When I was younger, I thought there was something wrong with me for not enjoying parties, always wanting to leave events after the first hour, and for being absolutely thrilled when social plans were cancelled at the last minute.
Was I too shy, socially awkward, or just kind of a bitch? Nope. Turned out I was an introvert, one who actually does like socializing, but mostly one-on-one and in small doses. Once I realized who I was, and that there wasn’t anything actually wrong with me, life started to become a whole lots easier, and more pleasant too.
But when I became a mom, things got a little more complicated. I was a full-time SAHM for my first child’s early years, and although I still never went gaga for socializing, I also craved companionship.
The friendships I formed in those early years of motherhood are some of my deepest and most cherished friendships, but socializing as an introverted mom definitely had its challenges. After some trial and error, I figured out how to navigate the world of mom friends as an introvert with some success. Here’s what I learned along the way:
You don’t have to have a ton of mom friends unless you want to.
I think we introverts know our limits better than we think we do — it’s just that the world has told us that we shouldn’t listen to our instincts. Some of us are fine with one or two good friends, but more than that feels too intense. Others of us want a few more. Maybe some of us want a whole lot of good friends, but just prefer to interact with them one-on-one. And also keep in mind that things change when kids enter the picture. It might feel hard to nurture too many deep relationships when all of your energy is being poured into your children. And that’s OK.
You don’t have to say yes to a gazillion playdates.
I had a friend who would sometimes schedule two or three playdates per day (yes, really) for her little ones. I could not understand that at all. After one playdate, I was totally spent, and so was my kid (turns out he was an introvert too). And forget about having playdates every day! I needed at least a day or two in between to recover. No shame.
Choose friends who make you feel happy, and don’t judge your need to be alone sometimes.
When I had kids, I became more picky than ever about whom I would allow into my life. Early motherhood was full of doubts and stress for me, and I wanted to be surrounded by people who lifted me up and empowered me. I also needed friends who understood my need for quiet sometimes, who didn’t judge me for my need to retreat and disconnect.
It can be challenging to have a kid who wants lots of socializing, but it’s possible to balance both of your needs.
When my kids were little, they wanted more playdates than I usually felt like scheduling. I knew they needed the companionship of other kids, and I didn’t want to deny them that, but I also had to remember that my needs were important too. So if they wanted four playdates in a week, and I wanted one, we’d come up with a compromise and do two. I’d also make sure to get my husband involved. He’d take them to birthday parties or other get-togethers that I was too spent to participate in, giving me much needed alone time to recharge.
Online friends count as friends too.
I have met some of my closest friends online. These are friends who have connected with me because of common interests, including motherhood, and many of whom I consider to be as close to me as friends I know in real life. I think it’s easy to act as though these friendships don’t count or should be valued less than “real life” friends, but that’s not the case at all. And for introverts, communicating online with friends is often an easier and more comfortable way to socialize.
Remember that when you’re someone who has introvert tendencies, your friendships are going to look a little different than other people’s, and the same goes for how you approach socializing as a mom. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to keep up with the Joneses, or overschedule your kids to the point of having a panic attack every time you look at your calendar.
You get to define motherhood how you want to, including the extent that it is a social experience. I think almost all of us want and need allies as we move through the stages of parenting, but what we need most of all are friends who understand and accept us for who we are, not what they want us to be.