I’m an introvert and a homebody. Perfect for a writer, terrible for a stay-at-home mom. Even worse for a stay-at-home, first-time mom living in a foreign country, untethered from my support network. I’m raising my 4.5-month-old son in the Middle East, where I live because of my husband’s job, which moves us from country to country every couple years.
I’d always assumed children provide automatic membership to an exclusive social club, and I’ve found this is true to varying degrees. It depends on the age of your child, where you live, and — perhaps most importantly — your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
But even for the most introverted, homebodied among us, there’s hope. Here are 10 tips for the introverted stay-at-home parent:
1. Social media is your friend.
Join every Facebook, WhatsApp, and MeetUp group you can find. There are probably multiple baby groups in your city, or even your neighborhood. There are probably specialized parent groups by interest or issue: Running Moms of Austin. Gluten-Free Dads of North 15th Street. Paleo Parents Who Also Like to Knit of the 600 Block of Smithfield Avenue. You get the idea.
2. Meeting strangers from the Internet is okay.
Gone are the days when relationships formed online carried a stigma. Especially if you’re an expat or new to a city, finding parent groups through social networks can be a great way to establish new friendships and playdate partners in real life. (You might want to do some additional vetting before inviting someone over to your home first by, say, meeting in a public place, or at least letting a friend know you’ve invited a stranger from the internet over and to alert the authorities if they don’t hear from you in a few hours.)
3. Join a real-life group or enroll in a class.
Your search for parent friends need not be limited to a screen, of course. Sign your little one up for a music class or mommy-and-me yoga. No doubt there are countless options available in most parts of the U.S., but even if you’re in a small town or a foreign country, there is probably some activity to join. I’ve enrolled my son in Kindermusik classes, which has been enjoyable for both baby and mom.
4. Get over being awkward.
Now, I know being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy or not outgoing. It means you recharge best with some down time to yourself, and you socialize better in small groups. For me, though, making the first move is always awkward. But I got over it and made the first move a lot. Remember all those parents from your Lamaze class? Reach out and see if they want to schedule a playdate. See a mom with a similarly-aged kid at your neighborhood grocery store? Introduce yourself.
5. Don’t read into responses (or lack thereof) too much.
Related to the above, putting oneself out there does come with some risk. No, I’m not talking about the internet safety issue covered in #2; I’m talking about being vulnerable to rejection. So that one mom you sort of know and were hoping to schedule a playdate with never writes you back. Parents are busy. You know it’s true — you are one. Or maybe she hates you. (Unlikely.) You have no way of knowing why someone does or doesn’t respond to you in a certain way — and more importantly, you don’t have the time to waste over-analyzing why. You have a child to raise.
6. Host a playdate, and bake something delicious.
Food is a good way to ingratiate yourself to your newfound parent pals. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, or even homemade. Break-and-bake chocolate chip cookies, store-bought muffins warmed in the oven, or a simple cake. I myself am partial to bundt cakes.
7. Even if that delicious thing doesn’t turn out exactly the way you planned, serve it anyway.
Case in point: I ruined not one, but two separate bundt cakes when I turned them out of the pan (they stuck) — one for a one-on-one playdate with a new mom friend and one (different recipe) for the first play group I ever hosted (which that same mom friend attended). I served them anyway, and they still tasted good. These are real-life relationships you’re forming, not Pinterest posts. People will appreciate the effort. And no one likes a show-off anyway.
8. Be patient.
I’ve never had a lot of friends. Let me rephrase that, lest you wonder why you are reading advice from a friendless nobody. I’ve never been the type of person who has a large number of acquaintances; rather, I’ve always had a fewer number of close friends. These kinds of relationships take time to develop. You already have one common denominator: your children. It might be they’re all you have in common. Or, you might find in a few months, you want to spend time with this person not because your kids are the same age, but because you have good conversations and you genuinely enjoy their company. You won’t know unless you give it time.
9. Allow your child to have some unscheduled down time.
They need it. Sure, playdates and baby dance class are fun ways to spend time with your little one and encourage his or her development. But kids needs time to be bored, let their minds wander, and learn to entertain themselves.
10. Plan time for yourself.
Even though you’re a stay-at-home parent, you still need down time. After all, you’re spending 99.9% of your time with this new person in your life, who is totally dependent on you. Make time — away from your child and your spouse — to recharge.