Hello. My name is Katie, and I have a mild form of agoraphobia. Or at least, that’s my own diagnosis. It culminates in me being afraid to leave the house. Don’t get me wrong, I’m out and about all the time – shopping, taking the kids to daycare, going with the family to the parks. But I am very careful about what I do, where I go and who I’m with.
For weeks now, I’ve been needing to go to the social security office so that I can finally get my name changed after my wedding to Mark. But every time I have the opportunity, I chicken out. The office is about 45 minutes away, and I can’t manage to go that far by myself. It closes before Mark gets off work, so if I ever am going to do it, it has to be on my own.
This month we had to break down and put the kids in daycare. Dash goes full time, Monday through Friday, for about ten hours a day. Dex goes Mondays and Fridays. We felt it necessary for many reasons, not least of which is that neither of them get any interaction with other kids, and as such they are quite needy and insular. I want them to have playmates and be able to enjoy the company of others. It costs a fortune!
Which brings up the question – why don’t I just take them out? We live minutes from Disney World, Sea World and Legoland. We have tons of children’s activities in the area, some free and others cheap. I’m even a member of a mama and baby’s group. There is no shortage of stuff to do. We’ve been invited on hundreds of playdates. But every single time it comes time to do it, I chicken out. I can’t manage by myself.
I can usually do okay if Mark is with us. My fear of crowds fades a little when there’s someone to hide behind. But even that doesn’t last long. We hardly ever go to the Magic Kingdom because it really is an all-day thing, and I can never stand more than a few hours in the hordes of people. Occasionally, if I’ve had plenty of sleep and am feeling strong, I will take Dexter to the local park, letting him play on the playground and run around. Sometimes there are other kids there, and I urge him to play with any of them who show him attention and friendship. But as soon as their parents try and talk to me, I make my excuses and leave.
Most days I stay at home. I don’t leave the house. In the past I have spent weeks without stepping foot outside, though these days I try to force myself to breathe fresh air at least once a day, even if it’s just going to get the mail. It’s exhausting going back and forth between wanting to go out and get things done and feeling like I want to curl up under the covers and never come out.
There are certain people in my life who judge me for this issue, thinking that I’m a bad mother for not taking my kids out more often. I’ve been chastised – “They need interaction and stimulation. They are cooped up too much. They need to be exposed to germs so they can build their immune systems.” All good points, but ultimately dealt with. We find ways around our own inadequacies. Whether that means that daddy takes them out after work or we have a big family outing at the weekends, they DO get their time. Putting them in daycare is just another way of getting them what they need.
But it’s not good enough for some. Everyone, whether they have their own child or not, seems to have their opinions on what you do wrong as a mother, and they WILL be heard. There are some women I know who are detestable moms. They beat their kids or don’t feed them or scream in their faces. Some of them have lost custody because they are that bad. And still they spout their critiques of everything they perceive me doing wrong.
But the truth is that I am scared. This world is big and scary, and I’ve been exposed to some of the worst of humanity. This summer when the world’s media picked up this blog because of our pink headband incident, we experienced some of the most hostile criticisms ever. No matter what you do, you just can’t please other people, and that kind of sucks.
At the end of the day, I don’t want my issues to become my children’s issues. I want them to know a mom who is outgoing, fun and full of life. I work every day toward that goal, pushing myself past the point of comfort so that they will not grow up with a mother who is too scared to even look out a window.
That big and scary world is also the most beautiful, vibrant, happy place one can know, and I want them to be free to explore every inch of it. I’d like to show it to them.
I’d like to show them everything.