Awkward laughs, food lightly flying out of my mouth as I spoke, total mom-brain making me forget everyone’s name as soon as they said it, such was my first Mom’s Night Out in my new mother’s group. It was great to get out, the company was welcoming and interesting, the food tasty. The problem was me. I felt feral. After months of my entire social architecture being composed of littles, husband, and my parents, I’d forgotten completely how to interact with new mom friends. Not only that, but I was giddy with the freedom to speak to others without having to cut away every 30 seconds to tend to someone. Of course, I now have the attention span of a gnat and the memory of a goldfish so I felt impotent to capitalize on that new found freedom.
But it was good practice, right? The problem is I have very little practice meeting new people on my own. I used to have to do so by necessity when I was single, but now I can usually use my husband or children as a convenient buffer to deep interactions. If you can’t tell, I believe I might be what they call an “introvert.” It is very easy to be an introvert when you have littles. They consume so much of my time that I hardly have time for social interactions anyway, and they conveniently break up any conversation when I do have social time. Of course, sometimes I lament that, when I want to catch up with good friends, but most of the time they give me the break many introverts need to release some social anxiety before diving back into the fray.
However, I fear my buffer has gone too far. Now that I’ve moved to a new place, I don’t have the regular meet ups with mom friends I know, so I need to practice meeting mom friends I don’t know. And I don’t want to feel feral. I want to feel relaxed, confident, and not judge myself. Now, many of you might say here, “wine.” But I don’t drink, so that doesn’t work. So I just have to deal with my anxiety on my own, alone, with no liquid courage.
I wasn’t really alone though. I am pretty sure that beneath their margaritas and Chardonnays, the ladies I met had similar misgivings about the new people we had all become as mothers. More scattered than before, fewer topics of conversation available to us, perpetually emotionally drained. But still funny, still fairly interesting when we could plumb the troves of our pre-mom lives, still enjoyable to be around, our flubs just as fun as our hits.
Now, I expect that when I eventually return to work, I will have infinitely more practice at engaging in adult conversations, and that working moms may not suffer the same shock at talking to adults as stay at home moms. But I suspect that we all as new parents suffer from the same awkward newness, like a foal teetering on spindly legs, as we learn to navigate the social world with far fewer mental resources as we had as singletons or newlyweds. For me, I am trying to embrace this challenge, and get as much practice as my introversion will allow, exuberantly bucking and running in the paddock as my new wobbly self even if that results in some big missteps here and there. Because the missteps aren’t embarrassing to the foal, and are entirely hilarious to all of us.
How have you adjusted to your new parental self? Are you embracing it or missing your old self, or both?
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