Does Worry Equal Love?

by marin freedigitalphotos.net

by marin freedigitalphotos.net

After writing last week’s post about OCD and Parental Anxiety, I got to thinking about my own relationship with anxiety and worry over the years, particularly as a mother. I worried a lot about my children as newborns, infants, toddlers, preschoolers…..you get the picture. Constant worry.

And why did I worry? Well, because I loved them so much, of course.

Many children (myself included) grow up hearing things from their parents such as, “I only worry because I love you,” or “If I didn’t love you so much, I wouldn’t worry.”  Occasionally, references might be made to other parents who seemed to be more relaxed in their parenting, even allowing their children to do “dangerous” things, and the implication was that these parents didn’t love their children as much as the worriers.

Conclusion? The more we worry, the greater our love.

Is this really true?

Let’s take an example. Say your twelve-year-old daughter wants to go to summer camp for a few weeks. It makes you nervous but you realize it could be a great experience for her so you research camps thoroughly and come up with one that has a stellar reputation and seems to be a perfect fit for your child. You even talk to a few parents whose children have gone there and loved it.

So off your daughter goes. You worry the whole time she is away. Is she homesick? Is she being properly supervised? Is she eating? Is she making friends? Are her allergies kicking up? You worry so much you can’t do too much of anything else while she is gone.

Mom* number two also does her research and sends her daughter to the same camp. She then spends the next three weeks catching up with old friends, enjoying some alone time with her husband, and doing other things she enjoys. She imagines her daughter having the time of her life.

Does the first mom love her child more? Isn’t that a ridiculous question? The answer is obvious: Of course not!

Sure there are parents out there who don’t worry about their children and are also neglectful and hurtful –  even abusive; people who most of us would consider bad parents. I’m not referring to them. I’m talking about good parents who worry a lot and good parents who worry “not so much.”

Back to our example. I do have to give mother number one, the worrier, credit as she let her daughter go off to camp even though she was anxious about it herself. She did not deprive her child of this potentially amazing experience. Some parents worry so much, and get so caught up in “what-ifs,” that they don’t allow their children to have experiences that most people would consider safe.

Which brings up another question. For those of us who worry a lot, how do we know if our worries are well-founded or far-fetched? I know this can be an issue with OCD as well – those with the disorder can’t always trust their instincts in regard to danger because their brains just might be telling them everything is dangerous! I’ve written before about some good strategies to use to help sort through these thoughts and feelings.

You might be reading this and thinking, “Well I’m a worrier, not much I can do about it,” but we now know that is just not true. We can change the way we think. If I can do it (okay, I’m a work in progress) you can do it too.

I think one aspect of loving our children includes doing whatever we can to ensure they grow up in a healthy environment, cultivate a strong curiosity about the world, and develop the desire and confidence to get out there and live. Excessive worry has no place or purpose in this plan.

So in my opinion, worry does not equal love. Worry just equals worry.

*While I used Moms in my examples, Dads can be worriers too!

 

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8 Responses to Does Worry Equal Love?

  1. grannyK says:

    I am the biggest worrier on earth.lol. But, yes, you can change the way you think if you really want to change. Good article!

  2. Ruby Tuesday says:

    This is an excellent post, Janet, and one I can relate to on so many levels.

    I come from a long line of “worriers” — my mom, her dad, his mom before — all intense (and pretty much aware and admitted) high-worry people. Which makes my alphabet soup of anxiety disorders kind of make sense.

    Except that when my girls were little, I was actually pretty comparatively relaxed. It wasn’t until bipolar burst into full bloom that worry became clinical. In four different disorders, yet, of which you know OCD is one.

    (Interestingly — to me, anyway — is I did have a history of having to check things like that the stove was turned off and the doors locked at night an exact number of times before I could sleep as a child. This behavior pretty much disappeared in my teen years, but when the bipolar symptoms crashed in on me in my 20s. . . I can’t actually say which anxiety symptoms/diagnoses came in what order. So much of what I dealt with lends itself to forgetfulness.)

    Now, in my middle 30s and doing pretty well mental health wise (compared with where I’ve been), I’ve adopted a kitten. While he (and the whole experience) is wonderful, and in the larger scheme I’m doing well with my concerns. . . I think I sometimes worry more about him than I did/do my children!

    And while I don’t believe you can ever completely hide anxiety from a child, you can talk to them as they reach new levels of understanding so that you can reduce the likelihood of you passing your worry along. The kitten seems to know I’m upset and worried even before I do, and since he’s only four months old, he goes tearing around, getting into things that only up my worry for him — he loves electrical cords!

    In any case, I think he and I together need to learn to deal with my concerns, not entirely unlike Mom #1 did in your example above.

    Thank you again for sharing. You highlight the very important point as well that all parents parent differently, and this is usually a positive!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Ruby, and it’s great to hear from you. I think we can learn so much from each other’s stories. I also had “OCD tendencies” as a child (https://ocdtalk.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/why-dont-i-have-ocd/), but never actually devloped the disorder. Who knows why?
      I particularly like your comment that while we can’t completely hide our anxiety from our children, we can talk to them about it in an age appropriate manner. Good advice!
      Glad you are doing well and I’m sending my best to you and your kitty :).

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