In Brave Mom, Sherry Surratt, president and CEO of MOPS International, shares honestly and openly about the fears every mom struggles with. From worry about your child’s safety and health to wondering if you are a good parent, to fears about your marriage and loss of self-identity, Sherry comes alongside every mom with practical, real, and hopeful help for these common fears that we’re all afraid to talk about. The 10 most common mom fears are each covered in their own easy to read chapter, made up of stories of real moms and the help and answers they found.
As wise moms will tell you, the best defense is a prepared offense. We slather tender bottoms with the best diaper rash medicine. We whip out the thermometer faster than you can utter the word fever. We make sure our kids are layered and buttoned and booted at the first hint of cold weather. Why in the world wouldn’t we arm ourselves with tried and true fear busters?
Here are a few go-to strategies for moms to deal with their fears and worries before they get out of control.
Do a laundry sort
Just like we sort the colors from the whites, Colleen, mom of five, says she sorts her fears into two piles: things I have control over and things I don’t.
She said the way she determines this is by asking herself, Is there anything I can do about it? She said if it is a situation over which she has no control, such as her son is out with the car, she puts it in the prayer-and-trust pile. She tells God what she is nervous about, acknowledges that she doesn’t have control, and asks God to give her heart peace. Then she gets her mind busy on other things.
If it is a fear she can do something about, such as check to make sure the doors are locked or that the power tool is unplugged and out of reach of her five-year-old, she takes action. Then she tells herself out loud, Okay, I’ve done all I can do! She says she gets bossy with her thoughts and forces herself to not drive herself crazy with the what ifs.
Pick your friends wisely
My friend Betsy shared a story about a friend she had that took her thoughts to places she didn’t want to go. Every time she shared a fear or worry with this friend, she walked away worried about more things than were originally on her mind. Instead of helping her with reasonableness, the friend caused her to worry even more by piling on fears of her own. Betsy found she had to limit her time with this friend.
If you have people in your life who add fuel to your fears, you may need to follow Betsy’s lead and instead lean on those I call the unshakeables. These are the folks who don’t panic, but seem to face situations with a steady calm.
Look around for someone who seems to radiate a sense of calm wisdom. These are the people I try to spend time with, especially when I feel fear and worry calling my name.
Get some accountability and support
I’m a big believer in letting others help and I have found tremendous gain in a mentor who holds me accountable in the areas I want to grow. Early in my life as a mom, I set a goal to be the best mom my kids could ever need or want. It sounds lofty, doesn’t it? While I certainly didn’t aim for perfection, I did want to be the best I could be, but I knew I would need help. I looked for an older mom whose wisdom I trusted, and we started to meet regularly. She listened to the areas I wanted to grow in and held me accountable by asking me the same three questions every time:
How are you doing?
How are you doing with your kids?
How are you and God doing?
She asked me these questions because she already knew what I didn’t.
It wasn’t just about keeping the house organized or packing the best lunches, it was about how I was doing on the inside, managing my emotional self and my resilient core.
She also knew that it was more about the relationship between me and my kids versus what I was doing for my kids. She also knew these things had to be anchored in a firm relationship with God. I knew these questions were coming every time we met, so I made sure I paid attention to them between times.
Frisk your thoughts at the door
Where does fear come from? Fear can enter our thoughts based on what we’ve seen and heard. We are faced every day with stories of disasters, accidents, and children gone missing. The newspapers, Internet, and media feed our fear. But here’s what I’ve learned:
I can’t control every scary thing, but I can control whether or not these things strike fear in my heart.
And the fear of these things doesn’t come from God. 2 Timothy 1:7 says,
For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness, but of power and love and discipline.
Just as I don’t let every stranger into my house, I don’t have to let every thought come into my mind.
Author and Bible teacher Kay Arthur suggests that we can “frisk our thoughts” by passing them through the grid of Philippians 4:8. Are they true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, morally excellent, and praiseworthy? This doesn’t describe fear. Fear is dark, scary, and isolating.
When fear comes, you can pat it down at the door of your mind, just like a TSA agent. If it doesn’t match up to Philippians 4:8, don’t invite it in.
Fear makes us feel small and hopeless. What makes us feel the opposite? For Gina, mom of three, it is when she has a thankful heart. Gina says she forces herself to think about all the good in her life because it opens her heart and lifts her eyes to bigger things. Gina says, “It’s hard to be scared when you are thinking about things that bring you joy.”
There have been times when I have had a hard time focusing my mind on the joyful parts of my life instead of the discouraging, fearful parts. Those are the moments I start “thankful” lists. I literally begin to make a list of all the things I’m thankful for, starting with my family and then moving to all the things and opportunities God has given me. I challenge myself to keep going when I think I’ve written everything I can think of. It’s amazing how this simple exercise can change the course of your thinking.
It’s true. Sometimes the simplest form of changing your thoughts is to distract them. I have found the Scarlett O’Hara method of avoidance has its wisdom with the line, “I won’t think of it now. I’ll think of it later when I can stand it.”
Sometimes getting bossy with yourself and then getting busy is the best course of action.
It’s hard to control your thoughts, so sometimes buying yourself some time to return to rational thinking by doing something else with your hands is a good strategy.
Joan, mom of two, says that fear hits her when she’s home alone and has time to worry. She hates to clean so if she finds herself caught up in needless fear and worry, she “fines” herself by making herself clean the house. She says pretty soon she’s distracted herself enough to forget what was overtaking her thoughts. Plus she ends up with a clean house as a bonus!
It’s a wise mom that admits she has fear, knows what the emotions are that she’s dealing with, and then designs strategies to attack them. Let’s pause and take some time to make sure you’ve fully stocked your strategy tool belt.
Excerpted with permission from Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears by Sherry Surratt, copyright Zondervan, 2014.
Watch the Brave Mom Video
What’s in your tool belt to combat mom fears? Are you tackling the worries that you can do something about and leaving those you have no control over with God? Do you have one or two unshakables as friends to lean on? Have you frisked your fears at the door? Are you listing the things you’re grateful for? Are you getting busy when your thoughts need distraction? Come join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear what’s in your tool belt!