It’s morning, and after I get my daughter squared away with her breakfast, I sit down with my own bowl of cereal and pull up the day’s calendar.
There it is, taunting me with those big upper case letters (why did I use all caps anyway? I wonder…) – PLAY DATE. And not just our regular weekly play date with my closest mommy friends and our kiddos.
This is one of the Iowa City Moms Blog play dates, open to all of creation. Okay, maybe that’s going a little too far. But it’s one of those play dates that moms in the community are encouraged to attend. Meaning: lots of people I don’t know.
Ugh. Sigh. Is it too late to back out? Yes, I already said my daughter and I would be there. Crap.
I wonder if I’ll know anyone. I mean, I’ll know some of them because a few of the ICMB contributors will be there, but besides them?
My heart already starts to race and my hands begin to sweat as I think ahead to arriving at an event where I know very few people.
It would be so much easier, and less heart attack inducing, to stay home, just the two of us. But I know that’s not good for my daughter. She needs to get out in the fresh air and learn to play and interact with other kids.
So we go.
And of course, when we get there, I don’t recognize anyone other than the ICMB co-founders, who are busy checking people in.
If I just focus all of my attention on my daughter, I’ll look busy and no one will see how nervous I feel and how much I’d rather be anywhere other than that park full of moms and kids I don’t know.
My daughter runs off to play in the sandbox so I hunker down at a picnic table by myself, alternately engrossed in watching her play in the sand and checking my phone. I’m checking my phone for anything, just so I don’t look so desperate for someone to come talk to me.
But then I see you walk over, just you and your daughter who looks about the same age as my own. I’m hopeful and wonder if you’re feeling the same way I am. Maybe you don’t know anyone here either. I watch you as you approach the sandbox and silently hope you decide to come sit down at my picnic table, there’s plenty of room.
Then it happens. After helping your daughter find a shovel and bucket, you look up and spot your friends on the other side of the sandbox, waving excitedly at you and calling you over. And of course you go and sit with them, I would too if I were you. They are your comfort zone. We all gravitate to who we know and what makes us comfortable.
I swear, everyone else knows someone else to hang out with. So I continue to sit there, alone. Trying to talk myself into starting a conversation with another mom. But I just can’t bring myself to do it today.
I’m a fairly typical introvert and just can’t muster the courage to step outside of my own comfort zone and initiate a conversation with someone.
Oh, but how I wish someone else would approach me! Because I do like talking to other moms and getting to know them. I’m just horrible at being the initiator. I don’t want to intrude or look too desperate, especially in a situation where there is a group of moms who are clearly already friends. I’d rather melt into the ground than have to initiate a conversation with a whole group of moms!
Finally! The play date is over and we go home. It’s a win from my daughter’s perspective. She got to play outside! In the sand! Nothing gets better than that for her! It was a win from my perspective, too, because I survived the loneliness of being an introvert at a large gathering of people. But I still leave the play date wishing I had been able to connect to at least one other mom. Maybe next time? If there is a next time.
Some of you may have been reading that thinking: I’ve never experienced a play date like that. Then you are either a more outgoing person or you’re just very lucky!
Others of you were more than likely thinking: Yes! That is totally me! If so, you are probably an introvert who struggles making connections just like me. And you’re not alone!
Did you know that a majority of the ICMB team consider themselves to fall somewhere on the introvert side of the scale? And that they either struggle to make initial connections or struggle with nurturing the connections they are able to make?
We read time and again how hard it is to make connections with other moms and to find our mommy soul mate. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s totally true – especially for someone who is a full-blown introvert, or even just slightly introverted.
So I’m calling on all the more outgoing and extraverted moms out there to take a moment and pause as you arrive at the next play date. Look around. Is there another mom sitting by herself on a bench or picnic table, with her eyes buried in her phone or totally zoned in on her own kid? Maybe she nervously glances around every now and then. If so, be the initiator and strike up a conversation with her. She’s more than likely not burying her face in her phone because she doesn’t want anyone to talk to her…in most cases she’s probably very eager for someone to ask her how she’s doing and chat for a bit. She just doesn’t have the courage this day to start that conversation herself.
And if you are an introvert, step outside of your comfort zone and try talking to another mom who is sitting by herself. She’s probably a lot like you and might just be your mommy soul mate! If I hadn’t done that myself, I wouldn’t now have some of the most amazing mom friends! Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with connecting to other moms on an (almost) daily basis…but if you let yourself have the courage to say “Hi,” every now and then, who knows what might happen?!