? Am I over-scheduling them or under-scheduling them? What if they are bullied?
And don’t even get me started on the impact of social media, the increased rates of suicide among tween and teens, and the terrorizing idea of school shootings. Is there any other generation that had to worry each time they kissed their child goodbye at the bus stop that this might be the last time they saw them?
I used to think that I was alone in my excessive worrying. I mean, I’ve always been that way. After all, I have anxiety and panic disorder. But the more I talk to fellow parents and share my own fears, the more I realize that I am not alone. And studies like this one only confirm that.
Just being a parent means that you will worry, and that there is no real way around it. After all, having kids is like having your heart walk outside your body, as they say, so maybe it’s natural to feel extraordinarily protective and, well … terrified about the livelihood of your offspring.
Of course, saying that worrying this much is "normal" doesn’t mean that it always is. For some of us, normal parenting worries can morph into something more serious. The postpartum mood disorder I experienced after the birth of my first son manifested as anxiety and obsessive thoughts. This is actually really common; people don’t realize that postpartum depression isn’t always feeling melancholy and depressed. Extreme worry is a common symptom.
I waited for two whole years to address my postpartum anxiety, and I really wish I had gotten help sooner. I encourage any parent who feels overwhelmed by worry to get the help they need.
But for the rest of us? Maybe we just need to accept that being a parent means being a bit of a worrywart. And if it’s going to mean that we take extra care to keep our kids safe or be extra attentive to their feelings and needs, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.