I am not a social butterfly. I’m not shy, but I’m introverted and happy in my own company a lot of the time. I also suffer from social anxiety. If I were to go to a party, I would probably spend most of my time in the kitchen wondering how long I had to stay to make it socially acceptable to leave again. So you may be wondering why this blog post is worth reading – what advice do I have to offer?
The fact is, I’ve faced and overcome some anxieties in developing and expanding my friendship circle. I thought I would share what I’ve learned along the way, in the hope that I can help a few others avoid the loneliness I felt at times.
When I first had the boys, life turned upside down. I had to learn how to be a mum, how to keep my head above water. But eventually, when I found my feet, there came a new confidence. Something about being a mum has given me a little perspective on my anxiety. Now that the boys are my priority, it’s easier to do things I am apprehensive about, for their benefit.
Baby groups and classes can be a great place to meet people, but if you have social anxiety it can seem like a really daunting task. You may ask yourself questions like ‘Will I go in the right door?’ ‘Will people stare at me because I’m new?’ ‘What if no one talks to me?’ ‘What if the baby cries the whole time?’
I know what it’s like to feel that way, but I also know that the alternative – staying in and never trying to meet anyone, would have been a whole lot worse. So here’s what you do:
See if there’s ‘niche’ you fit into where you might meet like-minded mums.
For example, if you love the outdoors, why not look for a ‘mums and buggies’ walk near you? For me, my niche was having twins, so my local twins club was naturally somewhere I gravitated towards. Having more than just ‘being a mum’ in common might mean it’s more likely that you hit it off with someone. But at the same time…
Don’t let a differentiation in parenting styles put you off
If you struggle to strike up conversation, try to remember that there is usually common ground somewhere. Steer away from any topics that could become controversial, keep it light. Remarking on the cuteness of someone’s baby is bound to be a safe bet.
You might not ‘click’ with everyone you meet. You may only swap details with a few. But see every exchange as a learning experience and give yourself a pat on the back for putting yourself out there.
Give groups/classes a few weeks before you decided if it’s something you want to do regularly.
The first time around, you’ll probably feel nervous. The second time, at least you’ll know a bit about how everything works. After the third or fourth time you’ll probably recognise a few faces to say hello to, maybe you’ll even start feeling more comfortable. By which time another ‘newbie’ will come along and you can be that link person who makes them feel at ease.
Offer up your help
‘Do you need a hand stacking the chairs?’ ‘Can I help making the tea and coffee?’ The people running the group may be glad of a helping hand. It’ll give you a chance to break the ice and feel more a part of the group, too.
Look for others on their own
When you have social anxiety, it’s easy to walk in and feel like all the other women there have known each other since they were babies themselves. Baby classes and play groups may at times have a reputation for being cliquey. Groups can be hard to break into – it’s easier to approach someone on their own and start up a conversation that way.
Don’t assume that all the other mums are handling motherhood with ease
A common characteristic of anxiety is ‘black or white thinking’. To you, it may look like everyone else is oozing with confidence. However, chances are that one or more of those other mums are waiting for someone else to make the first move. Maybe their smiles hide the fact they just really want to blurt out ‘God this is so hard at times isn’t it?’ or ‘What I wouldn’t give for a good night’s sleep’ to someone who gets it.
It’s a cliché, I know. But as things move along your comfort level will grow and you eliminate the worry of exposing the ‘real’ you at a later date.
So put on a smile,
get out there
and remember this –
every mum was a new mum once.
Here are some links you may find useful
Find baby groups in your area with Hoop
Try the Mush app (basically Tinder for mums!)
Find your #mumtribe at Meet Other Mums
Have you struggled with social anxiety? Do you have any tips on how to make mum friends?
Lead photograph copyright: highwaystarz / 123RF Stock Photo