I Have to Fake Being a 'Normal' Mom Just So My Kid Can Socialize

moms talking
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For people with social anxiety, the smartphone is one of the greatest inventions ever, second only to an actual book. Easily portable and always handy, your phone allows you to avoid all those awkward accidentally-catch-someone's-eye-and-don't-know-what-to-do moments. Sitting in a waiting room? Phone. Waiting for your partner at a restaurant? Phone. Standing in line at the supermarket? Phone. But wait, what if you have kids?

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You can't look at your phone all the time when your kids are around -- you have to, you know, like, parent them and stuff. Keep them from falling through those open spaces between the bars six feet off the ground on the play structure at the park. And because actually leaving the house wasn't a big enough deal, you know who you'll run into at the park? Yeah, other moms. 

Nightmare.

Not because other moms are bad, but because introverts and people with social anxiety (my peeps #holla) just don't do casual small talk or random social interaction. It's like nails on a chalkboard for us. And if you're a stay-at-home-mom and you get that deer-in-the-headlights, squinty-eyed-just-come-out-of-a-cave look when you leave the house for the first time in three days, the last thing you want to do is get chatted up by the outgoing, extrovert, super-friendly mom at the park. I mean, we're locked in a house with small children all day, every day, so we're like 90 percent bananas already. We're lucky we can speak in complete sentences with multisyllabic words.

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Toss us into an impromptu social situation that we didn't mentally prep for (obsess over) ahead of time? Time to freak out, y'all. Butterflies, sweaty palms, dry mouth. If you have social anxiety, you know, you're sitting on that bench at the park, watching your kid run up the slide after telling him not to for the fifth time, and a mom sits down on the bench next to you -- and your internal monologue is something like this: Oh no! What do I do?! Say hello? If I say hello, will she think I'm weird? I'm just going to look at my phone, but if I look at my phone too long, she'll assume I'm neglectful, but if I look up and watch my kid and don't say hi, she'll totally think I'm ignoring her.

"Hey."

"Hey."

Dammit, now what?! What should I say? Should I say anything? Don't look up! Just watch the kids. Don't make eye contact! Where's my phone?

But you know what's even worse? 

Moms' groups.

(Dun dun DUHN)

Yep. Worst of the worst. Joining a moms' group is enough to make a SAHM with social anxiety question her life choices. Say you've just moved to a new town and you know exactly zero people and your kid has exactly zero friends. Even though you loathe social interaction for yourself, you recognize that it's an important factor in raising a child who is well-adjusted and able to function like a somewhat normal human adult, so you do what any responsible mother does. You get on Facebook. But this time it's actually for a purpose. You look through all the local moms' groups, you find one that looks promising, and you ask to join.

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Big step. But the hard part comes when you see the playdate scheduled on the event calendar for next week and click "Going." You have six days to obsess over it. You think about it, worry about it, try not to think about it or worry about it. Then the day finally comes. You dress your kid in something that is close to clean and matching, change out of your three-day yoga pants, drag a brush through your hair, then pile into the van and head to the park.

Thirty minutes early.

Which is the perfect amount of time to freak out.

You somehow manage to make it through all the awkward introductions and small talk, bolstered by the fact that your kid, who is having the time of his life, is interacting like a perfectly normal, well-socialized child. So you hang out. You chat. You ramble and say awkward things. You might go TMI on a story about childbirth or a fight you had with your partner. You might sit awkwardly alone as the moms who know each other coalesce into a group two benches down. You might pull out your phone. And as soon as it's not weird to do so, you haul ass. Back to the sanctuary of your messy house.

And after you get home, put your kid down for a nap, and sit down to reflect on the playdate, you open Facebook, go to the group page, and type, "So great to meet everyone today! Can't wait until next time!"

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And then you delete and retype your comment, at least twice, but maybe more, because what if they didn't like you? What if they don't remember your name and they're like, "Who is this random person?" What if they remember you but don't want to invite you to the next playdate?

But you know you'll stalk that playgroup page, you'll RSVP yes to the next playdate, and you'll go. Because no matter how much it sucks having anxiety, no matter how much moms' groups and playdates are anathema to you, your kid had fun. And you'd walk through fire, or sit on a bench and feel like crawling out of your skin, to see your kid have fun and play and grow and learn.

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