During the past few years I’ve noticed just how much of my wife’s mind is permanently connected to our son, perpetually preoccupied about how to ensure he gets the best of everything. I think at least a third of her brainpower is dedicated to ensuring his well-being and addressing all possible (and impossible) threats.
It’s not that I don’t try to do the same, but most partners have it so much easier than mothers, not only because of family roles (let’s admit it, they exist even in the most egalitarian of societies) but also because of the “chemical advantage” of not having given birth. The male (or not-mother) body is instinctually less preoccupied with taking care of offspring.
But the mother’s incessant worrying might end up impacting brain health. Even worse, through body-language, it transmits some of this worry to the child and other family members. I’ve come across two interesting articles that highlight these aspects. Here’s some useful knowledge to integrate:
“Witnessing a parent in a state of anxiety can be more than just momentarily unsettling for children. Kids look to their parents for information about how to interpret ambiguous situations; if a parent seems consistently anxious and fearful, the child will determine that a variety of scenarios are unsafe. And there is evidence that children of anxious parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety themselves, a probable combination of genetic risk factors and learned behaviors.
It can be painful to think that, despite your best intentions, you may find yourself transmitting your own stress to your child. But if you are dealing with anxiety and start to notice your child exhibiting anxious behaviors, the first important thing is not to get bogged down by guilt. “There’s no need to punish yourself,” says Dr. Jamie Howard, director of the Stress and Resilience Program at the Child Mind Institute. “It feels really bad to have anxiety, and it’s not easy to turn off.”
“Like many devoted moms, perhaps you have told yourself that your worrying is simply the price you must pay to be the kind and caring person that you truly are. This is a very popular assumption. Many well-meaning, dedicated, human beings spend a lifetime of worry, never challenging this commonplace assumption, and never realizing the toll it has taken on their own happiness and on the happiness of other family members.”