There were a lot of things that blindsided me about new motherhood. The crippling sleep deprivation. The perpetual showerlessness. The fact that my baby nursed every 45 minutes for his first two months, and would cry every time I put him down. The reality that walking into the kitchen to get a sandwich had become a one-hour chore and going to the grocery store required two days of planning.
Add to all that the feeling that I really didn’t know who I was anymore. Where did that driven, successful, thoughtful, generous, intense, creative, amazing young woman I had only just become gone off to? Would I ever find her again? Was she lost forever?
It was a difficult freaking transition on so many levels, to be sure, and I know that I am not alone in feeling those things.
But there was one (typically lamented) aspect of motherhood that I secretly loved — it was the fact that my social life had all but died away. As a (mostly) introverted, highly sensitive woman who loves people, but who can’t really deal with crowds, parties, and the like, the diminishment of my social life brought on by parenthood was an unexpected blessing.
Now, I know that parenthood does not equal zero socializing for everyone. But for most of us, having babies and young children means that going out for drinks with friends is something that must be so scrupulously planned that it often doesn’t happen. Some of us have babysitters, for sure, but not all of us do. Not all of us can even afford babysitters. And many of us have a tough time finding a trustworthy sitter we can book for every social event that comes our way (a good baby sitter is worth her weight in gold, to be sure).
Taking your kids along to social events can work sometimes, but not always. Some kids can go with the flow more easily and won’t wreak havoc on adult social events. But others will decidedly not. Late-night parties are often hard to squeeze in before a child’s early bedtime. Daytime social events can also be a pain in the ass, especially if your child won’t nap on the go (neither of my kids did), resulting in full-blown public meltdowns (I’ll take a hard pass on that). And sometimes people don’t want children in attendance, which is acceptable and understandable.
I know that the lack of social life that often comes with having kids is something that a lot of parents mourn, and I totally get that. And maybe some of the reasons I gave above for not schmoozing with friends or family just sound like giant excuses.
But, well, I have a confession to make: I absolutely love the fact that parenthood has given me a pretty reasonable excuse to get out of most social events or to leave them early. I love that those years of my life when I was expected to like things like partying, going to long-drawn-out family events, or mingling at dinner parties has become a thing of the distant past. Good riddance, I say.
It’s not that I have zero social life. I’m not a shut-in. I have some dear friends I adore, and I absolutely love spending time with my extended family. But parenthood has meant that I get to be a lot more choosy about whom I see and what I do. Having kids meant I had to establish certain boundaries in terms of socializing that I never had to establish before, and these boundaries have felt (surprisingly) amazing and empowering to me.
In fact, now my kids are older, and I can’t really use things like bedtimes and possible meltdowns as excuses anymore, but I find myself still wanting to make the kind of choices that suit my personality. I have realized that I have a specific threshold for big crowds or for social events that last more than a few hours (I get a “people hangover,” as I like to call it), and that declining those invitations is okay.
And guess what? It’s okay if you feel that way too. Some of us just aren’t meant to be social butterflies. Some of us just do much better in smaller groups or one-on-one. The great thing about life (and growing older too) is that you get to own that kind of thing. You get to make choices about how you want to live your life based on your life’s circumstances, your personality, and your needs — not based on what you think you’re supposed to do or what makes other people happy.
And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.