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.