How Much Risk Is Too Much Risk? Should Parents Do Dangerous Things?


There are many activities considered too risky for pregnancy. Even riding a bike is considered questionable by some. It’s sort of straightforward when you’re pregnant and your future child is growing in your body. But once the baby’s born, there’s a whole new equation of risk to apply. You’re no longer physically endangering a child by doing physically risky things. But the ratio of risk and loss feels very different once you’re the mother of a child.

Becoming a parent changes your attitude about danger. Things seem much scarier when there’s so much more to lose.  It’s common for people who’ve never batted an eyelash getting on a plane to develop fear of flying after becoming parents.  Some parents won’t even travel on the same plane for fear of orphaning their children. And then there are parents who do things that are considered quite dangerous, whether it’s for work or for pleasure. How do these people manage the anxiety?

This article by a scuba diving mom is a pretty interesting exploration into the phenomenon of continuing a somewhat risky hobby into parenthood. She is very conscious of the risks and how her feelings about them have changed as she transitioned from non-parent to mom. But she’s also honest about how important this passion is to her, and how strongly she feels about continuing, despite the risks.

I have thought about this a bit myself. Scuba is something I’ve enjoyed myself in the past, but I’ve pretty much written it off since becoming a parent, mostly out of fear. I’ve just seen it as too risky to be worth it now that I’ve got my kids to think about. But this article reminded me that my assessments may be faulty. It’s really difficult to tell how much risk is involved in many of the things we do. Life is not a math problem, and avoiding things that give us joy for fear of a small, but admittedly horrible, risk, is kind of questionable.  Besides, we may well have our calculations way wrong. It turns out your risk of dying while playing tennis, swimming, cycling or running is far higher than dying while scuba diving. But none of those things are considered more than the slightest bit dangerous. And as the author of this piece concluded, driving on the highway is a lot riskier than any sport. And I don’t know too many parents who avoid driving because they think they might orphan their children.

photo: Josh Ward/flickr

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