"Be careful. Don't read too much news." This is what my doctor said to me last time I saw her. Wise words, especially when addressing someone with a baby in their belly and anxiety. And yet, it's pretty hard to turn away and block out all that is happening in the world right now. I used to be a news addict before I had children. I listened religiously to radio news, read the newspapers, checked the websites all day long, and when, after university, I didn't have a job for a few months (just a string of unpaid work experience placements, two in national newspapers), I obsessively watched coverage of the Iraq war.
Once I became a mum, I stopped; I just couldn't stomach it anymore. It was a matter of survival. The small, immediate world of caring for my children couldn't exist alongside this huge, deeply troubling museum of horrors, so I turned away from it. But, of course, you can't live in a bubble forever; to ignore anything that doesn't directly impact on you is a kind of wilful negligence. It is to be complicit in some way with the bad things that are happening. So I started listening and reading again (although I draw the line at television news and have happily survived without a television for more than a decade), and to care about what was going on beyond my narrow day-to-day world. Anxiety is an entirely normal response to the news and yet, I believe it's important to know these things. I also have to function, as we all do, on another scale and, to do so, I need to be my own censor.
We apologise for worrying about the little things, for our "first-world problems", but this is what anchors us, this is what stops us from spinning out of control. I need to worry about what to cook for dinner, to fret over the kids' behaviour and friendships, to write lists of baby names and shopping and odd jobs, to procrastinate over my work, and to deliberate about the rickety fence and the higgledy piggledy garden and the mismatched furniture. It's a question of finding the balance.