I recently met a friend for her birthday dinner. She has a baby a few months older than Charlie, and the other two guests at this affair were also mothers of very small children. I was excited to talk to other ladies about baby stuff, work-life balance, and grown-up things in general. Fortunately, those items were all on the evening’s agenda. Unfortunately, between work stuff and Charlie time, I seem to have forgotten how to be a human. At some point very early in the evening, I became aware of being a little socially anxious, and of wanting the two moms I didn’t know to like me so we could maybe be new-mom friends all the time. They live pretty close to me, and we’re facing a lot of the same issues, so it would be good to compare notes. But once I became aware of the fact that I was kind of anxious, this was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT. Therefore:
Mom 1: “Oh, have you noticed this interesting thing about child-rearing?”
Me: “OH YES BIG TIME LET ME TELL YOU THE FUNNIEST STORY AND THEN YOU’LL THINK I’M A COOL MOM-LADY BECAUSE I TELL GOOD OUTRAGEOUS STORIES MAYBE.” Followed shortly thereafter by the internal monologue of, “I’m probably talking to loud. I can’t just be the funny story lady. Who does that? I’m going to abruptly stop talking and be the Good Listener Lady.” Which was followed by, “Why can’t I remember how to respond and react in a conversational setting? I’m just nervous; I should chug this wine.” Followed by the near-spit take because the bottom of the wine glass was full of sediment and was not for chugging. Then I spent some time excusing myself while I licked my napkin with vigor. Then I went back to telling a loud story before deciding that I’m never allowed to talk again. I have no idea how any of this read, because for an hour-and-a-half, I completely lost my ability to pick up on social cues, nor could I remember how I’ve behaved in similar situations wherein I was a respected and/or well-liked adult woman.
It’s not like I don’t get out of the house or do things with people, or even meet new people. I’m actually out way more than is probably advisable for someone with an infant at home, but each if these interactions is within the framework of a career-centered event. If I’m not talking to adults for my day job, I’m doing so as an extension of a career-related side-gig, and there’s an established script for interactions. In normal life, dinner with three other people is exactly my idea of a good time. But, like regular dental cleanings and mopping the kitchen floor, socializing for leisure is an activity that’s been neglected since I got knocked up.
I saw these women again last weekend, this time for a baby birthday, and I felt like much less of an ass. I imagine this stemmed from the fact that we were at a baby-centered event, and babies are one of the two things I can remember how to handle on a day-to-day basis. Besides that, there were dinosaur party hats. How can anyone feel socially anxious in a dinosaur party hat?
The lesson I’ve learned is that I need to add “socialize with fun people for purely social reasons” to my to-do list, probably somewhere between ordering Charlie’s birth certificate and getting that much-delayed root canal. It turns out though that after you’ve checked “do good job at work” and “be good mother to baby” off of your daily to-do list, it’s a bit of a challenge to add “do a third thing.”
This is the stuff of every mommy / daddy blog ever, but it’s a real humdinger and the reason there are so many mommy / daddy blogs.
In conclusion, sorry I’m awkward, everyone! I blame society.