Hey folks, I’m a new voice on the HappyMind Blog. My name is Jess. Nice to meet y’all.
I started out writing the same old blog stuff we’ve all read before, and I was totally stopped in my tracks…and quite rightly. Who wants to read the same thing over and over again right? A lot of it is just for SEO (search engine optimisation) and I was told we don’t do that here.
So I’m taking a different approach. Support water bottle in hand, kids dropped at breakfast club (more on that in a second) and ready to pour my heart out on the page. Now where to start…
I’m an alternative mum at my kids’ school
Let’s start there. Not the kind that shows up early to chat at the school gates. Definitely more along the lines of nearly being late to avoid the crowds, or sending my boys to breakfast club so they get the best start to the day (and I get to avoid the school queue, yay!).
I have social anxiety
It doesn’t stop me from having friends, doing social activities, or making sure my kids are getting all the opportunities but it’s there. Sitting at the back of my brain, the niggling voice that wonders if I’m dressed appropriately? Are the Mums talking about me? About my kids? Have I missed some important event? A PTA thing everyone else went to? And when I go to pick my boys up, are the teachers going to stop me and say I forgot to bring in old, recycled boxes, chocolates for the latest raffle, or maybe even some milk bottle to plant the latest science experiment? Of course, they aren’t. I’m on top of it, but that voice can be all consuming.
And I’m not the only one
A quick search on Mumsnet will show you that school-gate anxiety amongst parents is a running theme. The school gates are like being thrown right back into those cliquey scenes a lot of us had such a hard time with when we were the students. The fit mums, the PTA mums, the ones who grew up together and now their kids are at the very same schools.
Don’t get me wrong. In a lot of cases, all these mums are lovely one on one, but you get them in a group, and it’s just daunting. I don’t fit in. I don’t relate to the super fit mums or the group that has land and raises chickens, geese, llamas etc. And the other alternative mums (of which there are maybe three), they’re probably looking at me thinking the same thing, am I judging them? I’m not, and likely, neither are they. None of us really are (I hope).
There are ways to manage the niggling voice and that’s where I hope this post might help someone who tends to feel the same way I do.
Take your kids to breakfast club
It does mean getting up an hour early but I promise it’s worth it. Parking is no longer an issue. The school gates are dead quiet and the best part? Your kiddos feel fresh and prepared for the day ahead. They’ve had half an hour to settle in and catch their breath.
Get your partner to take the kids to school
This isn’t an option for all of us. I’m a single mum. Defo not an option for me. But if you’re the quiet, anxious one and your partner is the life of the party… it’s time to let them shine.
Be brave and make a mum-friend
This one is hard. But it is worth it. Find that one school mum who you can wave to, stand in the queue with and feel a little less alone when you’re waiting for the gates to open. You never know, they might just be your next great friend (fairy tales do occasionally come true right?)
Fake it till you make it
Not for the faint of heart. But, if you have social anxiety and work in a field where you’re required to throw a mask on and be the jolly, bubbly, outspoken customer service rep, own it. Put the mask on, start talking to mums until you find your comfort zone. This one can be exhausting so make sure you take time after the school run to de-mask and breathe.
Make time for yourself
And finally, I know we all work, have crazy schedules, masses to do, but taking some time to do some self-care while the kids are at school can do wonders to alleviate all that anxiety post-school run. Sing in the car, call a friend for a quick chat, go for a walk with your favourite podcast. Even if it’s just 10 minutes. Make yourself a priority and give yourself some space to breathe.