being a mom

I’m The Paranoid Parent I Never Thought I Would Be

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mariaI’m the paranoid parent I never thought I would be.

Before I had kids, I had this idea of the kind of parent I would be.  It mostly involved a woman I have never met before – cool mom Maria. Cool mom Maria would have an innate understanding of what her children needed at all times. Cool mom Maria would say things like, they do it when they’re ready and kids will be kids! Cool mom Maria would laugh and shake her head when her children faltered. She would observe her children from a far at the park. She would appear to be almost totally unaffected by the constant energy it takes to keep a human alive.

Cool mom Maria does not exist.

Totally-freaked-out-mom Maria does, though – and she is a total pain in the ass. Not to mention the fact that she is destroying all the fantasies I’d always had about the type of mother I would be.

I should have guessed there would be some paranoia involved in my parenting; weird things freak me out. I have a totally unnatural fear of people choking. Not just my child, the whole world and all of the adults in it, too. I’ve never personally had a hard time getting a piece of meat down my gullet without blocking my airway – but for some reason I think this is super hard for the rest of humanity. I’ve taken CPR classes and imagined how I would handle giving a large adult the Heimlich. I look at my husband apprehensively when he takes a huge bite of his steak. Is this a thing? Is it an actual phobia? A quick glance at the Google machine says, no. There is no actual word for this – only for the fear of you yourself choking on something (which is anginophobia).

I should have guessed this would by magnified 1000% when I had a child. I cut my toddler’s food in such small pieces I swear he looks at me with this bubble over his head that reads, what in the hell are you doing, woman? How many bites do you think I need to take to get through this hot dog? Now that I have an infant and a toddler, the fear of my toddler choking on something has been somewhat upstaged by the fear that he is going to shove something in my infant’s mouth. Seriously, what is wrong with me?

Then there’s the child-proofing. I fully believe in it (shocker!) because it just eases my mind. I don’t want to follow my toddler around wherever he goes in this house. But my sister’s house – where we spend a lot of our time – is not child-proofed at all.

My mother is staying there as well, and she is on a lot of medication. Did you know that over one-third of medication poisonings in children involve a grandparent’s medicine? I did. I sweep the house every time I bring my kids over there. I bought them a TV secure strap for their giant flat screen in the living area before we even moved to this state, but there’s a TV in the guest room that is on an old wobbly entertainment center that I am certain is going to collapse on my child. As if that didn’t make me paranoid enough, they have two of those folding bookcases – one stacked on top of the other and not secured to the wall in any way. Help.

I bought some child-proof catches for a few drawers in my sister’s kitchen. One is literally filled to the brim with knives and the other is full of batteries and screws. She didn’t want to put holes in her drawers – so I just have to follow the kid whenever he wanders in there, which is often. Oh- and under her kitchen sink there’s about 15 bottles of poison. Most normal people refer to this as “cleaning products.”

All the pull-strings on my window blinds have been cut and every item made of glass is on a high shelf. I’ve rigged all the doors in the house so we could never be locked out of a room. I barricade my toddler into his bedroom at night with one of those baby gates because I am convinced he would take a midnight stroll if it wasn’t there. Did I mention that all of these precautions seem totally normal to me? I may sound like a crazy person, but they are the only things that keep me sane.

I should not source parenting news for a living – I think this is magnifying the problem. Daily, I read about awful, freak-accidents. I’m like that guy on Double Dare. Remember that Nickelodeon show from the 90’s with all the pie’s in the face and slime and crap? The host of that show had OCD. He was beyond horrified whenever someone rolled around in slime or shoved a pie in his face. That’s basically me.

Maybe cool mom Maria will make an appearance when my kids are teenagers.

Yeah. Not likely.

(Image: Getty Images)

58 Comments

  1. Bethany Ramos

    October 30, 2013 at 11:20 am

    You seriously took the words right out of my mouth. I was under some kind of misconception that I would be cool too, and I’m definitely not. :/ I think all of this BS started in pregnancy when I read all of this craziness about SIDS. I know precautions need to be taken, but why, why, are you telling new, scared parents about all of the random ways that their kids could drop dead?????

    So, I try really hard to stay in the normal zone, but I can identify with the crazy. I read one random article about toddlers drowning in toilets, and now I’m really paranoid about that. If anyone wants to blow the likelihood of this crazy fear out of the water, it would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

    • BigBlue

      October 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      I’m right there with you. SIDS was my number one worst fear for the first year of my son’s life. Because basically what they’re telling you is YOUR BABY CAN DIE FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON AT ALL. Is there anything scarier than that?

    • Maria Guido

      October 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      No. There isn’t. Parenting is horrifying.

    • Amanda Rene Slinger

      October 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      I have a one month old, my first. I also used to be a mortician and worked for a medical examiner. Every dead child I ever saw is haunting my fucking life so hard right now. It’s so hard to relax and not worry when so much of my life was spent dealing with the worst day of other peoples lives.

  2. Ptownsteveschick

    October 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    My paranoia was at an all time high in the first few months of my daughter’s life, and I have since relaxed. Maybe give yourself a little more time to mellow after the new baby before feeling doomed forever.

  3. Tiffany

    October 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I’m you. The child proofing, the cutting of the food, the Angel Care monitor so I know if my kid stops breathing. Then, this past January, my then 2.5 year old son accidentally slammed a door (we had a window open, so the door closed harder than it normally would), without knowing that my 11 month old daughter’s finger was in the hinge part of the door. She lost 1/3 of her pinky finger. Apparently, this is a thing…the losing appendages in doors…a thing I had no idea about. So now I’m afraid of doors, too.

    • noelle 02

      October 30, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      I am so sorry, yet so glad this is the first I heard of such a thing.

    • Emil

      October 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      My heart goes out to your little girl (and you). I’ve heard of a lot of kids getting injured in doors. In fact I almost did this to my cousin when I was young (he temporarily lost his nail). I’ve always worried about this with my own kids because to my knowledge there is no way to prevent this with childproofing.

    • Emil

      October 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      My heart goes out to your little girl (and you). I’ve heard of a lot of kids getting injured in doors. In fact I almost did this to my cousin when I was young (he temporarily lost his nail). I’ve always worried about this with my own kids because to my knowledge there is no way to prevent this with childproofing.

  4. Blueathena623

    October 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    The only thing I’m really paranoid about is stepping in yellow jacket nests. I don’t want the kid to be stung, and I’m not 100% sure my mommy protective instincts would kick in before my fight or flight, and I’d feel awful if I left him.

    • Deb

      October 31, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      Honestly, the chances of your child stepping into a yellow jacket nest is very slim. More likely, he/she would hear or see the yellow jackets and hightail it out of there before he was in danger of falling into the nest.

    • Blueathena623

      November 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      We have nests pop up in our yard all the time, and he’s not even 2, so it is a possibility. We’ve had a few scares where the dogs get into the nests and then run for us, trailing yellow jackets. *shudder*

  5. NicknamesAreDull

    October 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I don’t know if this is something you’ve done, or it will help but, I’ve found it helps with me.

    When I feel like I have a worry creep up, I counter the worry with positive facts.

    So, for example; my daughter is going to a sleepover Friday. I’m afraid she’ll be scared, or won’t have fun. When I think that, I remind myself that the girl she’s spending the night with is her best friend, and they always have fun together. Her (the girl’s) parents are close with me, so I trust them, and I know she is 3 houses down.

  6. Jen

    October 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    It gets worse! 🙂 I too am a worrywart, and now my daughter is driving. DRIVING! I make her text me when she arrives at her destination and when she is heading back home. While waiting for the text messages, I am calculating how far she should eb and how long it should take her to get where she is headed. Heaven forbid she be late, because then my crazy mom-brain goes into instant “OMG HORRIBLE ACCIDENT!” territory. I am trying to work on it, I really am!

    • Emil

      October 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      See, this is what scares me. I make myself miserable with anxiety and my kids are under the age of five. I still have a lot of control over their everyday life. What am I going to do 15 years from now?

    • The Great Queen Spider

      October 31, 2013 at 3:02 am

      I think the best thing here is to make sure she’s driving a safe car. Unfortunately accidents do occur and driving is a risk, but for me knowing I’m in a tip top safe car makes me slightly less worried.

    • BBJim's Mam

      October 31, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Is it messed up that I did the same thing when my husband was walking home from work late at night? Seriously for like two years he had check points that he had to text me from.

  7. JLH1986

    October 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    We are TTC and I’m convinced should we ever actually conceive: 1-I will die in childbirth leaving my hubby and baby alone 2-I will die after childbirth 3-SIDS. I’m worried my dogs will get out and get lost or that they are cold at night (in our perfectly temperature controlled home) about my DOGS, I can’t even imagine how crazy I’ll be with a tiny human. So I already talked to my dr about anti anxiety meds and have a therapist on standby.

    • jmuns79

      October 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Oh GAWD. SIDS. Freaking SIDS. I have a four month old. I have one of those breathing monitors and a video monitor. I’m still convinced he’s going to up and stop breathing. Especially now that he’s decided he likes sleeping on his side. HALP.

    • jmuns79

      October 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Oh GAWD. SIDS. Freaking SIDS. I have a four month old. I have one of those breathing monitors and a video monitor. I’m still convinced he’s going to up and stop breathing. Especially now that he’s decided he likes sleeping on his side. HALP.

    • geckomommy

      October 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      We have a cosleeper attached to our bed and I’m constantly checking to make sure my two month old daughter is breathing. And I never thought I’d be one of those moms, either. Ugh.

    • JLH1986

      October 31, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Like being a parent isn’t scary enough? Ugh. I will absolutely need to be medicated.

    • noelle 02

      October 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Yeah, I spent my entire first pregnancy convinced my child would be born dead. As in, I was an emotional wreck during delivery because I was sure as soon as my perfectly healthy unborn baby exited my body, he would be dead. My only words for the first hour after his birth were, “It’s a baby! It’s a baby!” I meant an alive baby, but I expect my midwife and medical staff thought I was expecting a dog or something! Good luck!

    • ElleJai

      October 31, 2013 at 1:02 am

      It’s ok, my first words after giving birth were “it’s a baby!” too. Although in my case I’m not sure what else I was expecting, a litter of kittens?!

    • noelle 02

      October 31, 2013 at 8:49 am

      It’s not just me, hmm? Yeah!

    • Maria Guido

      October 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      Oh – I was so completely convinced that my repeat c-section was going to kill me that I had a panic attack before we went to the hospital.

    • JLH1986

      October 31, 2013 at 9:54 am

      If I think too much about it now I talk myself out of having a baby. You’d think working in the mental health field I could use CBT and rationalize? NOPE. In my brain EVERYBODY DIES! Ugh. I might need some Xanax now…

    • Larkin

      October 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      Oh my God I completely sympathize. I have actually moments of terror imagining the ways I or my future baby could die while pregnant or in labor. I also routinely freak out that our pets have died while I’m gone if they aren’t instantly in my eye line when I step through the door.

      I’m slowly realizing that my dreams of being the cool, laid back mom may be in vain.

  8. Dusty

    October 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Cool Dusty cringes every time she sees a mom slather her kid in hand sanitizer, so she will let her kid eat dirt and crawl on the floor of public restrooms because she believes in the Power of Immunity! Does this mean I should be adding gallon tubs of the stuff to my baby register?

  9. noelle 02

    October 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    My fears of SIDS are so strong that I still check on all three of my kids to make certain they are breathing in the middle of the night. They are currently 10, 8, and 4. Not crazy at all, right?

    • Bethany Ramos

      October 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      That makes me feel a lot better. Damn you, SIDS campaign!

    • Maria Guido

      October 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      That will be me, for sure.

    • Beebop

      October 30, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Oh man, I was feeling all high and mighty ‘ha, I won’t stress about any of these things’, then I read your comment. I will definitely be that mum when I have kids. I am extra sensitive because my mum lost her first child to SIDS. I already check on pets to make sure they are still breathing and if my sheep haven’t moved in a while I have to go out and check. I seem to recall a lot of double-checking when I used to babysit too. I’m doomed.

    • Aussiemum

      October 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      This is so me too! I’ve got 4 aged from 16 down to 6. I can’t help it, hubby thinks I’m nuts , but the cat checks on them as well, so we both can’t be wrong!

    • Aussiemum

      October 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      This is so me too! I’ve got 4 aged from 16 down to 6. I can’t help it, hubby thinks I’m nuts , but the cat checks on them as well, so we both can’t be wrong!

  10. Fran Farmington

    October 30, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I remember one time when I was changing my son’s dirty diaper. Right there in the middle of his stool was a Monopoly gamepiece, the Scotty dog! Isn’t that weird?

    • Maria Guido

      October 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      hahaha!

    • BBJim's Mam

      October 31, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Buried treasure! (can’t stop giggling)

    • BBJim's Mam

      October 31, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Buried treasure! (can’t stop giggling)

  11. SA

    October 30, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I am a little hypochondria-y and anxious, but I NEVER dreamed to the extent I would be after having my kid. The choking part of this had me silent laughing at my desk!! My girl chokes SO easy and although she has learned to chew now, she is having a harder time picking up the miniscule bites I give her as her fingers are getting bigger, I just can’t give her big bites! Every time she coughs I flip out and have a panic attack…and she is a toddler, she coughs a lot and chokes on drool all the time.

    Firm believer in child-proofing. She can, within 30 seconds of entering a room, find the ONLY outlet not covered and be clawing at it trying to see if her fingers will fit. I once caught her trying to pull out an outlet cover with her teeth. WTF!! She is now tall enough to reach the knife drawer and we haven’t found a good child-proofing mechanism for that – don’t know what to do!!

    Oh….AAAAAAND….this morning…I found amongst her toys a pack of SILICA GEL….SILICA GEL!!!!!!!! I have been extra paranoid about ditching those immediately since we got our cat years ago, so I have no idea how it would have even materialized in our house, much less in her things.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pull off cool-mom status.

    • 4under4

      October 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Put the knives on top of the fridge!

    • Maria Guido

      October 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      silica gel packs send me over the edge.

  12. 4under4

    October 30, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Excellent I think I am cool Mom Maria! Although a firm believer in childproofing. I have just started putting my breakables out and my youngest will be four in December. It has been a long time. Idea on the sister’s house, if the drawers come all the way out put them on top of the fridge. That is where I keep my knife block and I have never had to worry about the kids getting it.

  13. Véronique Houde

    October 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Haha imagine having a boyfriend who layers the blankets in the crib, buries her in toys while she’s asleep… And does a whole lot a crazy stuff when taking care of her. A year later I have yet to get the blanket thing under control…

  14. Véronique Houde

    October 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Haha imagine having a boyfriend who layers the blankets in the crib, buries her in toys while she’s asleep… And does a whole lot a crazy stuff when taking care of her. A year later I have yet to get the blanket thing under control…

  15. ktbay

    October 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one with the weird choking phobia. It’s constantly on my mind, and I am always waiting for my husband (who has a very liberal idea of what “bite sized” means) to choke. And my dog, and my cat. And I’m sure my poor unborn baby too.

  16. Katie L.

    October 30, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    I constantly worry about people choking too! Anytime someone coughs while eating I’m instantly “Are you okay? Do you need help? I am trained in first aid!” I think it stems from me having to give myself a Heimlich when I was in fifth grade and I choked on a grape sour ball at recess.

    Needless to say, I cut my daughter’s food into impossibly small bites and watch her like a hawk. Nervous moms FTW!

  17. C.J.

    October 31, 2013 at 12:44 am

    I didn’t worry about choking or anything like that when my kids were small. Didn’t do much childproofing either, just baby gates on the stairs and put the knives up. I wanted the kids to learn what not to touch at home so when we were out I wouldn’t have to worry so much. My big thing was SIDS. My sister and I had babies on the same day when I had my oldest. Her son died in his sleep at 2 days old. I wasn’t planning on having baby sleep in my room. She was going in her crib, or so I thought. The first night we were home I put her in her crib and proceeded to check on her every 5 minutes, literally. I did not sleep. The next day a bassinet went up in my room with an angel care monitor. It was better after that. Poor kid slept in that bassinet until she just wouldn’t fit any more. I relaxed a bit with my second but not much. I at least put her in her crib before her head and feet were touching the ends.

  18. ElleJai

    October 31, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Hm. This must make me the slacker parent, because my son eats sand, dirt and dog poo (before I found out it was on the hands he was sticking into his mouth and washed it, gross), gets to climb things and fall off if he doesn’t listen to warnings (he’s fallen off our back deck twice this week in different spots, so at least he learned they’re dangerous), who thinks choking is going to happen at some point so I help get it out then watch him go back for more with a wry shake of my head.

    I mean, I took all the usual precautions: poisons and knives locked up, breakables out of reach, cords reasonably hidden and most outlets childproofed, but I don’t panic. I’ve taught him to keep his fingers out of doors and drawers and not to touch the heater or oven, to climb off things feet first, and I prefer not climbing on chairs, but I’m pretty much Cool Elle.

    You want a panicker though, try my mum. She’s convinced everything will kill, maim and/or brain damage him. She needs more comforting than my toddler whenever he takes a tumble!

    As for SIDS, I took precautions, checked a few times when he was little to make sure he was breathing (about 3, from memory), assumed it was all in the hands of the God/dess and carried on. (Mum checked repeatedly).

    I think I had to be calm because Mum does enough worrying for everyone and I want my baby’s childhood to be more adventurous and independent than mine was allowed to be. To this day if we’re out when mum gets home she assumes we’re dead or at the hospital dying. I just assume that it’s awesome to have a house to myself 😉

  19. Mary

    October 31, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I stared a boy down just yesterday for the simple fact he asked my daughter her last name. Sounds harmless, right? In my paranoid mom head, he had motives for something evil. I just can’t figure it out yet.
    Parenting has turned me into a crazy person.

  20. h

    November 1, 2013 at 4:34 am

    This will probably be me when I have kids. When I look forward to parenting, I sometimes see all the overprotection as ridiculous… kids will get boo boos, etc, and as long as I take the basic precautions and make sure nothing serious happens, I want my future kids to be kids. I got hurt as a kid, I got disappointed, I had setbacks, but I wasn’t permanently scarred, I don’t hate my parents, all is good.

    And yet…. I know I have sensitive sinuses (get painful every time I get a cold or allergies, ears don’t pop when a plane lands which hurts like hell and makes me want to hit the next person who tells me to try chewing gum), and yet I still get convinced that I have a brain tumor every time the pain lingers. And then I hear the rare stories of something that WAS serious and brushed off, and I’m a mess. Total hypochondriac. I can only imagine what that would be like transferred to kids. But then I worry that I’ll be too overprotective and continue the cycle of anxiety. It’s a vicious trap!

    And don’t even get me started on my labor/delivery fears… nothing to do with the pain, because I know that can usually be managed as I choose, and even if it can’t, it will eventually be over. but the fear of my child and/or myself not making it? Huge.

  21. Kelby Johnson

    November 2, 2013 at 12:45 am

    I like to think I’m the cool mom… except I tend to spoil my kids relentlessly. Not with material things, but with treating them younger than they are. I still brush my 6 year old’s teeth, and I still wipe her butt after she poops. I know she’s old enough to do both of these things, she’s just my last baby and I am trying to hold onto that for as long as she will let me!

  22. Kelby Johnson

    November 2, 2013 at 12:45 am

    I like to think I’m the cool mom… except I tend to spoil my kids relentlessly. Not with material things, but with treating them younger than they are. I still brush my 6 year old’s teeth, and I still wipe her butt after she poops. I know she’s old enough to do both of these things, she’s just my last baby and I am trying to hold onto that for as long as she will let me!

  23. Kelby Johnson

    November 2, 2013 at 12:45 am

    I like to think I’m the cool mom… except I tend to spoil my kids relentlessly. Not with material things, but with treating them younger than they are. I still brush my 6 year old’s teeth, and I still wipe her butt after she poops. I know she’s old enough to do both of these things, she’s just my last baby and I am trying to hold onto that for as long as she will let me!

  24. Jezebeelzebub

    November 21, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I, for one, am really glad you have a Choking Plan. On the off chance I ever somehow end up near you and start to choke to death, I’m thanking you in advance for saving me. My daughter is 10. Now that she is a little more able to fend for herself (I don’t worry about her suffocating under her stuffed animals anymore) I have put aside all the worry about SIDS and horrible baby disease/sickness/death. Now what I worry about is that someone will steal her. I don’t even like to let her go into the yard by herself. I also worry about her nutrition, her friends and the psychological impact they have on her, if she is warm enough at school, if she is TOO warm at school, her education, her moral compass, and what would happen if she broke her glasses- I am extremely worried that a piece of glass will go into one o both of her eyes. I worry about her skin (is it dry? is it so dry it is making her itch? Is she scratching? If she’s scratching are her nails too long? Will she break the skin? the best defense against infection is intact skin, you know.) Is she washing her hands after she goes to the bathroom? Is she wiping front-to-back like I told her? What if she gets a UTI and doesn’t realize it? How long will she have it before she mentions it to me? Will her urethra be scarred? Yeah. All day, every day.
    So I have entered into an agreement with myself wherein I am only allowed to outwardly freak out about 2 things per day. That works for me. I have to conserve my freakouts, see, because I can only indulge 2 of them. If I waste them early in the day then I have to wait until the next day to address the really important stuff. I figure this way it gives my poor kid a break and also it makes me really think about what I’m freaking out over. Sometimes I want to freak out about her glasses, but I don’t because probably she isn’t going to break them and I would hate to use up a good freak out about that when I could be freaking out about something better, like wiping. FRONT TO BACK, ALWAYS FRONT TO BACK.

    I would like to mention that my daughter is the only aspect of my life that I freak out about. I will eat nothing but stale hotdog buns for three days and dig at my mosquito bites until they bleed because I’ll be fine. I wear glasses too, but I never worry that glass will go into my eye. If I am too warm or not warm enough, I figure when I get home I can get comfy. But for some reason my daughter is much more fragile than I am and is at Death’s door all the time. Go figure.

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