How much “worry” is normal??

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    Just wondering if anyone else questions their sanity at times. My children are 5 1/2, 4 and 2 and I find I alternate between days of feeling like I can do anything and my kids are just fine, and days when I just can’t seem to move forward because I am frozen with worry about “what if…”

    You know the what ifs…. What if I am busy at medschool and something bad happens to one of my children? Will I ever be able to forgive myself, will I blame my husband for letting it happen? What if I ruin my marriage just because I want to pursue this dream? He is supportive now, but will he feel the same way when I am in residency and he has the strain of holding down the fort all alone for lengths of time? What if I am a terrible doctor and I end up accidently causing someone’s death?

    I find my worst moments are late at night when I lie awake and think about all the horrible scenarios that could occur. With the terrible tragedy of the 5 year old in California who was kidnapped and murdered, is it normal for mothers to really feel anxious about something like that happening to their children? We live a continent away, but I can’t get it out of my head. I know mothers always worry to a certain extent, but I don’t know where it becomes abnormal or obsessive…

    Sorry for the incoherent ramble, but does anyone else feel this way? 🙁



    Here is my two cents and I am NOT a professional. My initial response is for you to consider some kind of support, counselling, medical or professional help, you sound like you are under extreme stress. Many of your concerns are those that many of us worry about, but I think that you are worrying perhaps a little more than necessary. Live for now/today and do not worry about worst-case scenarios such as something happening to your child, especially those a long time into the future.

    What stage are you in going to med school? I would relax for a while, cross med school of your mind for the next 3-12 months, forget about it and come back to it when less stressed. There will still be time to go to med school. You have three very young children and for many moms just coping with this alone can make you feel like you are losing it. Add to that a big pile of ‘mommy-guilt’ and you have quite a situation! 🙁

    Let us know what you decide to do. I’d be interested to read others thoughts.

    Best wishes,




    I PMd you, but I wanted to respond here as well. I did the what-if’s for the last several YEARS, and wondered if I was just losing it…but I’m more inclined to see this a bit differently now. For me at least..well..I’ve had the opportunity to be at home with my children full-time for most of the 7 years…there were times off and on where I did got to school part-time and some semesters where I went full-time…but I’ve been blessed to be a part of their daily lives a lot…and it is very hard for me now to imagine not having that.

    I hope no one will misunderstand this post…but if I’d gone back to work a few months after having my first and that had been normal…well, I wouldn’t have known what I’d been missing out on. Yes, staying at home with young babies IS more for the mother than the child…anyone could really change the diapers and feed them…but staying home was a wonderful, fulfilling gift for me. It was something that I hadn’t planned on. I had every intention of going back to work and then I just couldn’t do it and quit my job!

    My husband went through residency, and fellowship during our marriage. He missed every single birthday party our children had due to being on call or butthead attendings…No one cared if he had a family on Christmas…he had call….we missed out on a lot of family time, our marriage suffered and our children did too. When he finished fellowship and we finally started ‘real’ life, our children were convinced on weekends that he was at work…I’d have to show them that daddy was in the den…..I’m sorry, but that IS the harsh reality of medical training and it is exactly why I have had second thoughts for years…not because I needed mental health services, but because I knew the realities of medical training and didn’t know if I could do it to my family. Now that I’ve decided that it is ok NOT to go to medical school after all of this hard work to get there, I feel a true sense of PEACE…I really, really do.

    In retrospect, I see that worrying as having been real…not pathological…I think that it was that part of myself who didn’t want to miss soccer games, ballet recitals, birthday parties or christmas…..that worried that I might have to give those things up and didn’t want to. I wanted to have it all…be a mom and really be THERE for my kids and be a good physician and really be THERE for my patients…and the bottom line is that with all of the progress that we have made as women, it just is NOT possible to have it all and be good at everything….
    something has to give…and in a profession as demanding and important as medicine…it has to be your family that comes second. A childcare provider can do many things, but not be a mother to your child…..

    Everyone here has a different situation, and if my husband hadn’t already been through medical training and had a diff. job, I’d probably be taking part in the application cycle this time around…so I’m not poopooing the choice for women to go into medicine….

    Children are precious gifts and horrible things, like these abductions do make us realize that we don’t know how much time we have with our families. You know my personal story that goes along with that.

    You might want to go and talk to a counselor to get career direction or determine if anxiety is a real issue right now…especially if your symptoms have persisted for more than a couple of weeks and you feel depressed or suicidal.

    You can email me anytime…I hope you get this PM from me…



    Hi Kris I really enjoy your posts and hope that everyone reads them. It gives a true insight into what lies ahead for us, for some reason some folks I talk to at my schools are totally clueless. They do think that they will have a normal type of work environment with plenty of time for family. This is so not true as you often remind us, we will miss a lot of events period. I hope that you keep posting regardless of what you do in the end. I foresee that you will probably pursue your dream when your children are more independant, which is what I did. Keep it up, and thanks.


    I can’t tell you how much I’ve worried about having written that…I was afraid to read the response. Thank you!





    I am not really qualified to give advice in this situation, I don’t have children and I can’t really say I understand the pressures of having them, but, like any human being, I have experienced worry and fear of the future, (more often then I need to).

    First, I just wanted to say that I honor you for having children and investing so much time in making sure that they have the best childhood possible. I think it is so noble and I am humbled by your self-sacrifice. If I can so boldly speak for the future teenagers and young adults you are bringing into this world…A BIG THANK YOU MOM!!!!

    As for fear of the future and nagging worry:

    My husband is always telling me…”well, you can worry all you want, but that won’t change anything.”

    ouch. Hard advice but true. Worry will not change anything.

    Here is some things I do to combat it:

    1. Go for a good, long, run/walk/bike/swim, or whatever you enjoy physically. Make a point to do it regularly. For me, it helps clear my mind.

    2. Determine whether what you are worrying about is something you are in control of . If it is not, then there is no logical reason to worry. It is out of your contol. LET IT GO.

    3. If what you are worrying about is in your control, the only thing that is required of you is to make a decision Weigh the consequences with what is in front of you…do not fantasize the “worst possible scenario” I cannot overemphasize this….worry warts (myself) do this all the time!!! And, if you insist on worrying about the “worst possible scenario”, then you must be fair and worry equally about the “best possible scenario”, right?? 🙂

    I am getting better myself with worry because of my husband, who worries about nothing it seems, has taught me how much I do stress about things that are out of my control.

    I wish the best to you and trust you will make the best decision.



    Thank you all for your advice. Kris, I really appreciate your comments…. don’t ever worry about writing how you feel, b/c it always helps others consider issues they may not have thought of.

    I guess I should clarify a bit. When I reread my post I realized that it sounded quite a bit like my worries were really centered on the whole medschool issue. That really is not the case. My worrying began soon after having my first child, at a time when I wasn’t even considering this career move yet. I come from a family of worriers I guess. My mom is still very much one even though her “children” are all in our thirties. One of my sisters suffers from panic attacks, and has pretty substantial anxiety about things like flying. So I guess I come by it honestly.

    I guess what I am wondering is, how much worry (especially when you feel so responsible for young children) is normal, and at what level is it obsessive. I don’t feel paralyzed by fear or anything, but I do often lay awake at night thinking about what could go wrong. I find that when I am busy (for instance when I am in school and under more pressure) the worry is less. It is often when I have more time on my hands that I begin to focus on these things….

    Angel, your comment really hit home for me. I do think that I have a bit of a control issue personality (I like to be in control of everything :rolleyes: ) which I’m sure is one of the reasons I have found being home with toddlers so difficult. Many of the other moms I know just roll with the punches, whereas I always want things to proceed in a logical manner, and when they don’t I want to know why and how to fix it for next time (in a really really big way). I get frustrated by the reality that 2 year olds don’t live by the same logic that I do 😉 .

    I am pretty good at following your rule about not worrying about things I can’t control, except when it comes to my children. For instance, I rarely worry about my husband being out for several hours on his motorcycle, b/c I know that I can’t make him stop doing something he loves and I can’t control what happens on the road.

    But with my kids, I don’t know, I guess because they are so little and I feel so responsible for them, I feel that I should be able to keep them safe regardless of the situation, and that is just not true… I know that kind of concern is fairly normal for parents, but at what point is it just destructive? I don’t think I overprotect them, I mean I let them do lots of things, but I just keep the worry inside I guess until I am alone and then it really upsets me (usually at night).

    Sorry this is so long.



    Honestly, if you feel that worrying is getting in the way of your life and your happiness, then it might be reasonable to go and see your doctor. I think that worrying becomes obsessive when we can’t stop thinking about it, it disturbs us and it interferes with our day-to-day lives. (I’m not a doctor or therapist though!) There are so many treatments available… counseling and/or medication. The births of our chlidren can do funny things to us….why not go and talk to your doctor and just see what he/she says?




    I want to enthusiastically support Kris and the other members who suggest considering outside/professional assistance if this worry/anxiety interferes with your daily living. As women, mothers, students, we try to do it all. And though we realize in our heads that we cannot, we still try. Some of it has to do with issues of control – not interfering when our husbands or the kids do something in a way different than how we would do it.

    For example, it’s more important for a child to learn that he has to make his bed, than for the bed to be made “perfectly.” The way my kids make their beds in the morning is the way I leave it. If my husband wants to feed them spaghetti for the third night in a row, I keep my mouth shut and thank him for making dinner so I can get an extra 30 minutes of studying in, or better yet, spend those minutes playing with the kids.

    But I also want to tell you that things do happen – things that are beyond are control. You will not be able to be with your children every second of every day of their lives – nor should you be if you want to raise confident, independent children. One quick story…

    The second month after I had gone back to school to do my premed coursework. I had received my first “A” and was so excited. I decided to stop at the store and pick up some steaks and a bottle of wine so we could celebrate. I got home at about 3 pm, to find a message on my machine from my husband telling me that our 11 month old was being admitted to the hospital and to meet him over there. Andrew had a petichial rash and a fever of 104 (which he hadn’t had that morning) and we had to r/u meningitis (which, thank God, he did not have). Wanna bet I felt about 1 inch high and the worst mother to hit the planet?

    But really, what more could I have done? It was not in my power or control – and realizing that so much of this world, of our lives and the lives of our children are NOT in our control (it is in God’s, I believe), is a hard thing to learn and accept. If I hovered over them every minute I think the ultimate damage would be much worse AND I couldn’t stop everything and anything from affecting their lives.

    I too was plagued by what-ifs, especially when I was a premed. Learning to let go is a lesson I continue to struggle with, but one of the most important. It is teaching me to trust my children, to trust myself and trust God (the Force, the universe, whatever you want to call that power beyond ourselves). One of my best friends in med school told me that you can either worry or pray and that doing the first shows a lack of confidence in the second.

    Former control freak (ok so I’m still a bit of a control freak),



    Thanks for your replies guys! I don’t think this is really interfering with my life at this point, but I can see that it has the potential to become a bigger issue. I have decided that I am going to make a conscious effort to end this “over-analysing” behavior. Wish me luck. I am going to take the advice to determine whether what I am worrying about is something I can control, and if not I am going to talk myself into just letting it go…. :rolleyes: . Sounds like a plan, huh?

    I’ll keep you posted to my progress. 😮


    Well, sometimes it does help to just pull back and look at the big picture 🙂

    Glad you are finding perspective and are feeling better.



    btw…..I’m sorry that I misunderstood your initial post. I hope you’ll forgive my overly emotional response….I was in the middle of a bit of a stressful weak myself.



    I’ll be starting my 2nd year (HOORAY) of medical school in a little over a week. I’m 36 years old with a 5 y/o son and a marriage that’s not particularly close. I’ve worked as a social worker for 7 years prior to medical school, and I continued to work some at Arkansas Children’s Hopsital as a social worker throughout my 1st year of med school. I found that with a strict schedule and little sleep, I could do everything well (lol)…. Then summer rolled around, and the pace immediately stopped. The stress that I had not allowed myself to feel had quite a momentum and I found myself absolutely overwhelmed by the worries that you described plus a few others (increasing debt for one), and then just a free-floating anxiety. I spent the first half of the summer coming to grips with what exactly I’m doing with my life right now, and what effect it’s having on me and people around me. The second half of the summer, I just hung out with the kid and had a good time. As the second year quickly approaches, I’ve (just about) decided not to work this year…. I’ve dealt with a lot of heavy things throughout my life, and have sailed through most of them reasonably well. I’m finding that medical school is taking more mental adjustments than anything I’ve previously done, though. I believe that the anxieties that you describe are well-founded. When you take medical school on, you’re taking on some really huge responsibilities. I believe that it is very important to have a good perspective on what you’re doing and to have a good plan for minimizing the negative effect on the ones you care for…..

    Sorry so long-winded~

    CaLiGirL :)CaLiGirL:)


    I have the tendency to be a worry freak myself :p . I remember after I had my daughter, I broke down a couple of times cuz I was so worried on how the next day would go. I had anxiety I think…is that what you call it, you worry, start getting butterflies and knots, sweaty palms, panic attacks, things of that sort? It was really wierd as I never experienced that. I still get that now, when I think ahead (even a day or two), but not to that extent. If I have alot of things to do during that week (take care of kid, school, study, cook, clean, etc) then I start “panicking” in a way. I have learned to manage it by not thinking into the future so much. I take my days as they come, and still try to remain as organized as possible. It’s gotten alot better.

    Hope you can keep us posted on your progress. I pray that you’re doing better, these things can really consume an individual and it’s scary in a sense. Take care of yourself and good luck.



    Hi Annie,

    Thanks for your replies everyone. Actually, as I predicted, I am feeling fine now that I am back into a schedule. The busier I am, it seems the better I feel about things. I think that when I get too much time on my hands, that is when I start to over-analyze the impact that this path I am following may be having on my kids. I also find that my kids are much happier when we are on a busier schedule… go figure, I guess they are a chip off the old block. :rolleyes:

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