I've always had social anxiety. Ever since I was a kid, simple things like ordering a pizza or calling the bank have made me incredibly nervous, frequently resulting in tears. For years, I thought it was just how everyone felt and I didn't understand why my family made such a big deal about my aversions. It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I realized most people didn't worry about the same things I worry about. I thought as I got older my anxiety would improve, but I was totally wrong. When I had kids my social anxiety got worse, so any hopes of magical improvement went out the proverbial window.
It's not to say that some things aren't easier, because they are. Honestly, I have no choice but to deal with certain situations — going to the pediatrician, going to the library, making dentist appointments — so I've learned how to be OK with the majority of those forced social scenarios. However, other mom things make me sick to my stomach. Things I never had to worry about before I had kids have become major stressors that I worry about constantly. Things that most people don't even think about or totally take for granted spin me out completely.
When I became a mom, I was surprised by how my social anxiety changed, not for the better at all, and definitely different from what I expected. In the end, I've realized that my social anxiety will never completely go away. It will just evolve, and in the following ways:
I'm Encouraged To Meet And Befriend Other Moms
I can't think of a worse social scenario than the "mom first date." It's awkward and uncomfortable and there is the nagging fear that she doesn't like you or thinks you're weird or is going to turn around and talk to her friends about the "whack job" she hung out with today. Putting yourself out there is never easy, and putting yourself out there when you can easily be turned away is the hardest.
I Struggled With Postpartum Weight Gain
Your post-baby body rarely looks like your pre-baby body, so as much as I want to be I'm just not comfortable in my new skin. It makes me that much more self-conscious when I'm meeting new people or when I'm around mom friends who "bounced back" quickly. I become acutely aware that my clothes don't fit right and I feel incredibly awkward.
I Grew Comfortable Staying At Home With My Kids
As a stay-at-home-mom, I'm alone with my kids pretty much all day every day. There are fewer occasions that warrant social interaction, so my hard-earned coping mechanisms are getting rusty AF. I had social anxiety before kids, but between work and nights out with friends, I had way more practice with certain social settings than I do now.
I No Longer Use Alcohol As A Crutch
Generally, it's not acceptable to pop the cork on a bottle of wine at 10 am on a Tuesday. While alcohol is absolutely a social lubricant, I've found since having kids that relying on alcohol to get me through a social situation isn't healthy. Like, at all. While it's healthier for me to go through potentially anxiety-inducing situations sans libations, it's also difficult.
I Just Know All The Other Moms Are Judging Me
The constant worry of whether I'm saying the right things or making the right jokes is exhausting. There is a constant stream of questioning running through my head during most mom-on-mom interactions, like, "Did I just say f*ck?" and, "OMG is she offended because I said f*ck?" and, "Is she judging me clothes?" I knew I should've worn jeans instead," or, "Wait, what did she just say? Am I just staring off into space now? She is going to think I'm a total idiot. I hope she doesn't think I'm on something." and on and on and on. It's honestly never-ending.
I Just Know All The Other Moms Are Judging My Kid
Even worse than the fear of someone silently judging me, is someone silently judging my kid. I automatically assume another parent is secretly comparing him to other kids, and inevitably finding him quirky or weird or poorly behaved. I project all my worry and self-doubt and anxiety onto the world's perception of him, and whether they think I'm a good mother.
I'm Pressured To Socialize My Kid
My kids aren't in daycare or preschool, so we spend most of our at home. The pressure to get my kids involved with other kids, and subsequently for me to interact with other parents, is out of control. I would be happy to never meet another mom again, but that's not an option so I think about it and worry about and dwell on it all the time.
Before I had kids it was perfectly acceptable for me to be a hermit, but now I have no choice but to be out in the world. Ugh.