Diana, a mother to a 2-year-old, worries about every. little. thing.
“Whenever I look, I see something online that makes me question how I’m raising my son,” Diana told Upworthy. “Am I giving him too much screen time? Is he eating well enough? Is he hitting his development milestones? I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
A recent study showed that over two-thirds of American parents describe themselves as overprotective. Sure, there are some big items that parents will worry about until the end of time, like kidnapping, bullies, terrorism, etc. But obsessing over the small stuff takes away from the joy of raising children.
“I know being mom should be fun,” Diana said. “But the constant second-guessing of my parenting decisions make me miserable.”
How do you know what really matters? We talked to the people who know best: parents of adult children.
Five veteran parents shared what they worried about as newbies and how they refocused to raise happy men and women.
1. Meg worried that her kids watched waaaay too much television.
Meg has three kids. Her oldest is an 18-year-old son. When he was much younger, the television was constantly on.
“I used the television as a babysitter,” Meg admitted. “How else could I get stuff done when my little ones needed constant attention?”
Fast-forward to today, and her son hardly ever watches television because he’s busy with his studies and sports practices.
“It really wasn’t much of a big deal after all,” she said.
What she says now: “We don’t need to know everything as parents, but we need to know what our kids are thinking and how they make decisions. Doing so makes it easier to have the tough talks when they do things that aren’t good for them. It’s working so far.”
2. Nina worried about how her daughter couldn’t keep anything clean.
Nina has a tight relationship with her 22-year-old daughter Kiara, but it was extremely frustrating back in the day to see how messy her baby girl was.
“I put too much emphasis on Kiara maintaining a clean bedroom,” Nina said. “Eventually, I realized that even though it didn’t look great, it worked for her. There were bigger battles to fight.”
What she says now: “The bottom line is we are all connected and we must take care of each other as human beings. As long as she works hard and cares about the well-being of others, I’ll be happy.”
3. Jana worried that she gave her daughter more responsibility than she could handle.
Jana’s oldest daughter is 20, and she wanted to do everything in her power to make her independent at an early age by giving her a lot of responsibilities. The problem was she kept second-guessing herself.
“I kept thinking I was making her grow up too fast,” Jana said. “My biggest fear was she would end up on a therapist’s couch for the rest of her life due to me screwing her up so badly.”
What she says now: “We as parents worry that we’re doing it wrong. But so far my daughter turned out all right.”
4. Stephanie worried that she’d always need to be around to protect her daughter.
When Stephanie’s daughter Molly was young, she felt overwhelmed trying to keep her safe.
“I was so concerned that she would hurt herself when I wasn’t around,” Stephanie said. “Living in California, I wondered what would happen if there was an earthquake and I couldn’t get to her.”
Eventually, she was able to step back and have peace with the fact that no matter how overprotective a parent is, bad stuff can happen.
What she says now: “I want my daughter to always think independently and be a leader. There is little value in popularity and fitting in. Being true to yourself is the most important thing.”
5. Lester worried about the ridiculous outfits his kids liked to wear.
Lester and his wife, Sherry, have a son and daughter, and their kids’ fashion sense was … well, questionable when they were younger.
“I thought if their clothes didn’t match or their hair was done properly, it was a reflection of me as a parent,” Lester said. “Thankfully, I learned to let them embrace their own style without getting in their way.”
As you can see, their fashion sense is on point now.
What he says now: “We always let them know that they could come to us at any time and nothing would change our love. But they knew we weren’t their friends, because they have plenty of those in their lives.”
The next time you worry about your daughter skipping her nap or struggling with potty training, remember the big picture.
We can choose to add the small stuff to our mountainous pile of stress, or we can use the tips from these parents to remind ourselves that this too shall pass.
And when it does pass and our kids become adults, we’ll miss every second of it.