This Is What Is Making You So Stressed

Parenting and stress seem to just go together. Anxiety, concern, they follow too. There’s always something we are tracking, something we’re worried about. If our son’s grades don’t get better, it could mean he won’t get into college. It could be confirmation of that learning disability we’ve been told about. Your daughter was tired yesterday and now you just heard her sneeze–is she sick? Oh no, we cannot afford to get sick right now.

We’re monitoring school projects, and we’re keeping pets alive. We’re making sure everyone gets everywhere on time, and making sure we have enough money to pay for it all. We are sensitive to the slightest warnings, and nervous about the slightest clouds on the horizon.

It is a modern affliction, but it’s also always been like this. Not that it has to be. “I see my child is ill; that’s what I see, but I don’t see that he’s in any danger,” Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations. He was talking about stopping that very human, very natural extrapolation that we do as parents (and extrapolation is the nice word here, because more often than not, it is better described as catastrophizing). His advice as both a parent and as a philosopher was that we try to stick with our “first impression, adding no commentary of your own from within.”

Meaning, the sneeze can just be a sneeze. The subpar math test can just be a single datapoint. Being late to a soccer game can just be one little delay–it does not have to mean that everything is falling apart, that you are a failure as a parent, and that your kids are going to grow up to be late to everything.

Stop torturing yourself! Be present. Focus primarily on what is front of you. Resist the impulse to add judgment or speculation on top of what you’re dealing with. Because that alone is sufficient. You’ll do better and be less stressed.

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