What ‘other people’ think

thought-bubbleWhat will other people think? It’s the stick I beat myself with all the time, and the stick I like the least in my life. It’s tiresome, anxiety provoking, and has caused me to become angry, short tempered and shouty with my children more times than I would care to remember. I wish I didn’t care. I so wish that I didn’t, and its definitely something I want to keep working on.

The older I get the more confident I get about all sorts of things, my perceptions, my opinions, the way I raise my kids. In some ways, I don’t give a hoot ‘what people think’ cause I’m happy doing it my way. But what I am disabled by is my endless need to consider other people’s perspectives. So, if the kids go shouting in the garden at 7.30am (like they did this morning) my focus ceases to be, oh look, they’re having a great time, and becomes more about telling them to shut it, to demonstrate to my neighbours that I am a GOOD PERSON – a considerate person…the person I want people to see me as. But in doing that I become that fish wife mother I can’t bear, hissing and yelling at her kids, and stopping them being exactly what they are – kids. Similarly, when one of the kicks off at the school gates – internally, I’m fine with it telling myself, he’s a passionate kid, kids are not automatons, he’s learning to hold it all together, he’s 5 – I get it. But because of those blessed ‘other people’ whose perceptions (for some reason) seem to matter so much to me in these moments, I start to feel panicky and overwhelmed and get the strongest urge to shut him down, appease him, just STOP him before anyone notices its all out of control. But of course its out of control. He’s a kid, I’m a parent. We are humans. And humans are messy and infinitely complex, and that should be ok.

We have a puppy. A cute and fluffy addition to our already busy home. And we’re training her to comply, to do as we want her to do. And I’m loving it. Because she just isn’t that complex. She’s a dog and she wants to please us. And all that stuff about letting her know her place in the pecking order of our family fills my heart with joy. Because its simple. And the kids aren’t. And family life isn’t. Neither should it be.

And as I write, I get it. I get why I struggle with this stuff. It my job. My professional world, in which I judge, assess and analyse other people’s parenting. Doing that, and then being a parent yourself, does things to you. It messes with your head. Invariably I assume that others are judging me in the same way that I am paid to judge others. Messy isn’t it?

I find myself wondering, usually when its all gone haywire with the kids, what would I make of this if I had my work ‘hat’ on? And then my inner judge and jury spring into action, and the result is a panicky, overwhelmed mother trying desperately to keep a lid on something that frankly shouldn’t have a lid on it at all.

9 thoughts on “What ‘other people’ think

  1. My barometer is: that if you child/ren are happy and you (both) are happy and your kids make others (particulary their mates) happy then somewhere in the chaos it’s all coming out right!

  2. What a lot of things your blog raises, so interesting, eloquent and brave. Mostly these ‘other’ ‘perfect’ parents (and I see them everywhere too) are nothing of the sort, we’re really trying to match up to the parent in all those advice columns and books as you say. Secondly there’s a difference between feeling you’re genuinely quite inadequate as a parent, and feeling that you are not doing what you’re ‘supposed’ to do. Picking that apart is important as they’re easily confused- both can make you feel guilty and even humiliated- but they take you to quite different places, ie. one leads you to the ‘I am what I am’ approach, which is great, we all need to shrug off society’s ridiculous expectations of mothers in particular. The other one, feeling genuinely inadequate as a parent, is tougher. I’m not the mum I thought I’d be, and that’s a hard thing to come to terms with. I’m trying to be nice to myself about it, so that I can think critically, but kindly, about how I can improve. To be honest it can feel like quite a lonely business. Your blog about vulnerability also strikes a chord because it feeds straight back into how we cope with the bad days, and how we make sense of our own parenting. I love the idea of leaning into the vulnerability- always trying to keep control of everything does not make me a good parent, in fact quite the opposite at times. Even though I kind of knew that before, reading your blog has really made me think about that more clearly. Keep on blogging, you’re great!

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment so thoughtfully. Love your observations, and the idea of thinking critically, but kindly about how we parent. That makes a LOT of sense moving forward 🙂

  3. In spite of having a load of tedious house-moving admin to plough through, I couldn’t help but click on the next and the next entry. More please! I showed it to my friend today, who chuckled about how much of a bell it rang for her.

  4. Would be nicer if more people were this honest! Makes me feel much better to know I’m not the only one struggling with ‘what other people think’ It even extends to my driving where I am constantly worrying about what the driver behind thinks…. Why do I care???

    • I’m kind of hoping that honesty might be contagious, and we can all relax a little! Its a lofty aim, but I remain hopeful!! I agree, worrying ‘what other people think’ pops up in all corners of our lives, not just parenthood. Thanks for the taking the time to comment, and for sharing 🙂

  5. Pingback: So, why do we do it to ourselves? | parentinginpublic

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