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Of Mothers and Adult Children – How Do You Cope with Thoughts that Make You Worry?

By Ann Richardson June 24, 2020 Family

It is said that once a mother, you are always a mother. However old your son or daughter may be, they are always your children. This may be right, but it is a blessing and a curse. Most of us cannot escape it.

The Nature of Motherhood

This realisation came home to me a week or so ago when I passed a restless night, even waking at one point in a clear state of panic.

I don’t know what I was dreaming, but it was probably one of those dreams where you can’t get to where you want to go. All I know is that I was visibly shaken, and it took awhile to settle back down.

I knew immediately that I was worried for my son. But why? Was he a new-born, and was I a new mother who knows absolutely nothing and worries about every little thing? Nope.

Had he just started nursery school, when you worry about whether they will manage without you for the first time? No, not that either.

Was he at the end of secondary school, when you worry about whether they will get into the college or apprenticeship of their choice? Wrong, again.

No, I was worried about an interview he was having the following day for a job that would make his life very much easier (due to its location) and set him on a good ladder for his professional career. He is not new-born, nor age three or even age 18.

He is, indeed, in his late 30s, married, a father himself, and completely independent. He doesn’t need my worry at all.


Are you more easy-going than this – or do you worry, like me, in such circumstances? Do you feel it deeply when your no-longer-young children pass through important life stages?

Perhaps you worry whether your daughter will juggle a new baby with her developing career. Perhaps you worry whether your son’s new girlfriend is entirely suitable. Perhaps you see signs of mental instability or too much alcohol and wonder what you should do.

There are a myriad of circumstances and important decisions they will make, over which you have no control.

And I don’t mean worry in the sense that we worry slightly over loads of day-to-day irritations. I mean worry in the sense that it is immediate and palpable to you. You begin to be easily distracted when you should be thinking about other things. Or lose sleep. Perhaps you even lose your appetite.

This is a deep-down, umbilical-cord-still-attached kind of worry.

And it doesn’t help that we mothers of middle aged children are the subject of ridicule all over the world. I am sure we have all seen some movie where the young hero has to stop an important business meeting to deal with his over-protective and very annoying mother on the telephone.

It is always shown from the child’s point of view, too. The mother should have let go a long time ago.

Developing Coping Strategies

For those of us who do worry, it must be said that we probably have little control over the matter. The important issue is not what we feel, but what we do about it.

We all need to develop coping strategies for such moments. Go to the gym or for a long walk. Talk to your spouse or partner. Or a friend. More than once. Read a distracting book. Meditate.

The main thing is not to put our problems onto the very sons and daughters we are worried about. Avoid making a nuisance of yourself, however hard that might be. And, most certainly, don’t make that phone call.

When interviewing women for my book on being a grandmother, one woman made a very wise a comment about giving advice on parenting:

“Every grandmother has to be issued with a zip [finger across lips]. There’s a fine line between help and interference and you have to learn it. Nobody can teach it to you, because everybody’s experience is different.”

The same is true for other aspects of our children’s lives, however old they are. It’s not easy and I don’t always succeed myself, but it’s good advice.


In case you’re wondering, he got the job. I wonder what I will worry about next?

How much do you worry about your adult children? What sorts of things have worried you recently? How do you cope? Please use the comments below to share with our community.

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The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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