For mothers, the wellbeing of their children is vital and 89 % want to look after them personally at certain stages of their life, according to a study carried out by the Movement of Mothers in Europe, a Unesco consulting body. The situation can cause intense worry and lead to stress, anxiety and even emotional instability. To find out what worries Spanish mothers most about caring for their children, the first Survey into Concerns and Attitudes of Spanish Mothers was commissioned by the Spanish Society of Outpatient Pediatry and Family Medicine and the Mylam pharmaceutical company.
"When a woman becomes a mother, there is a major and irreversible change in the way she sees things, her priorities and preferences," says the report. "She wants to be able to speak for herself and wants her points of view to be taken into consideration by political leaders." The survey aimed to give mothers a voice and asked them questions to see what they were worried about, what they wanted and needed: it also tried to find possible solutions. The objective was also to find out how mothers reacted when their children had minor health problems such as high temperature and pain, and what their relationship with their child's pediatrician was like.
For 47 % of first-time and more experienced mothers, the greatest fear is that their child may become ill, followed by not being able to spend enough time with their son or daughter (35.5%) and not knowing why the child is crying (32.7%). In terms of illness, the biggest fear was that the child would have convulsions if their temperature rose too high, followed by the fear of serious illness (69.9%) and that the temperature would not drop after treatment (61.8%).
"Specifically, the presence of fever in a child is one of the most common reasons mothers consult pediatricians (between 30 and 50%), and it can sometimes make parents afraid and panicky," say the authors of the report. "In most cases, parents consider a child's temperature to be the most important sign of a serious infection and this can lead them to misuse the GP medical system and especially the emergency services."
When a child is unwell, mothers also worry about them being in pain and this is one of the areas of pediatric services which is being studied in depth. "It's important to know that pain is a common problem in children and adolescents, but it can result in an unpleasant emotional experience which pediatricians deal with every day," says the report. "Treating pain properly helps to reduce anxiety in the child and the parents, improves the way treatments work and avoids negative effects of pain such as an increase in morbimortality, hyperalgesia and the negative effect upon development."
Among the mothers who took part in the survey, 56.5% say that they are most worried about "not being able to identify" their child's pain and "not knowing whether they should go to the emergency services" (11.6%). About 39 % of the mothers said they never give their children medication if they are in pain and would make an appointment with the pediatrician instead, while 25.3% give them paracetamol or ibuprofen at home and know the correct dose to be given.
The survey also looked at the relationship between food and safety. With regard to food, first-time mothers said they were afraid that their child could develop an allergy to something, while more experienced mums were worried that their children would be fussy eaters. When it comes to safety, 79 % of all mothers questioned said they were afraid of their children getting lost, followed by them injuring themselves. It may sound obvious, but it's true: a mother never stops worrying about their child's welfare.