I’m going to share with you a truth. It’s one that I struggled with for ages and I know that some of you struggle with it too. I’ve seen it in your faces, or heard it in your voices: I hated picking up my children from their primary schools. I hated that time when we weren’t allowed into the playground, because the gate hadn’t been opened. I felt anxious as I approached, seeing the groups of mums who all looked engaged and happily chatting and I had no idea where I fitted in. I felt like an outsider and I felt awkward, just like a child might feel when they don’t have anyone to play with. I would approach a group where there were the most people I knew on a day that I felt I had it in me to do so and on other days I would wait in the car, until the gate opened.
Once open, I had to leave the safety of my car and brave the playground, as my kids could be released from their classrooms at any time and I never wanted my hate of the situation to mean I wasn’t there for them. So I would go and hover. There was nothing to distract me from the awkwardness, so I would focus on the notices that were pinned to the classroom window. Some days, if the girls were let out late, I would have read these notices twenty times, but if you’d asked me what they said, I couldn’t have told you. I could see that I wasn’t the only person who did this nervous hover. I can’t tell you how self conscious I felt, every day.
Every day I and many others, had to repeat this ritual. I’m making it sound dramatic, aren’t I? Those of you who I would see chatting and laughing with other parents may not understand how anyone could possibly feel like this. It was no-one’s fault, except my own. I needed to be braver, to be more sociable, to make more of an effort. But I really struggled with it. I struggled with it in a way that I don’t struggle in any other social situations and that made me feel even worse.
The last day I had to pick my last child up from primary school, I didn’t cry like other mums. I didn’t get sentimental about the 11 years I had spent doing it. I didn’t feel an ounce of sadness that their time there had come to an end. For the first time in all those years, I felt free.
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