2016 wasn’t my finest year, so as a huge treat I took my family to Austria for Christmas, where we all would ski together for the first time.
To say I am a nervous skier is an understatement. While I watched in awe as my 6-year-old threw herself down a mountain, I said silent prayers and tried my best to relax and even enjoy myself. My instructor — a mom herself — took me half-way up the slope and then made me snow plough the whole way down to prove to myself that I could stop if I needed to. She seemed to totally get my fear.
With sympathy, she told me:
“It’s ‘The Mother Effect.’ I see it all the time. Moms are the most nervous because they are the lynchpin of the family — they need to keep it all together. So they can’t fall, they can’t get hurt skiing; because if they did — everything goes to pot.”
Cut to Day 3. No snow. The slopes are like icy death traps. We get a new instructor — a guy — who suggests we go on a trail at the very top of the mountain. I can clearly see this trail is narrow, and if I were unable to stop I would careen over the side of the mountain. I watch as the group begins to follow him, but my legs are like jelly and I am rooted to the spot, unable to move.
Hot angry tears spill down my face and I yell to my husband to go on without me.
Then I sit in a restaurant praying my kids will come back to me in one piece. Fearless, they come sailing over the highest point while I can barely stop shaking. My husband thinks my fears are irrational — while I point at the air rescue helicopter above me, knowing that had I gone, it would be arriving for me.
“The Mother Effect” makes such perfect sense to me — while everyone else can race down the mountain without a care in the world, I need to be the one to pack the bags, book the cabs, and sort out the ski wear. And I often wonder why it isn’t as easy for me to feel as fearless and as carefree as I did my 20’s!
Is there any mom who doesn’t feel like this, though?
Admittedly, I have always been a bit of a worrier, but now I am a complete and total stress head. When I only had my rent to take care of, and my own mouth to feed, I felt I could take more risks; roll with the punches more. Now I spend most waking moments worrying — about practically everything.
If this script I’m writing isn’t good enough and the TV company take me off it — THEN what? Who will pay for the tennis lessons and birthday parties then?
I just can’t shake the constant fear that comes with not only having to provide for two kids, but to take care of them as well. And that means taking care of myself most of all.
So, I don’t drive as fast as I used to. I don’t risk scary rides at amusement parks anymore. I won’t dive off that rock into the sea below, because what if something went wrong? I HAVE TO BE THERE for my kids.
You see? “The Mother Effect” has seeped into every area of my life.
Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone. A quick (and highly scientific) poll of my friends shows we are all in the same boat: One mom of two said, “I used to love skiing until one year, on our a first day, a poor girl fell over, only for a snowboarder to crash over her, clipping her head. She died on the spot. Ever since then I can’t ski if snowboarders are on the same slope. I have too much fear — because who then would do the cooking?!”
Other activities my buddies no longer do include: ice skating, parasailing, tobogganing, sharing cabs with strangers, taking the subway late at night, and water skiing.
When we birthed our kids, did we lose our bravery in the bargain?
Yet, for all my fears, “The Mother Effect” has also given me the confidence to feel far more sure about so many things. I know what I want from life, who I should give my free time to (as it is now so precious), and why I need to keep healthy — after all, I want to be around to be a grandma one day, that’s for sure.
“The Mother Effect” means I have my priorities far more in check, so I no longer waste time sweating over what other people think. If I ever feel I can’t do something, I give myself a talking to and remind myself I’ve had two kids and survived — I can do anything!
I may still be afraid of skiing, but when it comes to protecting my kids, I am 100% snarling lioness.
Recently, I took my son to the theatre as a weekend treat and on our way home later that night, we discovered our train out of London was beyond packed — sardines squished into a tin. I tried to squeeze on when suddenly two drunken men got into a fight and I found myself roaring at these idiots to “get a grip!” and “stop scaring my 10-year-old son!”
They apologized and shuffled off. Meanwhile, people on the train looked at me with admiration. My son, still frightened, held on to me and said, “Well done, Mum.”
So, yeah — that “Mother Effect”? It comes in pretty handy, as well. Just maybe not on the slopes.More On