Being Around Other Moms Is Basically the Worst

The women sitting next to me are immersed in an animated conversation. I'm not trying to eavesdrop, but, well, they're right there, it's hard not to overhear. Not that they're talking about anything super personal, they veer from mom-topic to mom-topic: how the swimming lessons are going, what their kids' teachers are like, their plans for the summer. Although they seem to have met each other only moments before, these women have the semi-tentative yet excitable air of two people with a great deal in common. Like people on a second or third date.

I'm shifting in my seat, eyes scanning the pool to find my kids. There's Dylan, happily dunking his head. There's Riley, shivering but determined on the diving board. I have the sense I've been here a hundred times before: the uncomfortable bench, the sneaking glances at my watch, the shrinking -- yet painfully conspicuous! -- feeling of being excluded.

What is it about being thrust into the parent-choked sidelines of a kid activity that sends me right back to the most socially awkward years of my life? Okay, fine, there haven't really been any non-socially awkward years, but I'm thinking of, say, middle school, and the organ-dissolving embarrassment of not fitting in. That's how I feel when I'm waiting at a swimming/soccer/whatever lesson, and I'm surrounded by chatty moms who seem magnetically drawn to one another. Like I'm circling the cafeteria in sixth grade, wondering where in the hell to sit.

I realize I'm not the most approachable person in the world. I have the kind of face that looks grumpy unless I'm smiling, I'm horribly shy and have a hard time looking people in the eye. Still, I can't be the only shy mom with Chronic Resting Bitchface, can I? Why can I never find my fellow flatworms amongst the perky social butterflies in every group?

There is a special sort of awfulness that seeps over you when you're sitting next to people who have just struck up a wonderful temporary friendship. It's like being invisible and sticking out like a sore thumb at the very same time. The longer it goes on -- them chatting, me sitting there in silence -- the more I feel like I'm sort of ... intruding.


I hate that it seems so perfectly easy for some people to strike up a conversation, whereas for me it feels like quantum physics. Parenting involves a lot of forced social interactions -- Playdates! Sports! Birthday parties! School activities! -- and god knows I haven't gotten any better at it over the years. What can I do but keep trying, squash the temptation to escape into my phone, and do my best to smile and be friendly. Even when I'm mired in self-doubt and at a complete loss for words, even when that middle-school feeling is so strong I half expect to find myself sporting a spiral perm and an oversized Benetton sweatshirt.

Do me a favor, though, if you happen to be one of those talkative butterflies: toss a quick hello to the quiet mom who looks like she wants to crawl under a rock. Because being an outsider isn't any more fun at 40 than it was at 14.

Do you struggle with making small talk with other parents?


Image via spree2010/Flickr

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Nancy... NancyJ422

I used to struggle with small talk because all anyone wanted to talk about was their KIDS! I was more interested in getting to know the person sitting next to me didn't really care to get into all that comparison crap. I always made sure I had a book with me.

Lisa Hicks Geeter

My sister was really popular and I was not...after many years she finally admitted that most of those friendships were fake. I felt better that at least the few friends I had were real and true. Just an FYI

JS0512 JS0512

I was like this all through school and hoped I'd outgrown it by the time I was an adult.  I'm nearly 35, have been a parent for 13 years and STILL struggle to make small talk with the parents.  I constantly feel like I'm crashing a private party & haaaaate it!

nonmember avatar Sarah

I am awkward at small talk yet crave the social interaction. I find the easiest way to start talking to someone is to say something complimentary about their kids and ask them a questions. If I was at swimming, I would say something about their kid being so cute or having such a cute bathing suit and then ask how swimming was going and go from there. Sometimes it catches on and other times it fades, but then the next time you see them, at least you have chatted before and can say hi.

nonmember avatar anon

Linda, I feel your pain. I'm 51 with three adult children and I still struggle with this. The only good thing I can say about it is that I don't care quite as much as I did 20 years ago. I guess I'm a little more comfortable in my own skin as I've gotten older.

nonmember avatar andie

@linda, you are smart, funny, clever, and beautiful. Just be yourself and don't sweat it if people aren't willing to dig a little deeper to find the real you under the surface. I know that feeling of suddenly being transported back to middle school - I think everyone has had that experience at times. We all have our issues, some are just more obvious than others.

nonmember avatar Sally

I'm younger and on a drastically lower socio-economic level than the moms at the playground we frequent, and most of the time it feels like I'm back in middle school where the popular girls with nice clothes stick together while I just stick my nose in a book and hope no one really notices me. It's a huge relief to know I'm not alone in the social awkwardness of the mommy world. I also suffer chronic resting bitch face, yet the few times other mom's have struck up conversations with me I walk away knowing entirely too much about their personal lives. It's freakin' weird.

magen... magenta8200

I just became a stay at home mom and trying to make mom friends feels like I'm single again and trying to hit on a guy. Asking questions is a good way to start small talk, bitches love talking about themselves!

nonmember avatar Kristi

Bring a folder of your articles. They will love you after your first sentence. Okay, maybe that wouldn't work.... I know what you mean though. I use comedy, usually start off with a couple cracks about something we all hate or can relate too. I have always been a smart-ass and it works for me.

undrc... undrcvrmom

I am a happy, outgoing, social and don't have resting bitch face and I still struggle to talk to other moms.   


 

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