Each year, when school starts back up again for my children, it brings back all the feelings I used to get when I was still in school. All the shyness — all the awkwardness — all the worrying that no one would talk to me or like me. Only this time, I worry about it happening with other the moms.
The mom circle can be harsh, you guys. The human need to “clique up” doesn’t end with high school. And as a mom with social anxiety, it can be hard to nuzzle myself up to what seems to be a closed circle, no matter how nice those moms may actually be. Most of the time, I end up standing alone — looking at my phone or pretending my heart isn’t beating out of my chest from the anxiety of potential mingling. But what happens is people often assume I’m just not friendly. From their perspective, I’m the “stuck up” mom. The “rude” mom. The mom who doesn’t care to know the other moms. And that pushes me even further outside the mom circle — whether it be at orientation, back-to-school-night, lunch duty or their first school performance of the year.
Today, I’m asking all moms to be patient with us moms dealing with social anxiety. We’re not trying to be rude. We’re afraid of rejection. We’re afraid of seeming awkward when we don’t know how to answer other questions that all the other moms seem know how to answer. We’re afraid we will be met with crickets when we open our mouths, or that you’ll turn your backs on us completely when we walk up to you. If you can, please help us out by:
Please make the first move. If you see us standing alone pretending not to mind that we don’t know anyone, please introduce yourself. Invite us into your circle. We’re not as closed off as we may look once we get to know you.
Inviting us over.
So much socializing happens off school grounds these days. Please ask for our number. Add us to your text chain. Invite us out for coffee when the other moms are getting together. Even if we don’t have the mental energy to go, we will always appreciate being asked — and it will take us one step closer to normalcy just knowing we were invited.
Getting to know us.
We have strengths and purpose just like everyone else! We just aren’t as loud about sharing them. Please help us feel included and purposeful by acknowledging what we might bring to the table in terms of volunteering or classroom participation. It could be art, writing, engineering, robotics, whatever — we just want you to see we have value, too.
Please help us make back-to-school less scary for moms fighting social anxiety this year. For those who have not experienced it, it may seem like a ridiculous problem. But social anxiety can lead to feelings of depression, isolation and even suicide. It’s a big deal. Be on the lookout. Let us in. Try to understand us. And most of all, please know we aren’t trying to be rude — sometimes we just don’t have it within us to make the first move.
Originally published on The Mighty.