I am not only a psychiatrist. I am a father of two great boys and a husband. I am a brother and son, friend and weekend hacker athlete. I am human. I never used to worry too much, maybe about passing my board exams, about which mountain bike trail to ride, about which movie to go to. Fatherhood, oh the great joy of father hood has opened my eyes to a whole new world of worry. One thing that is impossible to help a person without kids understand is how much a parent worries. Granted, my kids are 33 months old and 2 months old, so I am relatively new at the whole parenting thing.
I worry much more about my offspring than I ever did about myself. Having children somehow intensifies or puts all of the problems in the world in an even bigger spotlight. Think about the things there are to worry about these days: perhaps the most important Presidential election ever in this country, global warming, energy concerns, and wars among other worldwide issues.
On a more local or daytoday scale there is the question of what foods are healthy, how much sugar and/or preservatives make their way into my children, what school they should go to, how much television is ok and what should they be exposed to or not. How about the more existential questions such as whether or not all of the electromagnetic waves out there do cause health problems, and, of course, how do, and will, all of these local and worldwide stressors affect my children?
I imagine you may be thinking, “This guy’s a child psychiatrist, shouldn’t he know all of this?” Well I can see why you would think that but there are two issues that are important here. First, the brain is so complicated that it is impossible to tell exactly how things affect each individual. We are all built in such different ways and have such different life experiences and circumstances that there is no easy answer to all of this. Second, when it comes to your own children, all bets are off when it comes to science and training. I have as much to learn as anybody else about being a parent and I will make as many mistakes as anybody else. Maybe there’s more pressure on me because I am expected to be the consummate expert.
Additionally, I don’t want to bring my work home with me. Can you imagine putting your own kid on the couch and being their shrink? Exactly. It’s impossible. My two kids, with a combined age of 35 months and a combined weight of 43 pounds possess an incredible ability to dictate what is going on in the house almost constantly; this with two adults who are, let’s just say much older, and weigh a combined…well, I better not divulge that, but let’s just say we weigh a lot more.
Medical school and residency were amazing, but no tiptoe through the tulips, but being a parent is both the greatest thing I have ever done and toughest thing I have ever done. Sure, I worry more, but when you really look at history, it seems there has always been something that people had to live in fear of; maybe a millennium or so ago it was things misunderstood such as the origination of tornadoes or hurricanes, a few hundred it was the plague, heck, even 25 years ago it was annihilation by nuclear bombs straight from the U.S.S.R. (Remember the U.S.S.R.?).
Human beings are born with builtin anxiety and it does serve a purpose. We will always have things to worry about and perhaps the purpose of anxiety now, as it has always been, is for survival; for the recognition and avoidance of dangerous or deadly situations and places. Maybe we will use our collective anxiety about the world, especially our corner of it, to start really trying to find and utilize alternative forms of energy, to learn to take better care of ourselves and each other, and to start living even better lifestyles that will help protect the environment, each other and our children.