Hello. I am an introvert. An outgoing one, but an introvert nonetheless. I am also extremely socially awkward, and very sensitive. I know you’re just dying to meet me in person. Also, maybe you can relate! This has been my personality (or rather affliction) since I was a child. Its unlikely to change, as much as I wish it would!
Now, mommyhood. You’re thrust into a new world of encounters that you haven’t had to endure before. You attend classes, playground run-ins, birthday parties (omg the birthday parties) preschool drop-offs…the list is endless. SO much face time with other moms, dads, teachers, et al. For a socially awkward/introverted individual, it is EXHAUSTING. I cannot tell you how many times I have NOT been emotionally prepared to have a chit-chat (school drop off anyone?), and said something TOTALLY weird and off color, then just slunk away to replay it in my head and cringe. “I CARRIED A WATERMELON?” (Where are my “Dirty Dancing” fans at!?)
I didn’t HAVE to think about my social life pre-kids! Oh, I was so smug and secure in my friendships. I attained most of these lovelies in my twenties. Then, the basis for our friendship was drinking, loving music festivals, swearing like sailors, laughing until we peed, and having a love for interior decoration. I’m speaking of actual living people who know me so well that we don’t have to do the awkward chit chat anymore that is required for creating friendships. Well, now that I birthed children, I am forced to be sociable and try to create NEW friendships! Enter my dilemma. I want mommy friends. I’m awkward. How?
Learning how to interact with other moms post-kids is like learning a new language.
My old techniques for making friends pre-kids don’t relate at places where kids are present. No swearing (yet), no drinking (until you are better friends), and lets not talk about interior decoration until my kids stop writing on my walls. But WHO am I without these things??? My fun and kind of edgy personality is wiped out when kids are around. I feel as if I have turned into a G-rated version of myself! The “I just met you and don’t know enough about you to show my true self ” conversations are usually related to whatever parenting issue you are currently having. Potty training, car seats, behavior issues, breastfeeding, sleeping issues, teething, entering schools, and so on.
On top of all your multi-leveled personal anxieties, add your children’s misbehavior on top of that…
My children add another level to this anxiety. Say its already an awkward and difficult encounter. When they start acting up, I basically want to sink into the floor. Everyone knows that kids are kids, but no one judges me harder on my parenting than myself. Therefore, when I have to calmly and diplomatically disarm a child in the midst of all this my anxiety skyrockets, and thats not good friend breeding ground whatsoever.
Yes, you HAVE TO make friends – even though its hard
As easy as it is to just slink away and not have to make any new friends, I DO want to set a good example for my kids. I don’t want to be that mom who isn’t demonstrating to her children how to be social, polite, and be thriving in the parenting ilk. I also LOVE having friends. Friendships make life so much more rich and lovely, even if it does require some leg work for us introverts. However, we must challenge these phobias and make ourselves and our kids proud. Showing them how to be a friend and receive friendships is a life skill you definitely want to impart. Monkey see, monkey do! You want to teach those monkeys right.
Generally speaking, my strategy is to fake it till I make it. I have learned those pleasantries, when to say them, how and when to smile, and naturally over time, I have gotten SO much better at this social dance, and it has become natural. Instead of pretending not to see someone (I’m not kidding, I have done this JUST to avoid an awkward encounter), force yourself to say a big hello first. Push yourself to get uncomfortable, say hello, and be vulnerable enough to BE awkward and weird. Simply, unapologetically BEING has so much power in it. You give license for others to be who they are when you accept yourself, warts and all, and that is a beautiful thing.
Be Yourself always – socially awkward and all
I have grown SO immensely since becoming a mom. My older friendships are more deeply treasured, and I am constantly making sure I put time and effort into the friendships that are new and fledgling. Who are we if we are not emotionally growing? Talking about it helps, and being vulnerable and open has been the key for me to make close mom friends that have grown into friendships that I will treasure forever. When we learn to love our imperfections and push through them, it takes enormous courage, but so does just being a mother, right?