Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is There a Word for Phobia of Children?

By Kelly

Good gravy, yesterday was tough.

My brain is still numb, my shoulders still clenched in an upright and locked position. I just now realized I forgot to call my sister back last night. And I do believe I didn't go to the bathroom yesterday until I was getting ready for bed. (I developed a bladder with camel-like properties when I was working in the newsroom. Because if there's breaking news and you're in the control booth calling the shots, potty breaks are not an option.) (Too much information, perhaps? I can't tell anymore.)

But as grueling as my day was, it was worse for my good friend Mindy.

While I was sleeping in Saturday morning, Mindy was driving across Wisconsin, with the plan to spend a week visiting friends and family in Minnesota.

Then, life turned. Her tires snagged on an uneven shoulder. She over-corrected. Her car rolled like a tumbleweed, eventually coming to rest in the highway median as a tangle of shattered steel and glass.

Miraculously, neither she nor her kids sustained life-threatening injuries. Her two-year-old walked away without a scratch. Her six-year-old only had scratches and abrasions from her seat belt and flying glass.

Mindy escaped without any broken bones or internal injuries. But it took about 60 stitches to close the gashes in her face and arm, and she's sporting more bruises than a peach shipped from Georgia to Wyoming by USPS.

Her sweet husband, who wasn't accompanying his family on this trip, rushed to the scene. I first heard about the accident from him. Rightly horrified, I offered to help any way I could.

Thus, I found myself parenting five children yesterday.

Let the chaos begin.

First, I want to say that Mindy's kids are absolute delights. They are sweet, creative and compliant. Her six-year-old and my six-year-old would be best friends if they lived closer. And her two-year-old boy is like a towheaded package of love; he's just a snuggle-monster with a smile to melt your heart.

But having them here yesterday reminded me -- with startling clarity -- that I would be the worst child-care provider in the history of mankind. When I'm responsible for other people's children, I'm a nervous wreck. I'm jumpy. I can't focus. I feel completely out of my comfort zone. I find myself stalking the clock, willing it to move faster so I can discharge my charges.

It's the reason I never babysat, why I'd rather clean the church bathrooms with a toothbrush than work in children's ministry and why I adore my sister. (I would say worship, because it's close to that. But it seems sacrilegious, somehow.) Emily is like a Pied Piper of children. Ever since she was in middle school, kids have followed her around the church hallways, vying for her attention. Cries of "Emmy! Emmy" echo off the walls. When I was 15 and she was 9, I passed off all (read: two) of my babysitting jobs to her. And I think the parents involved in those situations were more than grateful. Today, Emily works in the children's ministry department at our dad's church, a job which perfectly fits her skill set and passion.

And then there's me -- the woman who has to fight the urge to hide in the laundry room while other kids play like angels with her own kids in her own home.


I've felt guilty about this for years, and the guilt only intensified when I had my own kids and was amazed to find that I actually enjoyed them and my new role as mother. Shouldn't I be able to deal with all kids now that I understand, on some level, what a gift they are?

But I've come to realize, we all have different gifts. Children aren't mine. I can certainly step up when I need to -- and watching Mindy's kids yesterday was a blessing to me, because it's what I could do to help her in a teeny-tiny way.

So I try not to dwell. But some days, I just can't fight the angst. Am I the only Mom in the history of the world who is kid-a-phobic?

Originally posted at Kelly's blog Love Well.


  1. Kelly, um, would you please stop writing on topics taken directly from my head? It's kindof starting to scaring me! :-)
    I am EXACTLY the same way, only my sister's name is Michelle, and I don't think I can match your bladder abilities.
    I always felt out of place among the gals who would say they "always wanted to have kids and be a mom" because it took me 9 yrs of marriage before I felt "ready". And I too was amazed (and relieved) to discover that I not only had a nuturing bone (or two) in my body, but that I would love being a mom and enjoy my kids immensely.
    They are a gift indeed, even to those of us without "the gift" of childcare!

  2. My sister, a mother of five, says, "Of course you only want your own kids. If you wanted other people's kids, you'd be in the news." So nope, you're not alone.

  3. I used to be a kid person until I began caring for my my daughter 24/7. Now I'm just exhausted. But this post so spoke to me because I spent the majority of last year caring for my good friend Rosie's twins (2-3 days a week from January through October). She was terminally ill. And it was something small that I could do... only I wanted to hide in the closet much of the time. Because I was exhausted.

  4. I am SO with you. My sister-in-law is constantly offering to take on ridiculous amounts of children. Can't even joke around her with things like, "Well, we'll pick them up in the morning," because she'd be fine with it.

    Me? When my daughter turned 3 I stopped sending her to the church nursery so I could stop working in there.

  5. There is a word for it :) Pediophobia. I have no fear of taking care of someone's young kids, but once they hit around age 6 I don't enjoy it anymore. I watch an 8yr old for about 2hrs a week (and his baby brother 3days a week) and every time he is here I feel nervous and anxious. I understand little kids but the bigger ones are still a mystery to me.

  6. I use to be "okay" with babysitting. Though I never enjoyed entertaining kids much. I love taking care of my son (most of the time) but I now have very little patience for other peoples kids.

    I get my fill with Caleb and just don't have the energy for more. It always shocks my childless sister how exhausted she is after playing with Caleb for a few hours. Then I remind her that she is doing it on a full night's sleep. I'm afraid she'll never have kids now!

  7. I love children in the abstract, but in real life not so much. (Funny; I just left a similar comment somewhere else about dogs) I love my own 3 to death, but don't like being the "house on the block where all the kids play." Oddly enough, I thought I would, but that was when I thought life was like books.
    And I thought it was only me who said, with evil smile, "YES! The twins are old enough that I will never HAVE to do childcare again." (you know how if you have kids in the nursery you have to take your turn?) I shared this with several women, and you could just see their estimation of me dropping fast. Sigh.

  8. I love my two daughters. People ask me if we are done having kids and I practically scream "YES", as I do not have the temperament for more. I especially have issues with other people's kids. There are very few I can handle for more than an hour. I'm hoping as they get older (read, mine are 1 and 3 - as are all their friends) I will tolerate them better. Who knows, maybe I'll mellow. However, please know you are not alone. (Oddly enough my younger sister is also a pied piper of children too.)

  9. I don't know why , But I have a "Phobia of Children". When They are around me I get full blown panic attacks. I always feel like something is going to happen to them like get hurt real bad and somehow the fault will be my own. Children scare me to death...!!!