Today on TalkMum we welcome a brand new blogger; Rachel, who writes over at Make a Long Story Short. She is a mum to two boys and a freelance copywriter.
Here's Rachel with some words of wisdom on coping with the daunting situation of making new mum friends, when you're not a natural extrovert. Does this sound familiar? (if so, let us know!)
I was eleven when I realised that making friends wasn’t my forte. In my first class at secondary school, enveloped by a hideous turd-brown blazer I made even heavier by stashing books in my pocket, I smiled at the girl next to me and she burst out laughing at my bright pink brace elastic. The buzz in the class that week was all about a girl called Anna, who may or may not have Done It in a ginnel. I, on the other hand, kept books in my pockets for emergencies, had neon brace elastic I had chosen myself, and I wasn’t even sure what a ginnel was, let alone the mechanics of Doing It in one: I was marked as a geek from the start.
While I did find wonderful likeminded souls eventually, it always seemed to take forever to move from awkward playground chat to laughing hysterically over Buffy in pyjamas. Shyness is a curse, isn’t it? The tongue too heavy for your mouth, the hopeful smile that actually looks more like a pained grimace, the constant full-body cringe. It was the same at university: the heart-stopping, life-changing friends I made there know a piece of me that no one else ever will, but it took ages for me to stop being reclusive enough to attract them. And now I find myself at 29, two tiny boys in tow, having to screw my courage to the sticking place all over again at baby groups and rhyme times everywhere, including in the blogosphere. Is it supposed to be easy, now I’m an adult? Because I’m much better now at appearing to be socially adept, but too often I still feel like an awkward eleven-year-old without a single cool thing to say, and have to suck my teeth to check for braces. HELLO, YOU PERSON THAT I THINK IS NICE, I want to say but (thankfully) don’t. LET’S BE CLOSE FRIENDS. YOUR HAIR IS GREAT, FYI.
Being a new(ish) mother can be Kryptonite for a shy person. No longer do you interact with adults between nine and five as a matter of course, swallowing your awkwardness until you find people you can connect with. If you wanted, you could stay indoors and never see anyone who didn’t think stuffing a baked bean up their nose was a brilliant idea. But you really mustn’t. Here’s the combined wisdom I’ve managed to gather from two-and-a-half years of excruciating Stay and Play afternoons: Some Advice for the Secretly Shy SAHM (shall I work on this title? Yes):
1. Go anyway
Even if your little love is too small to remember your children’s centre with fondness (mine are), and even if you end up speaking to no one, you still get something from leaving the house. You get some fresh air, he gets to exhaust himself with other people’s toys in time for his nap, you might even get a free biscuit, and the biscuit might be a chocolate hobnob. Result.
Sometimes even ‘hello’ sounds like the lamest thing that has ever emerged from a human mouth. But you can smile, and maybe the other person will say it for you. Even if they don’t, congratulations! Smiling makes you look like a normal, semi-harassed, loving mother, and not a weirdo.
3. Be nice
Oh, aren’t we all trying so hard with this mothering lark, and isn’t it so damned difficult? My day has been transformed – really, just transformed - by a stranger saying something sympathetic while I’m wrestling with a screaming toddler. Now I do my best to be on the look-out for someone who might need the same. You don’t have to be funny or cool (though I bet you are, you lovely thing): just nice. It’ll make all of the difference to somebody – and then, with a bit of luck, you’ll be cruising on the friendship highway. Not a brace, not a blazer to be seen.
Rachel Jeffcoat lives in a tiny flat with husband and two boisterous boys: Henry (two) and Edward (eight months). She works as a freelance copywriter and blogs at Make a Long Story Short, when she's not building train tracks, refereeing dance competitions, making messes, writing at midnight and reading whenever she can get a hand free.
Make sure you catch up with our earlier Friendship Month posts, including Becky on Can online friends be real friends?, Eleanor's post on The five friends you’ll meet in your baby’s first year, and Fran on how easy it is to make new mum friends.