I’m the mom at the playground who smiles when you smile at me. I follow my toddler around, talking to her, trying to look consumed by motherhood. I push my daughter on the swing next to your toddler, smiling and laughing with her. I’m never the first one to talk because in my head, I’m fumbling over what to say. I worry that I should have worn work out clothes too, that I’m dressing too young. I worry that you might think I’m not raising my kid the right way, that you’ll judge me. Maybe you’re not a daycare mom or a working mom, but I am. I don’t want you to feel awkward if you’re not, I love and respect stay-at-home moms too! So I say nothing, I stand there, pushing my toddler back and forth, back and forth, waiting for you to talk first.
I’m an introvert with anxiety, plotting my every move and conversation. I practice in my head before saying it out loud. When the conversation flows, I back step, worrying I’ve said the wrong thing. On my way home, I go over the conversation in my head, I shouldn’t have said that. I should have gotten her number, no that would have been weird. So if the conversation happens I end with, “hopefully we’ll see you again.” I really hope we do.
Isn’t making mom friends like dating? I remember my late teens and early 20s, the same awkwardness, wondering if I should talk to the boy at the bar. We don’t have the social lubricant of alcohol, coffee will have to do at the park. I wonder if I should text the one mom whose number I got and have the same nervousness wondering when and if she will text me back.
My husband is the opposite, a text book extrovert, funny and charming. He’ll talk to anyone and he tries to make me friends. It feels like when your mom had to try to make you friends in elementary or middle school, except I never needed that, I was social and confident then. I try to remind him to invite that one couple with the toddler over, but it’s not urgent to him. He gets his social fix.
I remember the early days, and maybe that’s where I got caught. I remember the lonely feelings, being stuck inside my house with postpartum depression, feeling too stressed to go anywhere with my baby. Everything felt so big and scary. I packed my diaper bag as if the world was ending, bottles and snacks for days, two changes of clothes, toys to keep her distracted. It weighed me down and weighed me down.
My friends are having babies now, but I was the first. I see how easy they make it look. They are effortless, graceful even. One friend carries a chic suede purse that hangs from her side, the baby in a wrap, leaving the rest in the car. She stands, rocking her baby while I sit in the cafe barstool, drinking her coffee, not worrying if it will drip on the baby’s head. There are no bags under her eyes. She is put together.
My friend is the opposite of me at that stage. When my baby was three-months-old, I was stressed and scared. I knew what the feeling sneaking up on me was. I knew that everyday when the afternoon hit, it wasn’t normal to be stuck to the floor like a magnet. When I took her out to music class or the children’s museum, one big outing for the day, I hoped to lock eyes with a mom and for her to tell me that she felt that way too. It seemed that no one felt the same. It seemed they all loved to be a mom. So I pretended I did too.
After 6 months, I knew it was postpartum depression. After 9 months, I went back to my therapist, head down, feeling defeated. Motherhood got me. At 12 months, I decided to seek out group therapy but it was too late, the groups were for moms with babies under 12 months, the ones in the throws of postpartum depression. At 15 months I went on medication. At 15 months, I finally got it. I loved being a mom, I could do it.
My daughter just turned two. I planned an elaborate party, wanting to mom as hard as I could. I made “Go, Dog! Go” decorations and shelled out for a traveling petting zoo. As I realized the extravagance I’d put in to a two year olds birthday, I realized she only had two real friends. I invited everyone I could, moms I liked but hadn’t hung out with much before. I hoped the kids would come, but they didn’t. My lack of mom friends affected not only me, but my daughter.
I should have exchanged numbers with the mom I liked from music class, or tried to set up a play date with the other mom I knew with kids the same age. I should have tried to talk more, to say “hey, we should grab coffee,” or “lets go to that brewery with the kids sometime,” because what do I have to lose but a potential friend?
It was so easy in our early 20s over drinks. It got a little harder in my mid-20s when the hard partying allure began to wear. Why is it so dang hard once you get close to or hit 30? We assume moms already have their group, that they don’t want to expand to one more. As an introvert, I crave intimate conversations, so mom groups where I don’t know anyone are tough and anxiety producing.
I’ve laid it all out now. It’s a quiet desperation, the craving for friendship, but it doesn’t have to be. So if you like long walks around the greenbelt, true crime podcasts that scare the pants off you, Bordeaux, books, and Stevie Nicks, I might be the friend for you. I’ll be the socially awkward mom pushing her toddler on the swing, wondering if and when I should talk to you, and what about. If I promise to put myself out there, and exchange numbers, perhaps you’ll have the courage to do the same.
It’s so refreshing to know that others feel the same way I do because it’s such a lonely feeling. Ironically I am an extrovert. I am the one that always introduces myself to others and tries to bridge connections but I never follow through on getting to know others on a deeper level. I never initiate get-togethers. I never invite others over or set up playdates. I always make excuses about being tired from work or too busy, etc. I am afraid of rejection and it definitely affects my kids. I wish I had that one best friend or circle of friends but I always feel like the third wheel or odd man out. Thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone.
This is perfect….exactly how I feel…..I have tried getting numbers, texting other moms etc. and I have found that they all seem uninterested in making new friends. So sick of not being texted back or looking like I’m a murdered when I ask for a phone number. Seems like I’m the only mom out there that has moved a bunch and lost touch with all of their old friends….I’m young too so that’s a fun one. Half of the moms I talk to assume I’m an episode of 16 and pregnant, even though I was 20 with my first and had been married over a year. Just glad to see someone else deals with this. Making mom friends or friends at all now that I am a mom is more frustrating , alienating, and depressing than any date ever has been.
That literally sounded like i could have written that article. Down to the true crime podcasts, Bordeaux, and Stevie Nicks. It sucks, it really does. And now my oldest is showing signs of my shy, introverted awkwardness rubbing off on him and it makes me hopelessly sad for him. Too bad you don’t live in Jacksonville FL, i would be your equally awkward, self conscious, introverted friend.
This is so real and raw and honest. Thank you for your courage to put it all out there! I often have these exact same thoughts! Cheers to you and finding your mom village. I am on that journey too!
I could’ve written this myself, aside from the “it was easy when I was young” part…this is me to a ‘T’ my whole life…so, it’s even harder now, being a woman and a mom! Even after almost 11 years of being a mom! I was mistaken as being a snob most of my life bc of overthinking every word before I could say it out loud, by then the time passing to say anything at all, therefore rarely ever speaking – and when I do, wishing I hadn’t bc I’m repeating the same thing over and over in my head to be sure I said it right, and most of the time feeling completely stupid for whatever it is that I said, frozen and even more unable to speak… I’ve spent the last 10 years smiling and hoping for a 1st word so I can smile back and hope for a slightly easy return phrase, so that I don’t come off as rude. My experience is even the closest of friends don’t have time, as neither do I…even when I carve out time, they aren’t able to at the same time (or just won’t – ?). I’m not pushy enough and far too self-doubting to be able to say anything back on a follow-up, as a continued “unanswered” text would cause all that more doubting…so I let it go for a few months, until 6 months or a year has gone by, with no friend conversation at all. So, when I can’t speak to begin with, the anxiety takes over, then doubt, then the inexperience of any “friend” conversation over a year…you get the inability to create any friendship or any conversation remotely relative to such a thing…
This is so me. And I’ve also worried that my lack of mom friends will affect my daughter’s potential friendships. Mom groups stress me out! But at the same time I want that connection with other moms. To know I’m not alone in this struggle of motherhood.
When I started reading this article I didn’t expect it to go where it did or to be so profoundly familiar. I wish I lived closer or I would join the other moms here offering friendship.
Thanks for this post. I am exactly the same, socially awkward and an anxiety ridden introvert. I was also the first of my friends to have kids, so I felt so alone in this new territory. My boys are 7 and 2 now, and I still have a hell of a time making friends. You’d think it’d get easier the older they get, at least that’s what I always told myself. But it hasn’t. I always pray another mom will just come up and start to chat with me. I know it’s so selfish of me to just want the other person to make that first effort, but I can’t help it, and I never what to say. I never want to say the wrong thing. So anyways, thanks for writing this, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Can we start some kind of networking group for socially awkward moms? Haha ☺️
I am right there with you. And it’s nice, well sad, but nice to know I’m not the only one.
I feel like this was written for me. I have a 3 and 1 year old, no friends with kids their age, work full-time, and also suffer from extreme social awkwardness around people I do not know. Throw in some postpartum depression and the fact that my oldest has moderate Autism. It’s not that I don’t know what to say to other moms, I just don’t try at all for the fear that I will not be the only one judged. My son has no friends and desperately needs to socialize. You are not alone and I am not alone. I know there are people out there in the same boat… I just wish it was easier to spot them.