Who is this mother? I don't want her as a friend & I most certainly didn't invite her to my play dates.
I don’t know about you, but I experience Mother’s guilt all the time, and I only have one child. Goodness knows how those who have more than one cope.
I hate anyone being left out and I definitely worry about this with my daughter, as I would hate for her to have the feeling of being excluded. Or not trying everything that life has to offer, although let’s face it, life sometimes has too much to offer especially for children.
I also have “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) once again it’s connected to my anxiety because I don’t want my daughter to miss out on anything.
I get disheartened when my daughter doesn’t get invited to the party, is left out of games or misses out something. I feel that guilty anxious knot and I want to fix it.
I have many Mummy friends who, just like me, have their own specific area where they battle with guilt. For example I know I have a stay at home mum who thinks she should be working, the working mum who thinks she should be staying at home, the mum who doesn’t do organic, the mum who didn’t breastfeed, the mum who didn’t take part in every baby class possible, the mum who didn’t read all the books, and the list goes on.
We all do it. We all beat ourselves up with our imaginary bat saying “What more can I do for my child? Am I doing enough for my child? Should they being doing more classes, socialising, learning a new developmental skill?”, and so on.
I remember in the early days trying to get my daughter to do tummy time. I remember thinking “If I don’t give this child at least 10 minutes of tummy time a day that’s it, I’ve failed at being a parent and she will never ever be able to hold her head up”.
My child is 4 now and her head control skills are just fine.
I have those days where I’m so tired all I want to do is just have that cheeky power nap for half an hour, but the guilt sets in.
“Have I done enough with my child today? Have we bonded? We haven’t ever done baking? Why haven’t we? Will this not help her development? Will this be her defining memory of her childhood?”
And the questions continue and the anxiety rises and the worry and guilt set in.
I look back at the last 5 years and think “Really? That’s what you were worrying about?”
But at the time it seemed important.
I so wish I could go back and tell myself “Look, it’s all going to be fine” because it really is. Honestly, can you tell me what you were worrying about 5 years ago?
I recently had an attack of guilt and anxiety over what’s the right thing to do in relation to my child’s health, and how far I’d be prepared to go to prevent even the most improbable of situations from occurring. At first when listening to others talking about it, and because I wasn’t up to speed on this certain issue, I let my brain over-think and the guilt plus anxiety crept in.
Once that initial fear had subsided though, I was able to look at the situation from my rational viewpoint, and realise that there’s a balance and that because I hadn’t acted when others may have acted I still could, but in my own time and at my own pace.
Maybe it was because my life is made up of so many things that I just didn’t feel that issue was important enough at the time compared to some of the other worries and concerns I was dealing with.
It got me wondering why am I not as bothered as some other Mum’s.
Then I realised that I’m doing what I think is right.
My daughter is happy and healthy. I’m a Mum who reads no books on child rearing, and doesn’t do any real research into the subject. I might read a few basic points, ask a few friends, but that’s the extent of it.
If it looks right and goes right then that’s all I can hope for. I hated weaning and we survived on Ella’s Kitchen pouches until some sheer miracle proper solid food went in. (I might also add I don’t like to cook). I was that Mum
But I made the effort. I did what I felt was right for me and my child and that’s basically it.
We don’t need the Mothers guilt in our lives because as long as we’re there for our child / children and what we’re doing is for their benefit, then there shouldn’t be any guilt.
It’s not right that it comes along and tells us what we should or shouldn’t be doing because whatever we are doing is right for us and our family.
However, I know that just as Mother Nature is one of my lifelong friends, so is Mother’s Guilt. So instead of letting it get to me and cause me anxiety, I need to learn to manage its effects. I can’t escape it; all I can do it learn the best way to live with it.
I often hear the question “Are you happy?”
I don’t like it. It’s like asking how long a piece of string is.
Don’t get me wrong. Yes I like things that give me that happy feeling, but am I happy? As in have I achieved my limit of happiness and this where I shall stay?
No, that’s ridiculous!!! How can I have achieved happiness when I have so much more to experience? Ok yes, maybe if I’m lying on my deathbed with my last breath I might say “Yes I’m happy”, but for me happy is a continual process.
Happy isn’t just a destination, a thing, a feeling, an emotion or whatever you define it to be. It’s a mixture of all those things.
It’s the big and the small, and it’s those moments that suddenly you look back at and go “Yes, that was happiness”
People continually ask themselves “Why can’t I be happy?” or “I wish I was happy”.
Well there is that possibility of you actually finding it, you’re probably just not looking in the right place. Happy isn’t like being given an injection or (if like me and you’ve watched the film Trolls a million times) you don’t get to eat the Troll to be happy!!!
It’s actually looking at your lifestyle, who you are and actually what kind of a life you have. It can be the smallest of things, but because we take them for granted or view them as being part of the “norm”. So we don’t actually realise these are the elements that contribute to our happiness and well being.
To me, it can be things as simple as when the bath water is the perfect temperature when you first put your foot in, or you get to the Post Office and there’s no queue, or the piece of bread you put in the toaster comes out at exactly the right level of crunch.
They’re just small things, and internally I’m doing that little happy dance.
However we probably don’t realise were doing it most of the time
So I decided to write a list of some things that give me that feeling of happiness, some of which are the small, but they all achieve the same goal.
1- A nice cappuccino. (Until I had a child I didn’t drink the stuff, but over the last 5 years I’ve discovered it’s really quite good and on occasion it’s also essential)
2- A beauty treatment (I don’t care what, I just know it’s for me and someone is looking after me)
3- A thoughtful friend ( I love it when people care and do things for others when you wouldn’t expect them to)
4- My size in stock (Doesn’t really matter whether its shoes, clothes, jewellery etc. Just that it’s my size in stock when I’m buying)
5- Veggie Percy Pigs (I’m not a veggie but I just love them, especially when they’ve been in the fridge)
6- My daughter’s “dirty” laugh (The best sound as it’s so infectious. She sounds like Sid James)
7- The sound of my husband’s key in the lock when he comes back from work (It means he’s home & he’s safe. Plus my daughters reaction when she sees him is hilarious; it’s like he is a celebrity)
8- A clean house (It means I can sit down and relax – HA HA HA. I saw a picture a while ago saying “Kids - Clean House - Sanity. Pick 2)
9- Weather that’s perfect for putting washing out on the line ( I love it, as it means I can get all the washing done in one day)
10- Finding a song I love, and playing it over and over and over again (Who doesn’t do this?)
11- A really good sneeze (Especially when it’s been brewing for a while. The satisfaction afterwards is bliss)
12- Being in my thirties (I finally feel like an adult, sort of. Basically I turned 30 and stopped giving such a damn about certain situations)
I could go on more, such as my family, melted cheese, but I’ve given enough for now.
I also did a list of things that I know won’t ever give me that feeling
1- Bullies (What makes you better than me?)
2- Two-Faced people (People who act like they’re your friend, but really they’re not)
3- Weighing scales!!! – Why invent them for people to use? They should only ever be used for baking
4- Milk that has gone off (I know it waits to just turn. Where it turns and when it turns is a mystery)
5- Not being able to tune the radio and getting that white static noise for every station!!! (Because who wants to listen to that)
6- An unexpected bill ( I hate them, especially when it’s for something boring)
7- My size out of stock ( The dream has been taken away)
8- My car surviving on fumes for petrol (It’s working out the logistics and how far you can travel to get to the petrol station without breaking down lol)
9- Lots of questions (The type that just lead to more questions and keep going on and on and on. Sometimes people need to just shush)
10- Un thoughtful people ( People who don’t care about others or have any thought for others)
So here are a couple of lists of things in my life that make me…..well…..me.
Give it a try write your own lists and hopefully you’ll start to realise that you do have things that can contribute to your own interpretation of happy.
So my dear parents are having to move out of the house they have lived in for 30 years and downsize. One is due to financial reasons the other is the house is too big for them to maintain, especially thinking forward for my Dad, they need something more manageable. However my parents, as much as we love them, are hoarders!
They live currently in a semi-detached house with a double garage and loft. They are moving to an end of terrace house with a loft and no garage. So as you can imagine, the time has come to clear, sort, and pack the house up.
We had already done the garage over the last couple of weeks, so today was “Loft day”
The garage was full of bits and pieces that pre-dated me, to the point my Mum and Dad had forgotten we had half of the things in there.
However the loft well that was certainly a trip down memory lane and beyond.
For instance, my Mother had kept my baby bath! I’m 32 now with a whole bathroom and an adult size bath. I’m not sure what I’d do with a 32 year old baby bath now.
However as much as I despair with my parents for having kept these “treasures”, I knew they were important to them.
My sister, husband and I pulled out things that had long been forgotten, or at least that we thought had gone a long time ago. However there were some things in there that we loved seeing again.
One of my favourite pieces I found was my old wicker doll’s pram, that I had when I was little. Yet again the question of “Why have you kept this, mother?” was asked. I even pointed out to Mum that since that dolls pram went into the loft, I had been given and used another buggy, and I’d even had a life-sized pram with a real baby in it, and that my real baby now has her own doll’s buggy too.
The loft also uncovered the old diaries my Mum used to keep in the years when she’d just met our Dad and their story and life before having me and my sister.
These are lovely to have because we get to recapture and hear what their life was like, especially for my Dad who may have a few cobwebs on those memories.
My favourite memories to read were the day my Mum met my Dad, the day they found out that they were expecting me (they’d previously been told that they couldn’t have children) and the few days before and after I was born.
These first hand memories are ones you can’t replicate, so to be able read them like I was there at the time is something I will always cherish.
We found old cards, receipts from their wedding day, old vinyl records and even things they’d inherited from my grandparents.
We found our old school exercise books and nursery drawings that were forgotten, but were coming out for an airing.
There were bags of old clothes that my parents wore and hidden amongst them was even my Mum’s wedding dress, so of course I had to try it on. I think when you find your Mum’s wedding dress then as a daughter you must try it on, whatever age you are.
Although time and life had moved on, it was nice to recapture memories and actually see my parents relive memories again. From my Mum’s expression at seeing her wedding dress again, or my Dad’s leafing through his old LPs back from his days as a mobile DJ, it reminded me that they were once like me.
It just seems so sad now that my Dad’s illness is robbing him of that carefree “do what you will” attitude of taking risks. It’s something he would never have expected or planned.
I see the sadness in my parent’s eyes as they watch the clearing out happening. It’s something which some parents never have to witness as they’re are usually not around.
I know this change is big for them. The memories that are being reignited with seeing what is coming out of the darkest corners of the loft are looked at with nostalgia and with a tinge of sadness.
However it’s having a support network around them that will help them. Of course, we won’t throw everything away, but we have created a box with the items that have special memories attached, the old diaries and so on. These are the things that my sister and I will go through on our own one day, and relive our childhoods, our parents’ lives before us, and so much more.
Mental health can be affected when we’re doing things we really don’t want to do. What’s important is having a support network, people to talk to and seeing things in a different way.
This is what helps us accept and move on.
My Anxiety and how I cope.
When I start to have a panic attack I have a “tell” sign.
My hands become fidgety.
It’s as though I can’t put my finger on the issue, therefore I fidget with my hands because they can’t find what they want to do. When it starts and I can feel it coming, it really annoys me. So I had to develop some techniques to keep my calm and bring me out of the attack.
There are a range of factors which determine how I will try to deal with it.
It depends on how I’m feeling generally, where I am, who I’m with, and the magnitude of the panic attack.
So how do I deal with them? I can’t say it will definitely work for you, and I might sound like a mixed bag of nuts when I describe them, but they work for me so I’m going to share them. So here goes
Think of your panic attacks like earthquakes and you have to measure them on the Richter scale.
A low on the Richter scale panic attack:
I stop whatever I’m doing and I talk to myself but as though I was someone else; someone with a more logical mind at that point in time. I ask myself (out loud, if I’m alone) what am I worrying about? Can I change it? Yes or No.
If I can’t then I ask myself why am I worried? It’s out of my control? Therefore I have to move on.
If the situation can be changed, then what can I do to change it? Is the answer simple? If so, then I’ll try and do it.
My anxiety often stems from needing to be in control of the situation. A situation as simple as deciding what to wear can spiral out of hand if I start to feel that my fears around my appearance are getting carried away.
So that logical mind helps me regain that sense of control.
I find the lower category panic attacks easier to manage by talk to myself. I’ve managed to talk or think myself into it so why not myself out of it?
Take your time. Talk at a pace you’re comfortable with. Keep talking you’ll hopefully find your rhythm again and your heart rate will return to normal. You once again need to regain the control and by talking to yourself you’re managing that.
A mid-way on the Richter scale panic attack:
It starts of like a low one, but this time my chest tightens and my breathing intensifies.
As before I start off with talking, but sometimes talking doesn’t help. So if that isn’t working and I can’t find my “logical voice” then I start counting.
I count to 10 at a pace I’m comfortable with. I do this over and over again until my heart rate comes back to normal again and I get myself to the stage where I can actually talk to myself again about the problem in my “logical voice”. It doesn’t matter how many times you count or how long it takes you. You’re finding your way out of it and back.
A major earthquake. The kind that levels San Francisco sort of a panic attack:
So these don’t happen to me that often but when they do they completely take over my mind and body. I don’t have a way to get myself out of these, I just have to see it through. Seeing it through means having to go through the emotions & letting your body take over and just riding out the storm.
For me my chest tightens, my breathing becomes erratic, I can’t think, focus or know what I want. I feel sick and I just want to hide. It’s a horrible feeling and the problem is that once the panic and anxiety have got hold of you, it takes a lot to come out of it.
Depending on what’s triggered it I might cry, get angry, want comfort, to be left alone, fresh air or Even sometimes sleep will help. Whatever it is and wherever I am I have to decide which route to take. However I always seem to be able to think logically as Il know what I want to do regardless of what it is.
These ones do have an end point and I have to see them through. They don’t last long and sometimes it’s better to let it run, see it through and to see where your emotions take you. I’d tried to control these but found that I wasn’t able to bring myself back down and that I was only prolonging the attack and making it worse, so I now just see it through without trying to stop it and letting it escalate.
The main thing is you’re going to be ok whatever happens.
I hope this helps in some small way. We’re all different so whatever works for me might not work for you, but we all have a tool box of coping mechanisms. We just need to keep working and tinkering until we find the right tool that works for you.
I wish there was a big button you could push or sound the alarm when a panic attack occurs. I wish there was a shelter we could go and hide in until it passes. I wish I could press the reset button, or switch myself off and then back on again.
It doesn’t happen like that.
I had a friend ask me what a panic attack feels like, how do I know when it’s coming, plus how do I deal with it?
For a long time I never admitted I had anxiety. It was like this dirty little secret and I didn’t want people to know. Why would they want to know and how could they help me if they did?
I didn’t even want to admit it to myself.
I knew something wasn’t right. When a close family friend died in 2011, I became obsessed with seeing my parents daily, or at least hearing from them. My irrational thoughts around death went to the point I was worrying about whether my outfit looked right because, well, what if that was the last outfit I wore?
My husband knew something wasn’t right, I wasn’t myself at all and it came to a head that same year when I lost my job. I had recently got married and we’d had a fantastic first Christmas together. I was looking forward to the new year, getting used to married life , being employed and saving for our future
Going from being employed and thinking about the future to suddenly not having a job changed my outlook. Gone was a major reason to get up in the morning, my routine and the interaction with people I was used seeing every day. It all suddenly went.
I found it hard to find another job. This pressure to be employed started to mount up, to the point where I found myself not wanting to go to work and instead stay at home and hide. I was fine doing the mundane jobs of life, but not actually having a job that paid.
After several months I found a job. I remember a feeling of dread in the days leading up to my new start date, but I tried to put those feelings aside and just got on with it. When I started I found that whilst people were pleasant enough, my desk was situated behind a filing cabinet in an obscure part of the building. I couldn’t interact with anyone in the office, and most people didn’t know I was there. My lunch break on that first day was spent sitting in my car in a supermarket car park. I’d been left to my own devices and the feeling of rejection began to overwhelm me and I began to cry. I realised then that I wasn’t right, but I hadn’t heard of anxiety disorders before and didn’t make the connection.
I did know that I didn’t want to be there and that accepting the job was just a way of stopping other people from putting pressure on me to find one. There’s a huge expectation that in order to be a part of society that you need to be gainfully employed, but I didn’t feel that I could stay in this role
The feeling I had when I returned to the office was like being trapped with no escape. My heart rate was racing and I couldn’t stop this feeling of being walled in. I also couldn’t stop crying either. I wanted to escape.
In that moment I knew had to get out. So I left. I walked out and didn’t return.
The next day my husband took me to the doctors who diagnosed anxiety disorder and put me on medication. I was prescribed two beta-blocker tablets a day to help manage the symptoms.
I felt like a failure.
However I soon started to learn what I needed to do in order to start to feel better. I had a lovely friend who I had worked with before who offered me some part-time work and that was the start.
I wasn’t ready to do full-time work again so I changed my job search criteria and found something part-time. This helped me because I knew there was an end to the job each day which wasn’t too far away. I could do a few hours then go home without experiencing the pressure of knowing that I’d have to stay there for a full 7 hours.
I was still on the medication, but I was beginning the process of feeling like my old happy, healthy self again. Within that time I enrolled onto course providing counselling skills. I’d previously worked in Human Resources, so wanted to have extra people skills for when I wanted to go back to this sort of role.
This was the first turning point. I suddenly learned how to talk about my issues, that I shouldn’t be ashamed, and that actually sharing and talking about my illness helps. I started to realise I wasn’t alone.
My next turning point when I found out that I was pregnant. I had reduced my tablets down to one tablet a day, but being pregnant meant I had to come off the medication. Suddenly my focus switched from me to my growing child and doing the best for her.
I had started to find what worked for me, so that when I do get a panic attack now, I have some extra tools in my imaginary tool box to help me.
In my next blog I’d like to share the techniques that work for me to cope with a panic attack. I’m not saying that they’ll work for you (I think we’re all different and you need to work out what’s effective for you) but they might help
The events, for now, are done.
To be fair, we did turn it around in only 3 weeks since the previous event, so it’s not surprised my stress levels were high.
I won’t lie, my anxiety hit the roof the day before the event. To the point I felt so ill that I had to stop everything, I was doing and just see the attack through. This is something I haven’t done in a long time.
I knew planning these events would affect my stress levels. I didn’t feel like this at all when I got married, though so I didn’t expect to feel this overwhelming pressure to pull another event off again.
I decided after the attack had subsided a little that I needed to regroup again. I needed to plan, so that’s what I did.
I wrote a list of everything I needed to do, which helped me regain control again. It was a list of everything I was worrying about.
I decided to find all my Orla Kiely “Bags for life” and organise everything into categories. For some reason I always forget to take to the supermarket, plus the majority of our food shopping is done online and delivered too, but they look pretty and come in very handy for running charity fundraisers.
So once the bags were labelled I just put the relevant bits in them, and once this was done I felt I had regained control of the situation, and the feeling of stress and the sickness that came with it went. I was then able to work out what to do next.
The next day was event day and although I had butterflies in my tummy, I was prepared. However when your other half reminds you he put his car in for a service first thing, you realise that your plans aren’t quite going according to plan. Hence I relied heavily on my Mum who, like me, gets a job done.
I arrived at the hall and just rushed round like a mad woman. My planning had worked the day before, so I knew where everything was, and it was easy to put everything out. However once I was all set up and my lovely “glam squad” and photographer arrived, I really hoped that it wouldn’t just be us and we would get more people in through the door to the event.
I needn’t have worried as people arrived, they donated and they ate cake. The Mind’s Eye Challenge Event was going to work and my crazy idea was happening once again.
It was a success and to top it off we raised over £1000 for “Mind”.
I don’t pretend to know the first thing on how to deal with all anxiety and the stress of life, but I know what works for me. However much as I hate it when it’s there, it’s the getting out of that anxious state that helps me in the long run. In going through it, I learn what works for me too.
So my only helpful suggestion is if it happens to you, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and have an event coming up that brings it on, then just stop for a moment.
See where the attack takes you. Let it ride out and then re-group. I did that this time and once I had let it happen, then I was me again. Sometimes it’s easier to have the attack and let it go then prevent it and let it build. Once mine had gone, I had the control back and was able to plan, organise and get myself ready for my event.
Thank you for reading. X