overcoming parenthood paranoia

When I was pregnant, I used to joke about the fact that I’d be a clingy, overprotective mom. I had no idea. Before we had Allie, when we would go on trips, we’d ask friends to either stay at our house or visit every day to feed and give a little love to our cats. I would ask them to text me pictures of the kitties every time they visited. (Seriously.) It wasn’t that I didn’t trust our friends; it was that my heart needed assurance our kitties were okay without us. If I was THAT obsessive about our pets, you can imagine how it’s been since Allie was born.

In her nine months out of the womb, I’ve probably only left Allie alone for an extended period with someone else (including Ben) nine times. I constantly have horrible scenes circling through my mind of every possible bad thing that could happen to her. And there have still been a couple of times she’s gotten hurt in my care (like the MOST AWFUL DAY EVER at Disneyland when she was just two months old [note to self: NEVER take a small infant to Disney again], and I accidentally dropped her as I went to sit us down in the mother’s lounge. I think I cried for an hour; Allie maybe cried for five minutes). The fact that even I—who spends every waking second worrying about Allie—can still not completely protect her has made me almost completely unwilling to let other people watch her.

Many people give me a really hard time about this. Others are understanding or admit it was the same for them with their first kids. Either way, I totally recognize that I will have to eventually let go. The other day, I had just decided that it was time for a real date with Ben, meaning neither one of us could watch Allie, when I read this article in The Atlantic. While it’s mostly talking about older kids, the article basically says that kids need to be left alone to play and potentially get hurt in order to be successful, independent, functioning members of society. I totally get it. I totally agree. But then, I tell myself, WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS? This cycle repeats itself in my mind over and over, and I just end up staying with Allie all the time. But, for Allie’s benefit, I think it’s time I try to loosen my grip a bit.

So the plan is that I’ll just start with small chunks of time. That way, it works her and me up to longer stretches of time. Yesterday Ben went to REI while I worked, and Allie stayed with my mom (upstairs) for about an hour. Allie was totally fine! I think I just need time to get comfortable with the separation (oh, and Allie probably does, too). Maybe one day, I’ll even let Allie go to preschool without me! At least here’s to hoping.

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18 thoughts on “overcoming parenthood paranoia

  1. This is so interesting to me! Isn’t it “funny” (not haha funny) how Allie only cried for 5 minutes and you cried for an hour-I bet I would too. Well, as for being clingy, I’m worried about being TOO detached! I think back to growing up and my parents were very good parents. They DID give me lots of independence. Not babysitters or anything like that but just lots of ROOM. My husband is much more attached to our dog and I wonder if he’ll be like that with our kiddos? Probably. I just hope I end up being a good mom!

    • That’s very interesting! I’ve found that there are generally two categories of moms: the clingy ones (like me) and the ones who are eager to get back to work (post-baby), and I honestly don’t think you can pick! For me, I couldn’t imagine how I could love a baby SO much until I had Allie, then suddenly I was much less concerned about our cats (poor cats!) and completely obsessed with Allie. I can’t wait to hear about your transition to motherhood!!

  2. This week I went for a backpacking trip and left E with her grandparents. I cried when I gave her a good-bye hug and I just made myself leave the apartment. But it was so funny when I came home, the next day, she had this confused look on her face, and then a look of recognition, and then a look of “I want to cry!”. It was clearly a very emotional moment for her. It made me happy to see she’s just as attached to me as I am to her 🙂

    • You are braver than I am! Wow. An overnight trip without baby! My sister was in town recently and offered to watch Allie overnight while we stayed at her hotel, but I just couldn’t do it. I think I need to remember a *little* crying is good for our babies, because they HAVE to learn how to deal with situations they don’t like without falling apart. I’m generally able to do that with Allie while I’m home, but the thought of leaving her alone to cry is hard for me. Then again, I’ve never left her long enough to see how she would do! I’ll have to work up to overnight excursions, though. 🙂 You’re my inspiration.

  3. You know I’m the same way! I did find that things got a lot better for me around Luke’s first birthday, but that first year was rough. I think it also made it easier that he doesn’t really have an issue with separation anxiety, so I know that he isn’t crying in a corner the whole time I’m gone. I love the idea of slowly building up to more time away. Allie is so lucky to have you as her mama!

    • I take a lot of comfort in knowing I’m not alone here. Honestly, I haven’t given Allie much of a chance to see if she gets separation anxiety or not. She seems to be fine with Ben or my mom watching her, but I think it will probably take a couple of years before I let a random babysitter watch her. Wish I lived out there still so we could do swaps!

  4. Awe, I feel you! I was like this with my first FOREVER, even when I would leave her with my mom. I think it didn’t start to get better until she was about 18 months or so? We started small, little date nights for an hour or so, and eventually built it up to a night away (she stayed with my mom.) It’s tough letting other people have our kids, because that means we aren’t protecting them. I still worry that stuff will happen while they are at school, I’m pretty sure it’s a normal mom thing;) P.S. About hurting your kid, I let mine fall off her changing table at nine months old and she broke her arm. I was devastated and cried for days, she was over in within the hour. Kids!

    • This is very reassuring! Yes, I think we need to do the short date nights–like just dinner away–and build up to bigger trips. We’re still early in Allie’s life, but I agree that I don’t think I’ll ever stop worrying while I’m away from her. But barring any major life traumas, our babies will recover. I was dropped on my head when I was around Allie’s age and have no memory or scarring from it! Then again, maybe I would have been WAY more successful in life if I hadn’t been dropped. 😉

  5. She’s still so young, you’ll get used to it over time. For Reagan’s first year I was rarely away from her for more than a few hours (even at school) partially because she was nursing and wouldn’t take a bottle and partially because I just didn’t want anyone else to watch her. She just had her first sleepover a few weeks ago at almost three and people gave me such a hard time before that for not wanting her to have overnights. (I’ll only allow this with my parents for right now.) But that’s just what I was comfortable with and it’s not a big deal at all. You’ll get more comfortable with it soon enough, while she’s still this little she needs you most of all. Btw, we had a disaster day at the zoo when Reg was a few months old. It was the worst thing ever!

    • A sleepover! That’s huge! Great job. I think I remember reading about the zoo disaster in one of your posts–is that right? Yeah, those first few months as a new mom were SO hard. It’s still hard, but getting more manageable for sure. It feels really good to know other moms were/are the same way! Most of my family thinks I’m crazy overprotective. Maybe I am, but it doesn’t sound like I’m abnormal!

  6. Oh honey, I really, really feel for you. I’ve been plagued by this for the eighteen years that I’ve been a mom. I’d love to tell you it gets easier and in some ways it does. But that constant worry and paranoia is always there. I guess that comes from loving someone more than you could ever comprehend. You will eventually let go more. I just try to replace over-protectiveness with prayer. It works, most of the time. 🙂

    • Yeah, I have kind of figured I’ll never stop worrying. But at some point I will need to leave her with other people for longer periods of time and give her a little space. It’s just hard for me to do! I think I’m getting better, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still worry constantly!

  7. i struggle with the same thing! I have left her a good amount of times (i think at least) but only for under two hours. mostly because of nursing and naps (which i know other people need to put her down, but I have yet to have them try, except my husband). I keep thinking onces she’s older it will get easeir but I don’t know if it will! I don’t like being away from her, but know its good for both of us, so we’re taking baby steps here too!

  8. You are definitely not alone. We’ve never left K alone with anyone other than my mom and that was just for a few hours. The real test is going to be when I go to SNAP in a couple of weeks and leave him with my mom in KS for FOUR whole days. I’m kind of just pretending it’s not happening so I don’t have to think about it.

  9. We’ve discussed this before. I’m just totally A-Ok with leaving my kids. I don’t know if I mentioned that we left her with my aunt when she was 14 months to go to Singapore for 2 weeks! It was marvelous and we got pictures the whole time. We missed her but we wouldn’t have had a good time with her there. Besides, she learned to walk while we were gone (seriously, both kids, 14 months). That was GREAT!

    My son has separation anxiety about his sister, not about us. That was the worst part of him going to preschool, because he was so anxious about her. Once I told him that she would be waiting for him when he got off the bus every day he was much happier!

    • I would love to get to the point where I’m like you! I’m sure it does make a big difference having a sibling. Every time I think parenthood is too hard and consider just stopping, I remind myself kids can keep each other company! And soon your kiddos will have a new best friend!!

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