Where Do You Fit In At The School Gate?
The whole premise behind “fitting in” feels more appropriate when we are talking about children or teenagers. Making new friends or trying new hobbies can be difficult for that very reason.
If our children have to change school or classroom our greatest fear is often the social aspect rather than how it might affect them educationally. Feeling like you don’t fit in, or struggling to connect with people around you, can be a very isolating experience. As it turns out this is something that affects us as adults more than we care to admit. I suppose as an adult we just get on with things don’t we?
We don’t afford ourselves too many opportunities to bathe in our emotions and really explore them. We are too busy wiping bumps, cooking meals and dealing with tantrums – not necessarily in that order either. Feeling isolated as a parent is a very real problem for a lot of people and the school gate can really amplify that feeling.
In theory, the school gate is simply the place where your children’s drop-offs and pick-ups happen daily. It’s where you kiss your child goodbye hoping that they haven’t yet reached an age where it has to happen in the car or not at all. It’s where you double check that they’ve packed their lunch or that letter you had to sign for them.
It’s where you wave them off for a day of learning and playing with their pals. It can be a seamless experience for those people whose children love school or it can be a really stressful daily affair i
involving many tears (quite often your own). The school gate is a place that highlights so many issues, concerns and moments of significance in your family life. It is a very vulnerable place.
As a working parent, you may or may not be in a position to visit the school gate very often. When it does happen you might be feeling uncomfortable, awkward and possibly a little bit judged. Your attire says it all, right? They all appear to be wearing jeans and t-shirts and you are wearing an uncomfortable two-piece for your 10am meeting.
You can over-hear plans being made to go grab a coffee and your emotions might be somewhere between resentment, jealousy and irritation. Seeing the different daily realities can be a really powerful way of making you assess or resent your own and you just can’t help it.
As a bottle-feeding mum do you feel disconnected from the group of mums who are talking about breastfeeding at the school gate? One morning the talk centred around baby-wearing and how awful THAT particular brand is for baby’s development and posture.
Your baby used that very carrier and you suddenly want the world to swallow you up as you think back to a time where you were more than likely judged and discussed at this very school gate. You laugh and agree but inside you are crying.
When the talk turns to rugby you might suddenly become mute. Your son likes dancing and isn’t part of that “scene” and as it turns out neither are you. You’re trying to contribute and react but the truth is you haven’t got a clue what they are talking about and the “game” on Sunday was something that didn’t involve you. It feels isolating and yet there is nobody to blame. You feel it though.
It’s a particular kind of vulnerable, this parenting stuff. We are busy and admittedly set in our own ways because we simply do what works for our family. But we also desperately want to fit in. If not for ourselves then for the sake of our children. We want the other parents at the school gate to talk to us, to like us and to extend birthday party invites to our children. We just do.
If you are feeling disconnected from other parents at the school gate or you don’t know where you “fit in” just remember that a huge chunk of parents standing very close by are feeling exactly as you are. Say hello to that mum standing by herself – you might just make her day.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.
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