Many years ago, I had a summer job as a night nanny for newborn triplets. The parents hired me to help with night feedings so one of them could sleep! Two girls and a boy… these were this couple’s only children. I remember one morning, in the moments just as the sun was beginning to rise, the mom turned to me, a baby in each arm and one in her lap, and said:
“Now that I have my babies, I just wish we could all live in a bubble so that nothing and no one could ever hurt us or do us any harm.”
At the time I remember thinking that she sounded a little fearful and over-anxious. But I chalked it up to the sleep deprivation.
Why are moms afraid?
What I didn’t know at the time is that once you have a child, your heart becomes glass. All too easily breakable. When you watch the news, when you hear of a tragedy, it shatters you in a way it didn’t before. Suddenly every victim is potentially YOUR baby. And even when you remind yourself that it’s not your baby, that your baby is right here trying to get the remote control into his mouth, you still feel the ice cold fingers of fear wrap themselves around your heart.
I was unprepared for the fear that goes hand in hand with parenting. To love someone so fiercely is to risk the pain of loss. In becoming mothers, we face the uncomfortable truth that our sphere of control is comically small. A week ago, our family was nearly hit by a semi truck that ran a red light. My husband yelled, and I hit the brakes and yanked the steering wheel to veer our car out of the way. My husband and youngest son, both sitting on the passenger side, came very close to being seriously injured… or worse.
The consequences of our fear in motherhood
As a result of our fear, we can become paranoid and anxious parents. We never let our kids out of our sight. We hover over their play. We anticipate the obstacles in their path and remove them preemptively. This might set our hearts at ease, but the result is a generation of kids who have not learned to solve problems, think critically, or develop resiliency.
Our fear in motherhood leads us to strive to do everything “right” in an effort to control the outcome of our parenting. All the “mommy wars” about the right way to feed your baby, sleep train your baby, potty train your baby all boil down to Fear. We find other moms who do things our way as a way to validate our parenting decisions, because no one wants to do it wrong and ruin their child.
How to overcome fear in motherhood
What can we do to overcome our fear in motherhood? I wish I could offer you a five step program to banish fear from your life forever, but that’s not how life works. Instead, here is what we can do:
We can know the difference
Many of our fears we have no control over but some fears we do! If you’re afraid of getting sick you can be vigilant about hand washing and be cautious about food safety. You can take preventative measures like getting the flu shot. If you’re afraid for your baby’s physical safety, you can put up a baby gate, put covers on the stove dials, store kitchen cleaners on the top shelf.
We can identify rational vs. irrational fears
The key here is education. Sometimes we become afraid based on a story that popped up in our newsfeed, or because of something we saw in a TV show or on the news. I know several moms who are worried about their children getting trafficked or kidnapped. They stay close by at public playgrounds, keeping a watchful eye on their children at all times. The truth is that the mostly likely person who would kidnap your child is your ex-spouse!
So what are we left with? Our unpreventable, rational fears. And instead of living in constant paranoia:
We can go to God
It says in Hebrews 13: 5-6 that “He has said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can confidently say ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”
Jesus didn’t say that scary things wouldn’t happen. Living the Christian life is no guarantee that we will be spared tragedy. But he did say that he wouldn’t leave us or forsake us when they did!
We can remember God’s faithfulness throughout history
The Bible is full of stories about ordinary people who faced fearful situations with God by their side. The story of Esther, of Daniel in the lion’s den, of David and Goliath come to mind. We can be inspired by the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3 who were brave in the face of their fear and acknowledged that God may not choose to save them but even still would not bow down to a golden image (verse 17-18).
We can remember God’s faithfulness in our own lives
Take some time to reflect on your past fears. Did they come to pass? Did God abandon you if they did? Keep a mental or written list of examples from your own life of when God was with you in the midst of a scary situation.
We can trust God with the outcomes
Especially with the lives of our children: when we recognize that they are ultimately His, and with us for such a short time, it gives us the proper perspective. We are then free to do the best we can and release them into God’s hands, trusting that he will work it all out for the good of His kingdom, even the hard parts, even the tragedy, even when things don’t go the way we want them to.
May we not allow fear to define our journey of motherhood, instead, may we walk in faith, praying to God and trusting in Him for those situations over which we have no control!
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