THE DREADED SCHOOL RUN

When my daughter started primary school, I had a master plan. Despite suffering from crippling social anxiety, I was going to shove my insecurities deep down where the sun doesn’t shine, pull up my big girl pants, and be sociable. I was going to make an effort to introduce myself to other mums because I understood that I was the gateway to my daughter’s social life, and I wanted her to have positive experiences. I didn’t want people to see me as the awkward and antisocial person that seldom spoke and therefore, unfairly judge my daughter.

So in the first year of school, I tried getting to know people. I soon realised that there were many cliques and not all were welcoming, not everyone was friendly and some would outright ignore me. It surprised me to see strangers becoming fast friends within such a short space of time. People were enjoying family holidays together, picking up each other’s children and organising play dates.

All the while, I was struggling to get an invite to the end of term park gatherings and classroom parent dinners. Most of the time, I was invited as an afterthought or at least, that was my perception. I couldn’t even secure play dates successfully, bar one mum who took me under her wing.

I would watch with envy and disappointment as groups of mums would leave for coffee dates after the school runs. Why didn’t they invite me? These situations would evoke powerful emotional childhood memories of insecurities and inadequacies, making me feel like that outcast once more. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of those early days hidden in the car until the very last minute.

Fortunately, I did make a few good friends that year, and I’ve clung on to them since (You know who you are – thank you!). School runs can be intimidating, especially for someone who suffers from social anxiety. On days where I don’t find a friendly face, I feel anxious waiting around. Small talk is a mammoth task for me, especially with people I’m not comfortable with or know well.

My husband doesn’t understand my irrational fears with the dreaded school runs. How could he though? He doesn’t have social anxiety. He wasn’t an outcast as a child in school. He is confident in his own skin and has his tight-knit group of childhood friends. He has no problem with small talk or meeting new people, even though he is an introvert by nature.

I, however, allow this debilitating mental illness to dictate almost every social interaction that I have. It has become a stranglehold that keeps me from meeting new people, forming friendships and sometimes even keeping friendships. I’m plagued by insecurities and anxiety over forming connections but at the same time, I doubt why anyone would want to be my friend. I’m not interesting, I don’t have hobbies, I’m not well-travelled, and I’m not worldly or cultured.

My husband made an observation that gave me pause. “Why is it that you think so little of yourself? Why wouldn’t people want to be your friend? Why don’t you ask to join them for coffee?”

Upon reflection, I surmised that I am simply scared. I’m scared to put myself out there, to allow myself to be vulnerable and be judged. What if I’m found to be wanting? What if people don’t like me? What if I let myself hope for friendship and be sorely disappointed? What if I’m rejected for being me?

Recently, I met a wonderful and kind school mum, by chance, at one of my daughter’s friend’s birthday party. It was only upon getting to know her that I realised that I am not alone in my feelings, that perhaps there are many of us that have our own doubts and insecurities. She made me understand that having meaningful social connections and friendships are important, and that it is worth pursuing, particularly for people who suffer from social anxiety.

This year, I haven’t hidden in my car or pretended to be on the phone as much and I’ve continued to work on my small talk and forming connections with other people. I would like to think that my social anxiety has lessened in intensity and that my communication skills have improved.

But as we creep towards a new school year, where undoubtedly there will be new faces to meet and new connections to make, I know my anxiety levels will rise and there will be an overwhelming urge to hide in the car.

Does it get easier? Can someone overcome social anxiety? I really hope so because I don’t like the idea of hiding in the car for the next decade.

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Kathy - KN J Tales and Snippets

Creative writer and storytelling enthusiast, sharing snippets of my journey through life and parenting. Aiming to inspire, empower and ignite laughter with every word that I write.

28 thoughts on “THE DREADED SCHOOL RUN”

  1. I am impressed by your efforts to deal with your social anxiety for your kids – very commendable (but we will do almost anything for them – won’t we?). Although I cannot put myself in your shoes, I have anxiety and a host of other issues! (HA!) As a working mom, I hated school functions! First, it was a real struggle to attend them given my schedule. And secondly, I always told everyone that the “school ladies” scared me. They didn’t really, but talk about cliques!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think if it weren’t for the kids, I’d be a crazy hermit. But yes, parents go to great lengths for their kids.
      It’s tough being a working mum, I really admire women who have and are juggling all those balls of life. I can’t get my act together enough to do the work/school balance. So you’ve done well!
      School cliques and their ladies ARE scary! (…well to me anyway).

      Like

  2. I totally relate to this. Happiness was when I no longer had to face my kids’ school in the morning. No more pretending to be okay, no more pretending that standing there, feeling rejected because I couldn’t figure out how to join in and be okay was fine. Anxiety sucks. But yes, each time you push past it, the next time gets a little easier. Mostly. Sometimes it still blindsides you. I’m glad you’ve made some connections.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this honest post. for me, I need people around me which has its own challenges. If I am left by myself for too long, I start struggling lol! Just goes to show we all have our struggles.

    I do agree with your husband and I am glad his suggestions helped you. You are such a great conversationalist that I am more than sure that anyone will be happy to be in your company.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had social anxiety all my life although I didn’t know it until several years ago. It was just called being shy or weird. I’m sorry to say that from my perspective, it doesn’t get any better. I’ve made efforts to be more sociable and just tried to ignore the uncomfortable feelings but they are still there. It’s next to impossible to explain it to a person who has never had it. They just think you are being anti-social or too hard on yourself. The one thing I found that did make it easier is not to worry what other people think. I’ll make an effort, but if I fall short, that’s just who I am and you’ll have to get used to it or move on.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s hard to explain. I think I just got tired of making excuses for my “shyness” so I told everyone that it’s who I am, it’s a part of me, and if you want to be in my life you have to accept it. It doesn’t mean I won’t try to make an effort to me more sociable but I’ll never be the outgoing extrovert that some people are.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. When I was young, newly married and insecure I had some of the same issues. I’m really not sure what changed, but as I found myself and grew more comfortable with who I was….it became easier. Now? I talk to strangers all the time. Of course, this is not always a good thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only one who pretends to be on my phone to avoid social interaction!🤣 I joined a moms’ club and it helped me get to know more moms by seeing the same ones over and over. It was awkward for the first few months, but now I’m so glad I have the friends I’ve made from it! I still often walk away from our play dates second guessing myself and wondering if I said the wrong thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve got the pretending to be on the phone down to an art 😅
      I’ve never thought of a mum’s club, although I don’t know if I could cope with that. I’m glad you persisted and have made friends through it. I think even if you say the wrong thing, your tribe won’t care in the least!

      Like

  7. I relate to this so much. I love my family, but I am definitely a homebody. And especially since we homeschool our kids I don’t want them to be left out. I want to make an effort for them, but I have a difficult time making those connections… 🙄. Accepting advice, and following this! 😅❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I hated school functions when I was raising my children. They were so uncomfortable. I had acquaintances but never felt like I belonged and always questioned why any one would want to be around me. I socialized for the benefit of my kids. I’m sorry you are in the thick of it right now. Sounds like you’re moving forward, keep going mama!!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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