Calling all HSP and HG Ladies!

I have suddenly wondered about the correlation between Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and Highly Sensitive People (HSP). I am so sensitive to many stimuli – I don’t enjoy driving at night, for example, because I am dazzled by the lights, and of course I also have Misophonia. I am wondering if those of us that are HSP are more predisposed to suffering with HG – it certainly makes a lot of sense to me!

Therefore, I have decided to do my first ever poll! Please let me know if you noticed a connection between the two!

Child-free and partying!

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Well,  okay,  not partying exactly – more like relishing the silence,  while  sipping my coffee undisturbed.  There’s no shouting,  fighting or running around with guns, no dread as I sit down on the toilet seat without first checking for little boy splatters.  Time constraints no longer exist – we eat when we’re hungry;  we go out when we want to,  without a strict protocol of hysteria mainly consisting of “clean your teeth”,  “get your shoes on”, “hurry UP!”  Ah,  does it get much better than this?

Oh,  hang on a second.  Am I allowed to say that?  Shouldn’t I cradle any feelings of glee about being child-free close to my chest?  Isn’t it more appropriate for a mum without her kids to sit wailing in the corner,  resigning herself to a loss of all joy until they tumble into her ever-loving arms once more? Well, that would depend on who you were talking to,  I guess.

I have friends who smugly share that they never let their kids spend the night away from them,  their self-righteous “I’m a better mum than you’ll ever be” attitude oozing from every pore.  They need to be careful,  because that Mother of the Year medal around their neck is going to choke them.  Refusing to let your child stay with other people, while proudly proclaiming how you have personally put them to bed every day of their life,  does not make you a better parent.  In fact,  not allowing your child the freedom and independence achieved from staying with close family that love them more than anything  says more about you,  than your child.  There are some serious control issues going on there,  no kidding.

My kids have gone to their grandparents for the weekend.  It’s a rarity for it to be just me (and him indoors),  and my mind bobbles back and forth between enjoying the blissful peace, and feeling that the house is just too quiet.  When your kids are away,  there’s an undeniable tangible emptiness that inexplicably differs from  when the are just at school.  It’s hard to explain.  It’s a stillness,  a haven of serenity;  yet it also feels like a void,  a desolate gaping hole that can’t be filled.  One minute I experience a sensation akin to envy prodding at me, taunting the fact that it always used to be like this – getting up in the morning and having a leisurely coffee,  wondering how to fill the day’s hours,  and relishing the prospect of doing very little.  And then in an instant, it’s gone,  to be replaced with a rush of joy and gratitude at how wonderfully my life has changed for the better.

I used to have a hard time with guilt over being voluntarily separated from my children.  When we moved back here last year my family travelled before me,  and I spent seven long weeks away from them.  To say it was one of the hardest things I have ever done,  is an understatement;  it just about killed me.  Was it my choice to be apart from them? Yes,  it was. But sometimes we do things we just have to do,  and it was a necessity to factor in when moving our whole lives to another country.  People would comment “oh, I couldn’t do that”,  unable to contain their incredulity at how a mum could leave their kids for so long.  Ah,  you know;  it was nothing,  a piece of cake,  an absolute walk in the park – I flung them away from me without a backward glance.  I don’t think.  Being away from your children is like your arm being torn off,  because essentially,  not having your kids with you feels as though an integral part of who you are is suddenly missing.

Now,  it’s much easier to let my children go,  and feel no pangs. Realising that I am a HSP has helped me accept that it is okay to admit that I need time away from everyone  to recharge my batteries.  For example,  I’ve just spent the whole summer with my kids,  mostly alone, with ten full weeks of being with them 24/7.  It actually happened to be one of the of the best summers I have ever had,  but the intensity of having someone around you constantly, even if they are your own children,  is pretty tough going on the psyche of a HSP.  But in our society,  we can’t admit that,  not without criticism,  anyway.  One of my friends posted on Facebook that if people couldn’t enjoy the summer holidays,  then they didn’t deserve to have kids.  Obviously not a HSP then!

These days,  I feel a lot less guilt when letting my kids spent time with their grandparents.  And why should I feel guilt?  I am not sending them off with axe-wielding psychopaths;  they are with family who I trust with all my heart.  They have fun,  they play games,  they eat sweets and they get some time to develop as little individuals away from the parents. How can it not  be a win-win scenario?

Image courtesy of Photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Introvert in Denial

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I have made a whole heap of discoveries about who I am in the past year.  I’m talking really huge, monumental realisations that have absolutely smashed to smithereens all previous theories about who I am, and who I thought I was.  A dawning of such magnitude doesn’t come cheap;  it causes the world as you know it to shake at your feet in a terrifying earthquake,  forcing all earlier conceptions to tumble to the ground,  leaving rubble where solid thoughts once existed.

It sounds terrifying,  and in many ways it is;  it is certainly life changing,  make no mistake.  But the overriding sensation is one of relief:  I am not odd:  I’m just in the minority.  I am not an intolerant bitch:  I struggle with Misophonia.  I am not an attention-seeking drama queen:  I am merely a highly sensitive person.

However,  one aspect of my personality is still a mystery.  Am I an introvert,  or not?  Many HSPs are introverts,  and it’s true that when I have taken online personality tests,  I invariably come up with introvert.  But while I enjoy my own company, I also love a good party.  I am loud and opinionated, which are a far cry from classic introvert characteristics.  Although I often shrink from attention,  there are times when I am most comfortable being slap,  bang right in the middle of it.

The bottom line is,  I don’t want to be an introvert.  There,  I’ve said it.  I am more than willing to admit that I have introvert traits,  but there are just as many extrovert ones, too.   When I consider the possibility of being an introvert,  I want to fight tooth and nail against it,  every fibre of my being screaming “that’s not ME”.

Why would this be?  I honestly don’t know.  Or perhaps I do,  and I am just being coy.  It’s stigma.  The stigma that is associated with introverted,  shy people.  God, I hate that word.  Shy,  shy,  shy,  SHY.  As a child,  I was always described as shy.   I am not shy at all,  and never have been.  I am wary,  and cautious and sensitive,  that’s it.  Nobody really looked close enough to see the real me,  to bother enough to realise that I wasn’t shy.  Hey, ho.  Common mistake:   quiet equals shy.

Perhaps the problem is that I see shyness and introversion all entwined and entangled,  with my mind unable to separate the two?  Or,  maybe,  it has more to do with how our society treats introverts:  the butt of poor jokes,  ridiculed and misunderstood,  seen as second class citizens that nobody remembers or cares about.  I am a highly sensitive person,  and as such,  I CRAVE acceptance.  This is closer to the truth;  this,  I believe, is the real reason why I can’t think of myself as being an introvert.

Although I have many unequivocal extrovert tendencies,  I think I may be a closet introvert: an introvert in some serious denial.  I’ve seen me walk into a crowded room and rather than show I was intimidated,  I have become the loudest person there.  I’ve had public speaking jobs,  where I felt a fraud,  sick to my stomach before every meeting I held.  I’ve worked in customer services positions where a jovial,  sociable  and out-going personality was a pre-requisite,  and gone home exhausted due to the effort it took.  I felt like a fake,  an interloper,  and just waited for someone to discover it.   That’s denial.  That’s pretending.  That’s not who I am.

And it makes me sad.  Why should I deny such a huge part of who I am?  If,  indeed, I am an introvert? Why should society dictate what is acceptable,  or not?  I might ask why should I even care;  but the HSP among us will know why.  We just do.

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Understanding Your Limitations

 

Before I start, I want to emphasise that I love my kids. Really love them. The love I feel for them is the purest and deepest emotion I have ever experienced, and will undoubtedly always remain that way. Some may not believe me after they read my post, while others, hopefully, will be able to closely relate.

I have been thinking about writing a post on the subject, when this popped up on my feed. I felt such a deep resonance with the words; it seriously could have been written by me, about me. Among other things, it broached the somewhat tricky subject of when you need time away from your kids; when they become almost enough to drive you insane, seriously. Most people are frustrated by their kids at some point, but sensitive people really struggle at times. Like the poster, I also had such a hard time when my first child was born; I used to say it was because I was selfish and set in my ways, which to some degree is probably true, but I think it is more the fact that I could never escape. He was always around; if I went somewhere, he came with me. It was suffocating.

I have spent the last two weeks in our family’s idyllic summerhouse. It’s by the beach, in the middle of a forest, and I love it here. The first week was amazing – we were here as a family, and there was the opportunity to dive into a book and lose myself for a while. This second week it has just been me and the kids. To be honest, this idyll has reverted to a living hell. The kids go to bed the same time as me, and wake up the same time. They are there every second of every day. I have seriously not had more than a minute to myself for a week. Yes, I hear the non-sensitive among you saying. That’s what parents do; that’s what you sign up for. But, to a sensitive person, it is akin to torture. I can’t think straight, I am grumpy, snappy and quite unforgivingly horrible to the kids. Things that wouldn’t normally bother me are sending my emotions into a devastating maelstrom. If nagging was an Olympic sport, I would win gold.

In reality, I don’t want to get away from my kids. What I do want to do, is get away from the noise, from the inane childish chatter, from the constant questions. I want to sit quietly for five minutes to settle my thoughts. It’s the inability to do that, even for just a few minutes, that puts enormous pressure on my whole being.

None of us feel good; that I am sure of. My eldest is very sensitive and also feels the need to get away, but can’t either. At home he escapes to his room with his iPad, but with a poor internet connection, he doesn’t even get that luxury here. So, we are constantly butting heads, with ever-increasing abandon. For the first time ever, I put them to bed last night without giving them a cuddle. I mean, the first time EVER in their lives. Their crime? Silly, childish hysterics and behaviour. How horrific, eh? But, in my defence (and I am feeling the need to defend my actions, probably because I am so aware that it is me in the wrong) it came at the pinnacle of a very stressful and frustrating day, and it was literally the straw that broke the camel’s back. I always tell them that no matter what happens, nobody should go to sleep sad or cross. I broke my promise last night with a cold and uncaring heart. I needed to get away from them, and the only way I could do that was to sleep. I must just point out that I am not Cruella de Ville; my kids didn’t wail themselves to sleep feeling abandoned by the only person they could depend on. They went to sleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows, but even so. It’s the principle that matters (and hurts in the cold light of day).

I am trying to be magnanimous about this; I could easily allow myself to slip into a quagmire of self-flagellation, as I have done numerous times in the past, but I am trying not to beat myself up about something I literally have no control over. It isn’t about me getting a grip, or needing to stop stressing. This is who I am; how I am made. When forced into a situation where there is no escape, even if that is from my children, I became claustrophobic to the point of distraction.

We’ve had a better day today. We’ve been down to the beach, and I have dipped in the refreshing Baltic. It’s swept away lots of negativity and frustration; it’s re-charged my batteries. I’ve survived to live another day.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (plus Buses) – Why Travelling is Torturous for a HSP with Misophonia

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Travelling is rarely fun at the best of times,  but it can become pure torture for a Highly Sensitive Person with Misophonia. There are loads of reasons for this (perhaps too many to mention here),  so I will provide a brief taster of what it is like when I travel,  and why being around so many people,  for so long,  can leave me jabbering away in the nearest corner.

1. Space Invaders:  When travelling,  especially on budget airlines,  you are forced into the very close proximity of strangers. This sends my highly sensitive personality into a tailspin of abject terror.  On both legs of my flight,  I sat next to a man (not the same one – I don’t have a stalker);  and both times,  they sat with their legs wide open.  Yes, guys.  I get there’s a reason why you can’t close your legs completely,  but do you have to sit with them so far apart?  Is it some kind of macho,  non-verbal communication?   We are talking small kiwis,  not huge melons,  so let’s get some perspective and quit with the wide leg gape.  Their chivalry was extended to space hogging,  too.  They kindly sprawled their arms over the mutual arm rest,  and never budged. Touching the flesh of a stranger is pretty tough going for a HSP,  and I was left with no alternative but to twist my body into contortions a Russian gymnast would be proud of,  just to avoid physical contact.  On my return journey,  I got brave (scratch that,  I got so pissed off that he was so seemingly unaware of how cramped I was)  that at one point,  when he moved his arm to itch his chin,  I flung my arm on the arm rest,  thinking that he would get the hint,  and relinquish the spot to me for a while.  Sadly,  he was quite oblivious,  and pushed his arm back into the coveted spot.  I scrunched up my eyes,  took a deep breath,  and began to battle it out. I lasted all of 30 seconds before bailing.  Just couldn’t take it any longer.  Strange, inconsiderate man:  1,  odd,  frustrated HSP lady:  0.

On my bus journey home,  the woman beside me suddenly leant right across me.  I wouldn’t have been any more startled or bristly if she’d jabbed me with a pitchfork.   She wanted to take a picture of the view.   Yes,  it was pretty, and yes,  I get her eagerness and excitement.   But rule number one for a HSP:  never get closer than you have to.  If you do have to (or would like to take a picture),  always politely ask first.  It’s not hard.  It’s respectful.

2. You are forced to listen to people:  People with Misophonia are very sensitive to noise, sometimes any kind of noise,  although it is often specific to the sufferer.  My worst trigger is people eating loud food,  such as crisps or apples.   However, I am also very sensitive to people’s voices.  I am from the north of England,  and we have some lovely,  melodious accents; but we also have some ear-splitting dialects that leave me begging for mercy.  The cabin crew on my flight yesterday loved the sound of their own voices,  but one had a  Blackburn accent that was enough to make your eyes water (if you have no idea what it sounds like, Google it). I was sitting at the back of the aircraft like I always do (I am scared of flying, and feel safer right at the back – despite my 9 year old gleefully told me that I am more likely to die if sit there),  and on what was obviously a quiet day,  I was forced to endure a voice that was like nails down a chalkboard.  I am now lucky enough to know more of her life history than her mum does.  Like how she has three kids,  her eldest is just about to start secondary school and needs to catch a bus there.  She’s a bit concerned about that,  but you know,  she’ll soon settle in.  Her husband is a great help,  but well,  if he doesn’t go to work he doesn’t get paid,  and she once spent a whole day ironing clothes (she now hires someone to do it, and it costs £30).  She’s been to the Maldives:  lovely place – she could walk around her island in 20 minutes,  but it wasn’t too quiet,   just perfect. And on, and on,  she went.  Thankfully,  the flight was only and hour and thirty minutes,  otherwise I might have been flinging myself out of the emergency exit.  On the outbound journey we were serenaded by a member of the cabin crew that sang the same line of a song,  over and over again. Badly. Very badly indeed.

3. Checking:  No, I don’t mean “check-in”,  I mean checking.  As in checking everything five million times. This is another highly sensitive trait,  but I also think I have certain OCD tendencies.  I had a bus journey that spanned only ten minutes,  and in that duration,   I jumped three times in fright wondering where my suitcase was.  It was in the hold,  where I’d handed it to the driver.  All three times.  I checked for the whereabouts of my passport every two minutes, with military precision,  just in case it had fallen out of my tightly zipped bag.  Could have done. You never know.  The writing on my boarding card became almost illegible,  due to how many times I had taken it out of my bag to scrutinise it;  just in case I had missed something the first hundred occasions I’d looked at it.  During my time in the UK,  I went a bit overboard with the shopping,  and now have the arms of a navvy,  due to the fact that I repeatedly picked up my suitcase trying to judge how heavy it was (panicking that I might be charged excess baggage).

4. The increased possibility of looking foolish: A highly sensitive person does everything they can to avoid being the centre of attention in public,  especially if that attention is perceived as negative.  I live in fear of falling over (which almost never happens,  probably because I am so careful to ensure it stays that way),  or doing something that makes me look like an idiot.  Being in unfamiliar territory,  and experiencing situations that are not every day,  dramatically increases the likelihood.  Before doing something,  I weigh up the odds like a bookmaker, watching carefully to see someone else do it first.   For example, taking a luggage trolley.  Now, you might be wondering how hard that could be,  but at the airport they had a new-fangled system where you put a coin in a machine,  and it releases a trolley.   Normally, I would stand and assess the situation,  and watch someone else take one.  But I was obviously feeling confident and blazed in.  Now,   there were two lanes, and for some reason,  I thought the red light signified it was the lane I should use.  Because, of course red signals GO,  doesn’t it?  After tugging,  and pulling, and increasingly aware that I was becoming the centre of attention,  I looked frantically around for someone who could help me.  Thankfully,  a man did come to my painful rescue (albeit somewhat reluctantly,  and with ill-disguised smugness as he pointed out the green light in the other lane).  It made me cringe.  It made me want to curl up in a ball.  It made me feel like clod-hopping,  idiotic buffoon.  A slight over-reaction, wouldn’t you say?  After all,  it could happen to anyone.  And I would absolutely agree.  Welcome to the world of a HSP.

5. You worry. All the time:  I planned every inch of my trip with mathematical precision,  even down to studying the menus of restaurants I would be visiting.  I was particularly anxious about finding space for my luggage during my two hour train journey (it is notoriously limited).  So much so,  that I’d reserved seats nearby luggage holds.  However,  this didn’t ease my panic. In fact, it probably heightened it, because I was worried that someone else would be sitting in my reserved seat, and I would have a fight to get them to move.  Oh,  my imagination knows no bounds.  I was forced to put my large suitcase on a shelf where it was over-hanging slightly.  Utterly convinced it would fall off in transit,  I badgered two innocent young Americans into putting their smaller bag on top of mine.  I didn’t ask them;  I ordered them.  I developed a case of repetitive strain injury due to the amount of times I turned my head to see if the case had fallen off (it never moved an inch),  and the woman behind me must have thought I was spying on her,  because every time I looked back,  she caught my eye.

I’d managed to jump on an earlier train,  but this meant that I didn’t have time to weigh up everything,  and doubted that it was the right train. I’d accosted an elderly couple:   “Is this train going to York?  Are you sure?  Definitely going to York?  Where are you getting off?  Oh,  it must definitely be going to York then”.  Yes,  it was going to York,  which is what they’d said when I first asked.

6. You have to conform:  As a HSP I live a quite controlled life,  and I guess by default,  this can mean that I have the ability to be controlling,  and a need to be in control.  This,  I have realised,  is just a way for me to stay on an even keel;  if I know what is going to happen,  it doesn’t jerk so much.  I am also very set in my ways,  and although I enjoy the company of family and friends, this can only be for limited periods,  dependant on the person.  So, when you travel and stay with people,  you are often dragged kicking and screaming from your comfort zone.  You have to do what others want to do.  I don’t like it.  I spent a lot of time during my week away almost apologising for who I am,  despite the fact that I promised myself I wouldn’t.  This year has been a huge awakening for me,  with hard-hitting realisations,  and dawning truths about who I am, and why I do the things I do.  It’s brought relief and acceptance that it is okay for me to be just me, odd little foibles and all.  But I have never been more conscious of being in the minority (only 20% of people are HSP) during my travels this time.  It made me sad, scared and happy,  all rolled up together.  As a HSP,  I am always second guessing myself,  and why make a quick decision when you can spend hours analysing every little detail, eh?  You can’t do that when you are out for a meal (even if the choice of menu is overwhelming, even to a “normal” person),  so,  being forced to stray away from what makes me comfortable is never easy.

Phew! It’s a wonder I go anywhere!

 

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / Free DigitalPhotos.net

 

The Whale in the Mirror

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I’ve lost 12kg (around 24lbs) since the new year started.

It’s not been easy.  I have pushed my body to its limit:  running,  speed walking,  cardio,  weights, aerobics.  I’ve sweated tears.  I hate working out;  hate it with a passion.  Can’t for the life of me see how someone could push themselves like that every day,  and enjoy it.  Who,  seriously,  likes crunches?  I love food;  I don’t eat to sustain my body,  I eat because it is a passion of mine.  Yet,  I have cut out all of the foods I find irresistibly divine.  I haven’t cheated.  I haven’t taken the easy route and purchased a year’s supply of WW food;  I have simply started to cook everything from scratch.  I no longer eat white flour products,  I bake my own whole-wheat bread,  and use bananas in muffins rather than fat.

It is no exaggeration,  then,  to say that I have felt every one of those ounces leave my body.

So,  you’d imagine I’d feel pretty proud of myself;  that I am flaunting my new svelte body at every opportunity?  Well,  that’s what a normal,  rational woman would do.  Not me.  No, instead,  when I look in the mirror,  I see the biggest whale you can imagine.  A gargantuan,  big-boobed,  jelly-bellied,  thunder-armed woman.  That’s what I see.  I am only a couple of pounds overweight (if you go by the BMI),  but I truly believe that even if I lost 100 more pounds,  I would still see myself in this way.  I hate this part of me – not the body (although we ain’t best friends),  but the self-loathing,  self-critical me.  The one that scrutinises every inch,  and finds nothing of worth.

Rational thought does kick in.  I know that there is a big difference between how I was before I started,  and now.  Sheer biology tells me that I can’t possibly look the same after losing 24lbs.  But, I just don’t see it.  As a young girl I was slim,  but even then found it hard to appreciate my appearance.  I look back at photos now and literally cry at how slim and beautiful I was;  not because I wish I still was that girl,  but for sadness at how my 20-something self was SO unable to see it,  or accept it.  I wonder how different my life might have been,  if I had been able to?  I envy people who effortless glide through life blissfully aware of who they are,  what they look like;  and are happy with it.

When I see myself (especially in photos) now,   part of me just wants to crawl under a stone; even today,  after I have shed all of those pounds.  I am not sure why.  I really don’t know.  I have done a lot of soul-searching in the last few years,  and have been able to fit a lot of random jigsaw pieces together.  But this inability to see me as others do?  I just don’t know.  I have low self-esteem,  bucket loads of insecurity,  that I do know.  Perhaps it is linked?  All I know is that it is horrible.

When I was younger,  this low self-esteem about my appearance was often misunderstood by the people around me.  I can’t really blame them.   When you see a good looking, slim girl stand in front of you,  telling you how ugly and fat she is,  it is hard to not take that as vanity.  I’ve done it myself with friends:  we’ve all got those gorgeous people in our lives who tell us how horrible they look,  and it is hard not to smash them in the face;  pummelling them until they admit that they know they are beautiful,  really.  But,  perhaps,  they are just like me,  they aren’t saying it just so that we stroke their ego,  but that they genuinely believe it?  There’s food for thought.

Even if you told me I looked good,  I wouldn’t believe you.  I’ve been admonished in the past for not being able to take a compliment.  I can’t stand them.  They make me feel squirmy,   and uncomfortable. I appreciate the sentiment,  just don’t believe it.  Ironic, eh?  Here’s me craving confirmation that I am attractive,  and therefore accepted (because acceptance is really the crux of all this),  yet when it is offered,  it is rejected quicker than you can say “low self-esteem sucks”.

This is probably the only part about  me (and my life) that I would change.  Although I have personality flaws (who doesn’t),  I know on the whole that my heart is in the right place,  and I am one of the good guys.  I am a positive person,  one who is genuinely so happy with her life,  and I would not change a second of it.  I am appreciative of everything.  So,  why this one part of me,  a part that I just can’t ease up on,  can’t stop for just a minute and thank myself lucky that I am alive;  to be grateful that I have two arms and legs,  and say bugger to everything else that lies in between?

I am rapidly heading towards 50,  so I’ve kind of missed my chance at being Miss World.  So does it really matter what I look like?  Surprisingly,  I am going to say not to me.  Not even to my partner of 15 years.  If I lived on a desert island,  with just my immediate family for company, I wouldn’t care if I was the size of a house.  No,  I want to look good because it matters what other people think of me.  I want them to gasp at how gorgeous I am,  not snicker at how fat I have become.  I want,  no,  NEED,  to be admired.

Despite what I’ve said,  I am sure this reads as vanity.  Sure of it.  But believe me when I say it isn’t.  Not really.

I might sound like a lost cause,  but I do fight it.  I fight it for the sake of my children.  I don’t put myself down in front of them;  I tell them how gorgeous I think I am,  and how well I am doing to lose some weight (for fitness, and to be healthy, not because I feel fat).   I don’t want them going through life disbelieving what they see in the mirror (or more importantly, to help them understand that it doesn’t matter what they do see in the mirror).  And who knows – if I keep going at convincing my children,  a little might rub off,  and I may be able to convince myself.

Here’s hoping.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

None of us are perfect

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Being a mum. Tough, eh?

It’s a multi-faceted role that is littered with mistakes, worry, regret, irritation, and pretty much every other emotion under the sun.

It’s a job I never feel accomplished at, rarely feel satisfied by my efforts (and if I do, it is always very short-lived), and I always have a pervading sense of not quite getting it right, however hard I try.

Let’s give an example of what I mean: I live in absolute dread of forgetting something important to do with my kids and school. Like not remembering they are going swimming, not packing school books or forgetting homework needs doing, having the wrong food in a packed lunch for a school trip, or a whole host of other things I could get wrong. This is a lot about me. I do worry that by forgetting something, my kids are going to get into trouble, or teased, or miss out. But I have to be honest and say that a lot of it is about how it reflects on my parental abilities. If you forget their PE kit, you are a crap mum. Right?

A prime example of this happened last week. My big boy told me that his class would start having PE outside, and he needed outdoor  trainers. So, I got them ready for him. I panicked for a fair bit beforehand, mind you, because he can’t tie his laces, and all he has for outdoor trainers are a pair with laces. So, I spent ages fixing them just right, so that he could put them on without undoing them, yet they would stay tight enough that they didn’t fall off when he ran. I put more thought into it than scientists did researching the atom. But what I forgot to give any attention to was packing tracksuit bottoms or a hoodie (he went with his usual shorts and tee shirt), and as a result, he was so cold he had to put his clothes back on, and then wasn’t allowed to participate; instead, he had to walk around the football pitch. He cried, he told me; he said it felt horrible to be secluded like that. And yes, my heart just about broke; I’d let him down and I was a crap mum. Self-flagellation a-plenty that night, I can tell you.

I know, I know. I know that he will survive, may even have taught him some lesson (pack your own things for school, perhaps?), but I felt like the worse mum in the world. He’s a sensitive boy, and whereas most kids would be able to shrug it off, I think he feels embarrassment and humiliation more keenly, and it lingers for longer. And what would his teachers think? Would they talk privately about the mum that sent her child to school with shorts and a tee shirt? Didn’t she realise it was cold? Didn’t she care? Would they scoff, discussing how some parents were just rubbish? Maybe. But they couldn’t say any worse than I felt myself.

So, imagine my absolute delight, when I discovered that another mum – one I don’t know very well, but have always regarded as clued-up, and with it – sent her six year old to school with rain trousers that were too small for him. My youngest came home and told me that his friend had been crying because they were too short. I asked how short. He said they were half way up his leg. And my reaction? I laughed. I laughed a secret little chortle, riddled with glee, but also relief: I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only mum that got it wrong sometimes. I didn’t waste one moment imagining how she (and her child) felt. This is kind of odd behaviour for the highly sensitive, empathic women I usually am. But, nope.  I was too busy smiling to myself, revelling in the relief that it wasn’t me that went to bed that night with thoughts of failing my kids reverberating around my head.

I think a lesson can be learned from that. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. No mum, especially one that has a busy life, is going to get it right 100% of the time. And if they did, really, what does that teach children? I would imagine that it would set them up for a fall; that’s what. A less-than-perfect mum makes them realise that the world is less-than-perfect; it allows them to face disappointment, and to deal with it. Not a lesson I would ever deliberately place on my children’s shoulders; yet, surely, an invaluable one, none-the-less?

 

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net