Carolyn Hax: Introvert mom wants baby to be social
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
My daughter is 4 months old and I couldn't love her more. However, I'm a major introvert and I'm worried about how I can provide interactive experiences for her while fighting the inevitable dread I have toward socializing. I Google “mommy and me” classes frequently but they're expensive. Besides, I can probably talk myself out of any of these things fairly easily.
It's not that I hate people, I just prefer being alone. Also, I don't have the greatest self-esteem, so I feel I won't be classy enough, smart enough, interesting enough to hold my own with other moms while my daughter is playing.
But, gaah! I want to give her opportunities to enjoy other people. I know it's important. Are there ways to ease into this that I'm missing? Will it get better/easier? I don't have many friends and the few that I do have don't have children. Oh, I'm a stay-at-home mom, so she isn't getting to meet people at day care.
—Mommy and Me, Ugh
Yes, your power to talk yourself out of things is on full display here.
It's wonderful that you see the need for her to have her own experiences versus just make do occupying the life you've built for yourself—this is actually a difficult bridge for people to cross.
But you have to push yourself past Googling.
First, take on the bear: “I won't be classy enough, smart enough, interesting enough to hold my own with other moms.” My shoulder-devil wants to assure you that you'll feel relatively fascinating as you get regaled with baby stories. But that would be unkind. Plus, your self-doubt is obviously a longtime, soul-sucking companion of yours and it's going to take some doing to cut her from your life.
So please seek professional help with it, if not for your sake then for your daughter's. No matter what she needs, you'll be better at providing it if you feel stronger emotionally—and if you can learn to model resourcefulness when faced with a problem.
Second, give yourself permission to be practical, even a corner-cutter, about socializing your baby. When she's 1, can she go once a week to a high-quality care center? Can you take part in a co-op, volunteering one day a week to pay for the one day she's in care? You have time to think about this part; waiting till she's a toddler will still leave plenty of time for her to grow accustomed to a noisier environment than she's getting at home. I say “corner-cutter” because these allow your daughter to be social without you.
Still, I think some effort on your part will be good for both of you—again, to set the example. Your friends might not have kids, but they're still people, right? So being around them will help your child and therefore be worth any effort you make to arrange times together.
“Mommy and me”-type classes are more for the adults to socialize, so you're not missing much there, but as your daughter gets older there will be more opportunities available through (cheaper) channels such as school, rec programs, libraries, YMCAs. Little person soccer and swim lessons and camps will provide exactly what you want for your girl.
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