Holding the front door open with one hand and blowing kisses with the other, I feel an all too familiar sense of panic as I leave the flat to meet my husband for a romantic anniversary dinner. I’m SURE our nanny thinks I’m a horrible mother for leaving before bedtime. Three texts to her en route to the restaurant and no reply. I’m SURE she’s reading them extra stories to compensate for my lack of attention. As I hand my coat to the coat check with one hand, I ring the home phone with the other. No answer Must mean then aren’t sleeping yet. Must mean they are upset with me!
Panic. Martini please. Straight up. Now.
According to a recent study, by Oxford psychologist Daniel Freeman, paranoia is on the rise among young successful women. I think it’s also on the rise among mums. After all, we were young and successful in our previous professional lives. And we are striving for that same success in our parenting role. We are well educated, have or have had highly successful careers so why are we seemingly lacking in confidence? In his research, Professor Freemen found that 40% of women felt that people we’re talking about them.
In our daily network, online and offline, we are visible all of the time which creates a sense of worry over how we are projecting ourselves. We want to be everything to everyone at home and outside and the tendency to review (and re- review) each move we make is dominating our otherwise healthy lives. Being a mum has become so competitive and in our efforts to achieve, the majority of us over think and over analyse everything we do. We THINK someone is watching every step we take. Wouldn’t it be more productive to feel good about our decisions and move forward after making them? Some of us have even gone so far as to feel good about our choice and then wonder if something is wrong with us. Yes, paranoid that we are not paranoid!
Here’s how you know if you have become paranoid:
- You lose a night’s sleep because you were spotted with a store bought cake for your son’s sixth birthday party.
- When your nanny doesn’t reply to your text on her day off you spend the afternoon writing your speech to inform the children she is not coming back.
- You make up a business meeting to explain your absence from a class coffee morning that conflicts with your personal training session.
- An email to RSVP to another child’s birthday invitation requires three drafts. One reviewed by a friend, another by your husband and the final sign off from your mother.
- You think you’ve upset a friend because she has not replied to your text suggesting a quick lunch before pick up.
- You are sweating when a mother picks up her daughter from a play date at your house and sees empty the cardboard box of Kraft Mac and cheese on the counter.
- You panick you’re not doing a good enough “job” when your co class rep doesn’t respond to your email within 24 hours.
- You bring a Cadbury chocolate bar to your son after soccer and tear off the wrapper secretly because they had no green and black organic.
- You booked an appointment with your counseller because your child’s play date with Alexander has not been reciprocated in two weeks.
- You believe your four year old daughter is judging you.
So how do we ease the symptoms? It is not useful to compare and contrast our individual skills. It is important to remember that what works for the apparently perfect mum across the street, may not work for you. The more we are able to recognise that we will make some less than perfect decisions, the less we will feel threatened by others making different choices. Life is too short and so is each stage of parenting. This job is a work in progress.