Her Bad Mother

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Who me? Worry?

So, in the comments to my last post, somebody took me to task for my hand-wringing. 'Where is your confidence? Guilt, inadequacy, overwhelming, deprive, missing... these are your words?' The fingers were practically wagging through the screen, and my immediate impulse was to phone my mother and chastise her for commenting anonymously.

But then I thought twice, and realized that my mother would never take me to task for my hand-wringing. Not because my hand-wringing doesn't exasperate her, but because she long ago reconciled herself to the fact that I am - in her words - a worrier.

And because she knows that she (with a little bit of help from the Catholic Church) made me what I am: a type-A, overfunctioning worrier who is driven by guilt and fear of disappointing significant others and persons of authority. I've been well-trained in the arts of worry and hand-wringing, having learned early on that my parents and others had Very High Expectations of me and that I should have Very High Expectations of myself and that there was - is - no more terrible fate than Disappointing anyone with such expectations (not least, myself). I have always been expected to Do Well, and so I have spent a lifetime endeavouring to make good on that expectation. And, of course, worrying that I might fail in that endeavour.

It's exhausting, sometimes, but it's what I do. I could no more stop worrying than I could stop breathing. (OK. I could stop myself from breathing, but then my face would go red and I would eventually lose consciousness. Which is probably pretty much what would happen if I stopped worrying.)

Which means that this blog is often more a chronicle of my angst as a new mother (and as a wife, an academic, a feminist, etc., etc.) than it is a diary of my days with the WonderBaby. And that's fine with me. When I'm not strutting my worries upon the (virtual) page, I'm reflecting and working out ideas and figuring out my - our - story as I go. Being able to reflect upon my worrying here, with you, goes a long way toward keeping it from interfering with my day-to-day life. And as I have said many a time, you all play such an important part in this exercise, wherein I figure out, in words, how to be a good mother - or, more to the point, how to be completely comfortable being the best kind of bad mother.

So thank you. Thank you so much.

It'd be pretty lonely, otherwise.

(Seriously, people. Your comments on my post about not being able to write about Tanner actually helped me to SLEEP last week. And the many, many supportive comments and helpful stories that you shared in response to my last post, on being ambivalent about whether to have more than one child... I can't even tell you what a tremendous, tremendous difference that it all made to my state of mind. It made me less intimidated by own expectations of myself as a mother. It made me think, for a few moments here and there and now, that I'll be fine, regardless of the number of children that we have. That's huge. HUGE.

I love you.)


Blogger motherbumper said...

and we love you too. I can't count the number of times you've helped me think clearly, more open-mindedly (is that a word?) and of course helped me sleep (face first in my dictionary from exhaustion - KIDDING!).

Bumper sends a big alien face hug and head bites.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I think if you didn't worry it would mean you weren't doing a good job. Really.
When I took psychology class (this was not my major thank God!) I started to worry that I was completely crazy. So I spoke to my psychology professor about this. She told me that it is the "crazy" people out there who don't worry about themselves, and the sane ones who do. So she basically reassured me that being a little concerned about my mental health is what keeps me in check.
I think the same thing applies to motherhood.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah. The benefits of blogging. Certainly outweigh the shit you have to put up with.

At least, I like to think so.

Glad to hear things are on the up and up.

6:02 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

And we love your blognicle (blog/chronicle) of angst. I am so happy to hear you got some sleep. Hope I get some tonight.
Is she shooting for the Raptors or another team?

6:18 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

Far better to do the worrying here than stay awake at night! We're here for you--we love you back.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think blogging is a good outlet for the feelings of inadequacy, guilt and uncertainty! If we can't be honest and blog our feelings, than what good is a blog?

8:20 PM  
Blogger cinnamon gurl said...

I am also a hardcore worrier, though not so much about disappointing others as about avoiding bad things and discomfort. I try a number of things to keep it under control but I also remember that some amount of worry keeps us safe and makes us mindful of what's important. So a bit of handwringing is a good thing in my opinion.

And it's nice to know that someone as intelligent and successful and articulate as you feel angst as a mother too. So thanks.

And it seems to me that there are always pluses and minuses, especially when planning (as much as you can ever really plan) your family. Pluses and minuses for having children when you're younger or older, pluses and minuses to having more or fewer children.

9:29 PM  
Blogger j.sterling said...

but you love ME the most right? i knew it. lol

9:51 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

My girl over at Bub and Pie opened my mental chakras, maaannnn...did you see her bit about Defensive Pessimism?

Check out Julie Norem, her theory about defensive pessimism and how USEFUL it is, especially in her book The Positive Power of Negative Thinking.

You'll never worry---well okay badly put---you'll never concern yourself about worrying and angsting and thinking again. ;)

In all seriousness, that was a HUGE whooooaaaa moment for me...that theory.

Everyone asks us to poot sunshine and roses all the time as if that is the *right* way to be.

There is a positive power to negative thinking though!

I know I do much better when I think through all the Possibilities. And most of all I am cool that sometimes my tongue drips toads instead of sparkly rare jewels. I know it doesn't make me the wicked sister, just the one prepared for a rainy day. It wouldn't take me months to figure out what to do trapped with a Beast, I can tell you that. (I seriously hope I am not mixing my fairy tales...I think that would be worse than mixing metaphors...which I am also notorious for).

Anyway...obviously...big fan here...so no worries...keep it all up...love it!

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even my comment was helpful? You know, the one that basically said- "Don't Worry"


Oh well, I didn't promise to be helpful, but I can bear witness quite well.

10:16 PM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

right back at ya babe.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

And thanks for the community you build.

I had a tough conversation today that made me feel that I might not need to write for the Basement after all. But knowing it was there made all the difference.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

Personally I feel that as long as you do not bring all this worry out on your daughter than you should be able to obsess and worry as much as you want on this blog, after all it is your blog.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Kate said...


That there is the hallmark of a professional: succeeding in making you feel guilty for feeling guilty. Amazing.

Honestly, it's the self-confident and upbeat parents that scare me the most. Because what drugs are they taking, that allow them to ignore all the uncertainties and screw-ups???

11:31 PM  
Blogger Cristina said...

Hey, it's your blog. You can be hand-wringy all you want! :)

Re. the question you posed on your last post, my husband and I always knew we wanted more than one child so making the decision to have B#2 wasn't hard. The question was WHEN we would start trying. We decided to start trying about 3 months ago, when Little Guy was 13 months old. We're still trying and hoping to get pregnant soon. Part of the reason I'm trying so soon is for practical reasons. I work PT right now and don't want to be PT forever and I have some health issues that make it important for me to try sooner than later. And last but not least, I can't wait for Little Guy to have a sibling to play with.

Everyone has different factors that play into these decisions. Good luck making the decision that's right for you. My advice would be to listen to what your gut and your heart tell you and you'll be just fine.

2:05 AM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

Ah, yes. The Very High Expectations of your family to Do Well. Sadly, 'Do Well' was never actually defined by my family, and they didn't actually help prepare to do it; just put on the pressure to do it.

The fact that you recognize how this has made you feel about and approach life is a gift I think. You probably will be a little more chilled with WonderBaby so she doesn't take it to such lengths as you do. As we do. As many of us do.

I want that to be one of the gifts I give my son: the gift to just 'be' and be happy, no matter what he does.

I hope this makes sense.

Sleep is good. ;-)

3:42 AM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

Have you ever read anything by Martha Beck? She writes for O magazine now, and she's also written a few books. She was a driven, Harvard-educated overachiever whose life took an unexpected - yet pleasantly life-changing - turn. Something about you reminds me of her. (and I think she's great)

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have often witnessed that the best mothers are those that worry. There would be no checks and balances without a worry here and there.

Glad you could get some sleep :D

10:29 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

it's truly amazing what having a child does to us...

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When it comes to thinking about parenting, I think blogs are better than almost any other outlet (including discussions with friends, therapists or relatives.) It's like we're all in group together and can bounce off both the good AND the bad. The community is completely awesome.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

I think you've got to ignore the one blogtard or "take you to task'er" or whoever the fuck it was and look at the other 89 supportive, awesome people here. Which is exactly what you seem to be doing. Huzzah for that.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a worrier myself, so I totally get where you're coming from. And it's YOUR blog, so you can worry here if you want to. Besides, even Anonymous has bad moments and worries, and if they don't, they are a cybernetic organism and we should be looking for the microchip to destroy.

P.S. I love the WonderBaby pics.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I'm a worrier too. I think it's common for moms who are worriers to overthink everything. I can't stand what that one person said to you in your last comments. Really, if you never have another child, WB will be fine and happy and know she is loved. And if you do have another child, no matter when it is, WB and WB2 will be happy and know they are loved and had a mommy who cared enough to tlak about them all the time.

Love the pic by the way.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

this place makes ALL of us less anxious about our expectations as a mother...just knowing you are all out there trying the same things as i am, stumbling sometimes, joyous others...it makes it all the more OK. So, thank you.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are who we are. Learning to embrace the things that make us uniquely "us" is probably the hardest thing for a human being to learn. I'm still trying...really hard...to do so myself.

Worrier, hand-wringer, smart lady, sassy beyotch,feminist, hot mama...you're perfect just as you are :)

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Angst. I feel your pain.

Not that I'm pushing drugs on you or anything but about a year ago I got on a low-dose of anti-anxiety meds and it's made a world of difference.

I still worry that I'm a bad mom...but I don't obsess over it anymore.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

The 'don't worry's' were key to my mental well-being. Sometimes a girl just needs someone to whisper, shhh, it's gonna be okay, nuthin to worry about, shhhhh...

10:50 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

We all worry. Well, I worry all the time -- if it's any consolation. It's great that we're getting all this out in the open for other mother-worriers (if "mother" and "worrier" are not already synonymous...) to see and relate to.

I'm so glad that we were able to support you in your time of need last week. We love you, too.... You are such an inspiration. :)

11:50 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

I too was born with that worry gene.

Thank you Catherine for sharing your worries with us so honestly. It makes us feel less alone and I think alot of people find great comfort in your stories and love you right back.

4:08 PM  

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