10/03/2007 08:00 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Keeping Cool While Keeping Kids Safe

It started with spoiled milk. My eyes were half open at 6:45am as I handed the sippy cups to my
hungry toddlers in our kitchen. Then I caught a sour whiff from the carton that jarred me awake. I snatched the offending sippies from their hands in a flash--but felt sick about it all day.

Of course, I relayed the story to my mom later that morning. She stopped me mid-story "Heather, stop it. You're not a bad mother," she said, "It happens."

Right. Rationally, I know this to be true. But these days, it seems like making sure my milk stays fresh in the fridge (organic milk, of course) is the least of my worries. And on that particular morning, I couldn't do even that right. It was the same week that I got hit with news of yet another toy recall, an FDA investigation into the hazards of infant cold medicines (the very ones I have actually given to my children), and oh, yet another series of studies suggesting my kids are surrounded by a culture that will make them fat and unhealthy.

I know, I know. I have to trust my instincts and do the best I can. But there is a lot of second-guessing when you are a newer parent. (Does it get better as you get more experienced?) I'm still figuring all this stuff out. I guess what I am saying is that it is a lot harder than I ever imagined.

The day after we had the sour milk mess-up, I had scheduled the kids for their flu shots. Prudent, right? I mean, it is the time of year....I've checked with my doctor before about Thimerosol, the vaccine preservative containing mercury that's come under attack for possibly causing autism. Thimerosol is no longer used in most vaccines. And just last week, The New England Journal of Medicine published more research suggesting there is no correlation between immunizations containing Thimerosol and mental and physical development. So I know all of this as we drive to the pediatrician. Still, as we waited for the nurse to inject all four of us (my son, daughter, myself and our nanny), I couldn't help but worry just a teeny, tiny bit. Not enough to say no shots. As my mom would say, I had my heart in my mouth.

The thing is, I feel that way just about every day. I make a decision, any decision - and then second guess it. Not in a paranoid way. But I just worry about the things I can't control. Must be a symptom of the life I used to lead before I had children. Those were the days when I felt very much in charge.

I've decided I can't be the only mom on the planet who was feeling a bit under siege by all of the child hazards in the news last week. Part of striving to be a Well Mom is figuring out how to manage our stress and boost our confidence so we can make our kids feel safe. So here are a few thoughts that might help.

The Well Mom Guide to Keeping Your Cool While Keeping Your Kids Safe:

Get the 4-1-1
Knowledge is power. The more we can find out about recalls, new safety research and trends, the better Well Moms can cope and react. Both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the FDA offer email alerts so you can find out right away about safety and health risks before they make news. Do your friends a favor and pass on the alerts to your mommy email groups and message boards. also provides some excellent health and safety information.

There are also some terrific child safety books out there. But for the purpose of reacting quickly, I think the immediacy of the web is a gift to nervous parents.

Take a Stand
Are you angry about the toxic toys from China?
Moms can make a huge difference by making our voices heard. Check out to find out about the issues you care about and weigh in.
Next week, on, I'll be featuring a story about 2 Angry Moms, a new documentary about two moms on a mission to improve the food served in public schools.

Take a Deep Breath
This is the hardest part for me. Becoming a parent makes you realize you have to go with the flow. No matter how much we try to protect our kids, we can only do the very best we can. If we are armed with knowledge, listen to our guts, and respond quickly that is all we can do, right? Then we have to step back and exhale. Tomorrow is another day, as my mom tells me just about every day. (Thank goodness for mothers!)

So, P.S. We've been really conscientious about getting Ian and Samantha excited about enjoying lots of fruits and vegetables. But the Sunday night after the crazy safety hazard week, we let our 19-month-old toddlers try hamburgers and French fries for the first time. I had mixed feelings about introducing them to good ol' American junk food. I couldn't stop myself from ordering steamed broccoli and fruit to go with it. It was a special treat (no - not McDonald's). And in the end, they were soooo cute tasting all these new things. They had such a good time smearing their faces with ketchup. That was precious.

What happens the next morning? I'm on the way to the gym and I hear about the ground beef recall!!

Geez, we can't catch a break.