by Candice Siu Woo, Ph.D.
One of our esteemed supervisors often “jokes” that Freud was wrong for saying that people are disturbed by our parents. He believes that it is our children, rather than parents, who play a role in our neuroses. I never fully understood the wisdom in this comment until I became pregnant myself. With just a fetus in my stomach, I already fully experience the crazy thoughts and behaviors that come with the responsibility of being a parent.
From the moment I became pregnant, I started to think that every little step I took had an indelible impact on my child. From what I ate, to how much I rested, the future of this little person rested on every decision I made and will continue to make. More recently, I would wake up in the middle of the night, panicked that I hadn’t read enough on newborn care, disabled infant care, nursery school applications etc. Sounds like the making of a crazy person, right? I finally decided to put an end to these crazy thoughts and behaviors. Everyone who is about to become a parent experiences some stress and concerns about the well-being of their child, as well as their competency as a parent. Preparation is important and encouraged. However, spending endless number of hours worrying, catastrophisizing about negative consequences, such as your unborn child hating you 15 years later, does not solve any problems, nor is it conducive to good parenting. Sure, there is always a chance of something going wrong. For example, there are always parents with babies born with disabilities, health complications, emotional problems and such. You could spend every waking moment preparing for any combination of difficulties a child may encounter, and you will probably eventually be right on one of these. Yet, doing so will take away the precious little alone time left with your partner, the excitement of anticipating the arrival of a new life, and the joys of raising a child. Given the options, I choose to not catastrophize, prepare only sufficiently, and take things as they come.