It’s officially the time of year where my quiet little calendar tends to look more like a child’s coloring book, especially once I’ve penciled in all the holiday events we’re supposed to juggle. Honestly, I dread all of it. Holiday events are, by definition, social gatherings, so if you’re like me — anxious as hell — you’ll understand the struggles only a mom with social anxiety can understand. It’s not like we have a switch where we can go from introvert-mode to “life of the party,” although that sure would make every event I’m obligated to attend a little less traumatizing.
I’ve been anxiety-ridden for as long as I can remember, but I was only diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a couple years ago. Looking bak at, basically, my whole life, it makes sense. While I can and do get stressed over the smallest things, it’s the situations that have anything to do with a social setting that really affects me. Parties, concerts; hell, even going to the grocery store can be challenging.
Anxiety is complicated and frustrating. I always fear being judged by those who don’t get it, or get me. I can look outside myself long enough to understand that my behavior might seem weird, illogical, or confusing to those who don’t live with anxiety. Yes, I want to be invited to your party; no, I probably won’t go; yes, I’ll have a major fear of missing out (FOMO). Then again, I might just go to your party, but I’ll spend the whole time wishing I hadn’t. See what I mean? When you throw kids into the mix, it gets even more complicated, especially when I’m forced to go to their school events. I’m proud of them, but it’s a real drag.
On the note, here are some of the struggles only a mom with social anxiety can understand. Half the battle is finding the courage to admit these struggles are real, these struggles are valid, and these struggles are part of the daily lives of so many other moms. #Solidarity
1. When You Have To Attend School Functions
I don’t care how many school plays, programs, or ceremonies there are each year. I don’t want to go to any of them. There’s too much small talk, especially with other parents, and I’ll end up fighting the need to either talk too much or say absolutely nothing at all.
There’s too much pressure, and that pressure only adds to my stress and anxiety.
2. When You Have To Help With A Class Party
Along the same lines, please don’t volunteer me to help with a party. Please. Every year, when we meet my daughter’s newest teacher, there’s a sign-up sheet I feel obligated to put my name on. The times I’ve left without doing so, my daughter volunteers me to help anyway.
I want to be part of her school life, I’d just really rather do it from home, thanks.
3. When You Have To Coordinate A Play Date
I get that my kids will make friends at school. However, before they’re old enough to make plans for themselves, it’s up to me to talk to their new friend’s parents, no matter how much I don’t want to.
Last year, my son, who was about to turn into a rambunctious 4-year-old toddler at the time, invited his entire preschool class to his birthday party. Not one of them came. He was devastated. So, I should preface this by saying, “My kid wants to play with your kid, so please don’t flake,” and if the rule is broken, I’m done, forever. If only it were that easy, right?
4. When Your Kid Is Constantly Invited To Birthday Parties
My daughter has brought home five different birthday invitations since September. Five. While I appreciate the consideration, I don’t want to haul her around to all of these things, pretend I want to be there, and count the seconds until it’s over each time. Even in the dropping off kind-of-thing, I have so much anxiety over seeing people in passing.
What are they thinking about me? Why are they staring? Who am I? Every time I see another white envelope, I have a mini-panic attack. I’m so glad she’s making all these friends, don’t get me wrong, but can’t she be more like me and only have the kind of friends we don’t have to see, and buy presents for, in person?
5. When Your Child Is An Extrovert
I have two different kinds of kids. My son is perfectly happy staying at home and playing quietly, like me. My daughter is much more like her father, in that she feeds off other people’s energies (craves it, even).
At times, I find my little extrovert utterly exhausting, as she needs to constantly be the center of the room’s attention. This translates into all the after-school activities I have to attend, all the friends she’s made, and all the situations I’d prefer not to be in. Still, I can say that if she’s happy, I’m happy.
6. When Your House Is The House Everyone Wants To Play At
Our house is super cool, so I get it. We have the big yard, the trampoline, the toys; it’s fun. While I’m happy my children want to be in a place I can supervise them, there are some days (read: most days), I don’t want to hear a knock on the door when I’ve just finished showering.
Like, can’t we just be for a sec?
7. When You Don’t Want To Go To The Park, Because People Are There
We live a couple blocks from our small town’s park, so walking down there is something we do often in the spring and summer — until I spot another vehicle or other kids walking there, too. In which case, we turn around and go home. People at the park means small talk at the park, and all I really want to do when I’m at the park is let my kids run off their energy. No more, no less.
8. When A Restaurant Doesn’t Have A Drive-Thru (Or Deliver)
Thank the heavens for all things delivery and drive-thru, because they mean minimal chat with whomever is working. It’s not because I’m rude, but because in this situation, no matter what I say, it’ll be forced an awkward. I hate it.
When we go out to eat, especially as a family, there’s way too much pressure to ask the waitress personal questions like, “What’s your favorite holiday movie?” to keep the awkward silence to a minimum. Then, I’ll go over the scene in my head over and over and over again, with regret, until the meal is over.
9. When Your Afraid Your Kid Will Be Judged By Your Actions
I get that I might be a lot to get used to. The anxiety literally rules over me at times. My only (well, not only, but you know) hope is that in all my perceived “weirdness,” others don’t base their opinions of my children off of my behavior.
Social anxiety is rough. It’s a demanding beast that may determine your entire course of the day — especially in regards to your children. I don’t want to be anti-social when my kids beg me to go to something, but there are times I just can’t help it. This is me: stressed if I do, stressed if I don’t. Go figure.