They warn you that motherhood brings out just about every emotion from fear, to pain, to joy, to happiness <Insert yours here>. What I wasn’t prepared for was this overwhelming sense of self-consciousness; I feel judged by everyone, all of the time.
When Dexter and I make our daily trip to Tescos Express, I can feel people staring and appraising. They’re looking at:
- My choice of buggy; how much did it cost? Is it secondhand?
- They’re peering in at Dexter to see how he’s dressed; is it weather appropriate? Is the sun in his eyes?
- They are scanning the look on my face; am I glowing and refreshed? Or, is my hair out-of-place and my make-up dishevelled?
Those same people are trying to guess my age; am I one of those school-leaving, council estate, benefit reaping charlatans we all hear about on Question Time. I don’t have any issue with young mums at all but I’m a young-looking 29-year-old so have no reason to be so paranoid. This is undoubtably because I feel young, I feel inexperienced, I feel scared – and I bet every inch of that is etched across my face.
At the supermarket I feel people are peeping into my shopping basket to see what I’m buying; fatty foods are met with a look of ‘knowing’, Infacol or Calpol brings out the sympathetic nods, wine makes people stare in horror. If I buy cigarettes people look at me like I should be shot on the spot.
My health visitor recently came around and I watched every word I said; I couldn’t be too confident or she’d think I didn’t need her help (I can’t afford to miss out on her expertise as I know so little); I couldn’t be too anxious or she’d make me fill in one of her little questionnaires and before you know it we’d have social workers around every day poring over my efforts at motherhood looking for an opportunity to step in with a “Oh I wouldn’t do it like that, it’s like this”.
Even on Facebook I have to make sure Dexter is constantly seen in a positive light; “He’s sleeping so well”, “He’s’ a joy to look after”, or “He’s so handsome” – just so people can see how well I’m coping and won’t feel the need to jump in with their two pennies worth. In the same breath I’m dishing out the same advice I hate to all those pregnant mates who haven’t had the benefit of my infinite wisdom.
I think I’ve always been a little nervous and anxious – I’ve had moments in the past where I’ve been unable to get out of bed and hid away from everyone for days on end – I even missed a Christmas once when I was upset about a relationship break up I felt like a complete failure and unworthy of a Turkey meal with my family! It’s clearly something I need to get over or poor Dexter will suffer and inherit my lack of confidence.
In reality I pass only 2 or 3 people on those supermarket trips and they aren’t at all bothered about me or my son. The health visitor is probably desperate to get out of my house so she can move onto the next mummy who isn’t afraid to admit she needs some support. My Facebook pals have probably got fed up of hearing about Dexter every 5 minutes and opted out of viewing my updates on their timeline. We’re simply a mother and son and are going to make the same mistakes as every one else in the world.
I have no reason at all to be so worried and know how ridiculous all this self doubt sounds. Everyone I meet tells me how fabulously smiley he is. The doctors and health visitors have been positive about every weigh-in and head measurement. He actually seems a little bit beyond all the major developmental milestones cited on mother and baby websites! Best of all, I know he loves me and trusts me and I know there is nothing I could do better as a mum than I do already.
So maybe this is just how everyone feels. I wouldn’t be a good mother if I didn’t worry! That said, at the end of a long day spent pretending to be the Stepford Mum, I always look forward to the solitude of my home, with my Craig and my Dexter – It’s less scary here!