The Pressure

One of the things I’ve noticed since becoming a parent is THE PRESSURE… Pressure to ensure the kids are beautiful, clever and well behaved. Pressure to have a spotlessly clean and enviable house. Pressure to look like a celeb, even though you’ve been up half the night. Pressure to be successful at work even though you have not slept more than five solid hours in years… It is endless!

I’m going to turn this on its head though – please don’t hate me for it. I believe the only real pressure we face is the kind we heap upon ourselves. When we are caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts we immediately look at our shortcomings rather than focus on all the things we’re good at. To break the cycle, the first step has to be to stop comparing yourself to others. Plain and simple. Stop worrying about what other people’s children are doing and what yours are not. Concentrate on enhancing their skills, rather than getting on their case and trying to force them to do things they clearly don’t want to do. Forget all about being a size 8 – unless you are naturally very slim this will more than likely never happen.

A few years back, before my second breakdown and rock bottom, I was obsessed with the idea of buying a property. I felt deep resentment towards myself for not getting onto the ladder in my late teens when London prices were still cheap as chips. I was desperate to own a flat, and seeked out a mortgage lender who would actually take me on. I say this with an incredulous tone to my voice, because I was in debt up to my eyeballs at this point (more on that another time), and had been in my job for less than six months since returning to the country after being away travelling for the best part of two and a half years. No wonder banks went under with these lending policies.

I very nearly purchased a studio flat in an ex-council block in the dodgy end of Streatham. It was being sold as a one bed, and would have probably cost around £30k had I bought it in 1997. The 2006 ‘ceiling’ price was £155k. Fortunately I have a builder friend who I took to see it and give me an expert opinion. He actually laughed at me, thought it was hilarious that I was so enthusiastic about such a shitehole. His advice was to steer well clear, and I listened to him. Initially I was devastated. This was my first and only close encounter with home ownership, which for me back then equalled security and a chance to make some money. I wised up thankfully, and realised it would have been a terrible idea to buy a property because I couldn’t afford the associated fees and would have realistically ended up on an interest only mortgage – which is basically the same as renting with additional responsibilities attached. Little over a year later the credit crunch started and the hole well and truly fell out of the bottom of the market. I would have been in negative equity, living in an undesirable area regretting my choices for many years to come. Once again I’d had a very lucky escape.

The only reason I got so desperate to buy a flat was because all my friends and peers owned their homes. I started to view renting so negatively, like it was a personal failure. I put so much pressure on myself to keep up with everyone else that I almost bought that hellhole. No-one else put pressure on me, it was all my own doing.

I honestly believe that the unhappy mummies I encounter in the workplace, in the parks, in cyberspace are doing what I did. In desperately trying to keep up, they end up lagging behind. Rather than put so much unnecessary pressure onto yourself and your family, look a bit deeper and take the time to work out what’s really troubling you. Seek counselling, take up a physical activity, get a new job, remove yourself from the people that make you miserable. Do whatever it takes so that you’re able to look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. Once you’ve done this, I imagine ‘the pressure’ will start to disappear.

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47 thoughts on “The Pressure

  1. It can feel impossible sometimes to get back to rational thought, especially with the kids. I find I’m fine mostly, but when my 5yo screams the house down (very loudly as you can imagine) in the middle of the night…well all logic leaves me then. Stepping back and breathing deeply is all we can do though. Hope you’re feeling more content these days hon xx

  2. I get this. It’s hard to step back sometimes, especially when you’re so caught up in it. During my rational times, I find taking this step back really simple. During the less rational moments, this escapes me and I end up in all manner of trouble.
    I’m not entirely sure happy is really thing. Content is permanent, happy is transient. X

  3. Thanks so much for dropping by! You’re right about human nature, but i think in this day and age ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ has got a bit out of control… Damn social media 😉

  4. It is refreshing to read a post like this. I do think we put pressure on ourselves but also find that pressure comes from society and expectations from other people too. It shouldn’t be like this should it, I guess it is natural in a way – human nature. We want to excel in every aspect but sometimes really need to relax and enjoy the moment 🙂

  5. What a brilliant post Reneé and you are so right. The pressure we feel does come from ourselves and the sooner we sort that out the better. I have a friend who had been in a similar situation, she was telling herself she wasn’t doing the best for her children (after marriage break up) and constantly punished herself. After a good talking to she is looking at the positive these days and is a lot happier. We need to be happy with ourselves before we can truly be happy. xx

  6. That sounds like a good plan Katy, I guess the sprucing also makes you more appreciative of what you have too. I think there’s a fair few folk who are staying put and extending and/or renovating because the cost of moving is so astronomical xx

  7. Ah you were right, I did enjoy this. A while back I had a massive arguement with Mr F as I said I wanted to move, I wanted a bigger house, nicer things etc etc. After he made it clear it wasn’t something we could do I calmed down and realised I could make the best out of our situation. I am not sprucing up our house and making it somewhere I am happy to live (it isn’t even that bad but social media makes me believe others live in mansions!) x

  8. I’m so pleased that you worked it all out and are in a better place now. I felt the same once I realised my life would be much easier if I stopped piling the pressure on xx

  9. Wise and ever-relevant words! I’m terrible for comparing myself with others when I’m feeling insecure (ignoring the rational voice in my head telling me not to) and of course it always makes things worse. It can be so hard to take those positive steps to pull yourself out of a rut, but it is the only way to deal with life really! Xx

  10. Oh god, you’re so right. Every pressure I put on myself is my own, even when I blame certain people for making me feel insignificant, I’m the one who’s put the pressure and let it get to me.

    I am trying the “letting it roll off me” approach. It’s tricky.

  11. I totally agree, the pressure you feel as a parent just multiplies. I used to beat myself up trying to be the best friend, best daughter, best employee, best everything. Then I became a mum and it just intensified. I’ve only just realised in the last couple of years that it’s ok to make mistakes and not be perfect all the time. It was like a huge weight had been lifted. x

  12. It’s *so* difficult not to compare yourself to the people around you isn’t it? Especially when you’re young and impressionable. It’s only recently that I’ve realised that I can improve my life in the way I want without it being to someone else’s standard. Great post hon, thanks for linking it up to this week’s #thetruthabout Xx

  13. Wise words as always. I know I am my own worst enemy, and that I put all the pressure entirely on myself! It’s funny to think that we were living in London at the same time back then, and in fact in ’97 I bought a flat in Hackney! Selling it again was a bit of a nightmare, but then I did it remotely from Edinburgh… not recommended!

  14. I agree, so many of us put ourselves under pressure. And most of the time we’re doing it to prove ourselves to others rather than pursue something for ourselves. I remember giving up work to be a mum and then wrangling with all that awful ‘I’m just a mum’ inadequacy stuff. I put pressure on myself to be a perfect mum and that made me even more miserable. After a few years I was okay! I think you need to push yourself but pressure is a step too far and comes from the wrong motive. Great post.

  15. Wise words Reneé, I think we all need to cut ourselves slack far more often than we do and notice everything we have and are achieving rather than what we haven’t. I think social media plays a role in the pressure we often feel – we see snapshots of people’s lives and it’s all too easy to fill in the blanks (incorrectly) and see their lives as perfect. Then we hold ourselves up to a totally false notion of what everyone else is acheving! I try not to do this but it’s not always easy! Thanks for linking to #whatimwriting

  16. It does seem to be human nature to either compete with other people or to at least want more than we currently have. Especially in our modern world, which feels so much more materialistic than the one I grew up in, do we really need to have more, bigger and better of everything? Valentine’s Day is a prime example for me – at what point did expectations get raised so high? (When retailers and restaurants realised how much they could charge, I suspect!)

    I think it’s fine for us to want more and better of things – but at least let them be the things that matter, rather than wanting more for the sake of wanting more and keeping up with the Joneses.

    (Puts soapbox away.)

  17. Fab post lovely and def sounds like you had a lucky escape from buying that flat and being in a very bad situation! You’re totally right, we are sold images and ideals from all corners so there is external pressures but it is up to us whether we buy into it and pile ridiculous pressure on ourselves to conform! Thanks for sharing 🙂 xx

  18. So very true! True happiness has to come from within and comparing yourself to others does nothing but tear you down. If I’ve learned anything in my 28 years, it’s that no one is harder on me than myself! With support and determination, it is entirely possible to move on from that frame of mind 🙂

    #thetruthabout

  19. A great post, I love it! I know just what you mean, I am always comparing myself to other mummies and constantly feel under pressure to be ‘the ideal parent’ … whatever that is. I know I am failing miserably at that but I’m doing my best and my children are both happy and content so I guess I should stop judging myself and realise I am doing something right!

  20. A great post full of so many truths. It’s so important to focus on the positives and not the negatives. I remember hearing a talk by Davina McCall and her saying that if you feel guilty as a parent then you are doing it right! Thanks for linking to PoCoLo x

  21. Very true Judith – I got caught up in the ‘peer pressure’ when potty training first time round because everyone I was hanging out with had cracked it early… second time round I know I’ll be a lot more relaxed. I read your post yesterday, hope you’re holding up ok? It’s one of the most stressful periods of time in most mothers’ lives… even if some won’t admit it!

  22. I had a bit of a moment’s pause this week about potty training: a friend said something about not letting peer pressure get to me. It made me think: but no one is actively pressuring me. Is peer pressure really just something that is inside my own head? Does peer pressure even exist outside of our own heads? I suppose it is quite rare for someone to actually say, out loud: “I think my kids are so beautifully behaved, but just look at yours, how they are bashing each other’s heads in with toy trucks. You must be a truly terrible mother. Shape up.”

  23. what a great way to look at things. i too struggle as a working mum and the pressures it brings.
    will have to try and turn it all round like you have thank you 🙂

    #pocolo

  24. Popping over from pocolo :), I have to say i fail on most of the counts you mention, the perfect house and looking like a celeb in particular. (the kids aren’t too bad) but I think you do need to take a step back sometimes and recognise that the only person really putting pressure on you is yourself.

  25. Absolutely agree with you. We probably need to stop looking around and begin looking at ourselves and what we need to change just because we want to (not because everyone else is doing it!). Peer pressure has such a stronghold in our lives – whether at school or as mummies in the park!

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