I’m terrible at small talk and I don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention. But I had to leave my bubble to find my village.
When I had my first baby, I didn’t have any other mom friends and no family within a 200-miles radius. After a week’s leave, my partner went back to work and it was just me and my newborn.
I had lots of friends, but they were all at work too, getting on with their jobs and their child-free lives as I tried to figure out the ropes in my new job — as a parent.
My son was a dream, but as a first-timer I had doubts about my abilities nonetheless. I knew I wasn’t the only new mom to feel anxious, confused, and insecure, but I wanted to connect with some of the others who were out there in their own sleep-deprived new-mom bubbles, trying to figure out the best diaper cream and good excuses for not doing Kegels on a regular basis.
I had to find some mom friends.
But as an introvert, the mere thought of this was enough to make me want to stay firmly within my bubble for two.
Before I could change my mind, I threw myself in at the deep end. I went to a mother and baby group. In a church hall with 15 women I’d never met before and their 15 small, squirming babies, I became the main character in my own bad dream.
I survived — and I made friends. And I’m still in touch with some of them, 11 years later.
Before my second child was born, we moved across the country and I had to start over with the mother and baby groups. Again, I went for the deep-end tactic and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
One Tuesday morning, in a local coffee shop, I met three women who remain a big part of my life today. We’ve been through it all, and our friendships now go way beyond the children that brought us together.
Here are my tips for navigating the world of mom friends as an introvert, because it’s well worth the effort.
It’s easy to get sucked into believing that your worth as a person is measured by how large your social circle is (or how many Facebook friends you have). When I decided to ignore mass media messages and channel my energy into being true to myself, I realized that I’m most comfortable with a small, trusted circle.
Give me one amazing friend who always has my back and loves me for who I am over a bunch of people who, well, don’t — any day.
Sure, maybe it takes a village — but it’s totally okay if your village is a small one. When I became a mother, I actually became even more particular about who I let into my life, because it wasn’t just my life anymore. It was my child’s, too.
If you wouldn’t say yes to grown-up party invites on three consecutive nights, why would you arrange back-to-back Monday to Friday playdates?
The finger food and beverage choices might be a little different, but it comes down to the same issue: too much social stimulus in a short space of time. Give yourself a couple of days (or longer — you be the judge) to recover in between.
The only rules when it comes to your kid’s social calendar are those you make, based on what you can handle.
Not everyone you meet during your early parenting journey has BFF potential. Or will even be someone you feel comfortable spending significant amounts of time with. And that’s okay.
Yes, you have one big thing in common — motherhood — but that alone is unlikely to sustain a solid friendship.
Follow your instincts and make a conscious decision to surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. And those who don’t mind if you politely decline a playdate invite just because you need some alone time.
Sometimes, nothing compares to a face-to-face conversation. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a place for digital interaction.
Friendships that begin and grow online shouldn’t be treated as inferior to “real life” ones. It’s all about connection, and it’s not unusual to spend more time with online friends than your offline ones.
When you’re up all night feeding your newborn, or trying to settle your teething toddler, you can bet that someone else, somewhere else, is doing exactly the same thing. You can’t turn up at their door for a mutual moan, but you can fire off a quick text or Facebook message and be pretty confident you’ll get a timely response.
Above all, don’t compare your social style or friendships to anybody else’s.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t need or want friends, or don’t like socializing. Your comfort zone might be different than other people’s, but it’s just as legit. And seeing their mom embrace their introversion — rather than try to hide it or make excuses for it — is one of the best messages you can give your kids.
Claire Gillespie is a freelance writer with bylines on Health, SELF, Refinery29, Glamour, The Washington Post, and many more. She lives in Scotland with her husband and six kids, where she uses every (rare) spare moment to work on her novel. Follow her here.