How to Face Your Secret Parenting Fears

How to Face Your Secret Parenting Fears

Every mom has secret parenting fears. We asked a pro how to handle them.

By Maria Mora

Every mom harbors a host of fears for the health and safety of her kids. These fears are often completely normal, but for some moms, they’re a sign of an underlying disorder that may require a medical professional’s guidance. How can moms tell the difference between regular parenting fears and red flags that indicate a bigger problem?

Stacey Glaesmann, a family counselor from Texas, says that most everyday parenting fears are normal. This is particularly true if the fears involve issues that commonly affect kids. If the fear is unrealistic, and Mom really struggles to dismiss the fear, that could be a sign of a greater issue.

Glaesmann treats moms who have postpartum anxiety disorders, including moms who suffer from intrusive fears associated with OCD. “When I work with OCD patients, I tell them I'll reassure them twice, and that's it,” says Glaesmann. “Then once. Then, not at all. It's up to them to sit with the anxiety while I help them breathe until their distress goes down, and they realize they are OK.”

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What do most moms worry about? I asked around, and the variety of responses was shocking. “My fear is that my son will become one of those kids in high school who commits suicide,” says Fadra N. from Maryland. “I'm terrified of that.”

Some fears lead to superstitious rituals. “I have to say ‘goodnight’ and ‘I love you’ to my boys every night,” says Tamara B. from Arizona. If she gets home after they’ve gone to bed, she says it to them while they’re sleeping. Like many moms I spoke to, she was hesitant to even voice her fears out of superstition.

Some of the more unusual fears moms shared included crushed toes, kidnapping by a predator, and choking on marshmallows. A surprising number of moms shared a fear of being trapped in a submerged vehicle. One mom worried specifically about being stuck on a sinking cruise ship with her children.

“Voicing the fears can help or hurt, depending on the person and the diagnosis,” explains Glaesmann.


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While fear itself appeared to be universal, every mother I talked to had her own brand of worry. But, according to Glaesmann, as long as these fears are occasional, and don’t disrupt your everyday life, they’re nothing to be concerned about.

If you’re worried about something you saw in the news, like a kidnapping, or an unlikely illness, look up statistics. See exactly how uncommon those occurrences are. If you're worried about common occurrences, such as minor illness or struggles in school, work through possible outcomes. In most cases, the worst-case scenario is still extremely unlikely. And if you’re worried that your child might grow up to be unhappy or unsuccessful, remind yourself that you’re a good parent trying as hard as you can.

For most women, the biggest key to coping with parenting fears is to accept that most of these things are not in our control. “That's a hard thing to accept, but there's nothing to be done to prevent a freak accident,” says Glaesmann. Once you accept that the distressing situations you fear as a parent are both unlikely and out of your control, you may find it easier to release them entirely. Instead, you can worry about more concrete things -- like college admission and dating. Yikes!

What are your biggest parenting fears?

Maria Mora is a single mom, editor, and hockey fanatic. She lives with her two sons in Florida.

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