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Given that one of the kids has spent the last week feverish and miserable -- which means that I got to spend far too much time on the couch groggily staring at Blueís Clues and letting my mind wander whither it wants -- Iíve come up with a new theory.

Like most of my theories, this one is certain to be proven wrong. I doubt it will be as spectacularly ill conceived as the whole offer a newborn cash and it will sleep for more than four hours idea or the donít expose your girlchild to Barbie and she wonít insist on everything she touches being a screaming pink theory. Those hypotheses were born out of frustration; rather the sort of cool rational thought that hits you after four hours of holding an impossibly hot baby and staring at the impossibly hot Steve Burns.

No, this theory is a good one. Hold on to your socks, mamas, they are about to be knocked off.

We donít have enough to worry about.

I can hear you laughing. Lady, youíre thinking, you are completely insane. I have far too much to worry about, youíre muttering to yourself and giggling. Remember that they laughed at Galileo, too.

Hear me out.

Back in the day Ė for my purposes ďdayĒ means ďbefore vaccines and indoor plumbing and agricultureĒ Ė mamas had plenty to pace the dirt floors over. Which of my kids will die from typhus or the plague this year? Should I let the girl starve to death in order to feed the boy because heíll be of more use when heís older? How will we all make it through the drought or the current revolution? Of my 14 pregnancies, how many of my babies will make it to adulthood?

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This is what we used to have to wrestle with. Too many women in the world still wrestle with these same fears. Even when there is progression from the most basic survival issues, there are still quite a few quality of life issues to deal with. On most of the planet, the argument isnít about whether or not work-at-home moms are morally superior to work-elsewhere moms, nor is it about how a non-breastfeeding mom is a child abuser. This is crap that most women would love to have the luxury to worry about when they are knotted up about getting their kids to clean drinking water or protecting them from forced conscription.

And as much as this has the potential to turn into a diatribe on how conditions in most of the world suck ass for women and children, my new theory is only marginally related. When I was holding my small, feverish kid and having those 3 a.m. nightmares about this illness doing lasting (or, frankly, fatal) damage to my boy, I realized that as moms we have a finite capacity for worry. Itís like a deep well that always has to maintain a set water level. If your kids are in life-threatening states, then your well is completely full of that fear. All your brain can deal with is making that situation end. Itís a bit of cunning programming, really. What is more important to the survival of the species than an adult who is genetically designed to do her utmost to make sure her wee ones live? (and I donít want to leave dads out of the equation Ė but I donít think they have quite the same hair trigger and obsessive capacity for concern. Any Austindad, though, is encouraged to prove me wrong).

In the absence of dire situations, which is where most of us are most of the time thankfully, our worry well still needs to hit its benchmark, otherwise we just donít feel like weíre doing a decent job as a parent. Because of this, we get all knotted up about the stuff that doesnít matter nearly as much, like how much TV time is ideal or how long we should read aloud or how evil high fructose corn syrup is. Our well needs to be full in order for us to function. Most of the time, we fill it with dozens of insignificant worries rather than big ugly ones.

Iím not advocating a return back to the days where everyday brings up new hurdles for survival. I do think that we should all do what we can to make sure that others can enjoy this luxury as well. But what we need to think about is my hypothesis that most of our parenting choices are chock-full of angst because we need something to get all worried about, despite the fact that, in the long run, they donít matter nearly as much as we want them to. Given that we donít have enough life or death stuff to fill the well, we see dire situations where they donít actually exist.

Itís a theory, anyway.
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About the Author:
Adrienne Martini  has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was  born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about  knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. In July 2006, her first book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood will be published.  During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy and Cory, and wife to Scott. 



 

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