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"The nine ways I overcame my social anxiety as a new mum."

Congrats! You’re a mama! Now it’s time to go out and make some mummy friends. What is that I sense? A bit of hesitation? Fear? Dread? As someone who has dealt with social anxiety her entire life, I know all too well that the struggle is real.

I was the kid that was afraid to raise my hand in school and stayed by myself during recess time. I turned crimson red when singled out of a group. Painfully shy, I sought to be invisible.

With age, I have slowly become more comfortable in public settings. It doesn’t mean that I am no longer shy, but I am definitely more confident in conquering my fears.

As a mum, being “out and about” is unavoidable. For the introvert, it is not an easy process. We are constantly in situations where we must interact with people including: the pediatrician, school staff, and other mums at the playground. The term “other mums” may make you want to break out into hives. As I have been doing this parenting thing for over six years now, I will gladly pass on what I have found to be particularly helpful:

socially anxious new mum
Find common ground. Image via iStock.

1. Start off with a smile and greeting.

If you are awkward, this can be a hard task. As I spent most of my school years just staring at my shoes, I completely understand.

As I have gotten older, I realise that a pleasant demeanor goes a long way; even if you have to fake it at first. You do not necessarily have to tell your whole life story- just share a bit of what you feel comfortable with. People tend to be drawn to those with a sunny disposition. It also proves quite effective in breaking the ice.

I know that I was especially intimated in a setting with a “clique” of mums. I was always unsure of joining the conversation as I felt not part of the “club”. It made me feel like I was back in high school.

“Am I allowed to join in?” I would think to myself.

The answer is yes. The members of the “clique” were at one time strangers as well. Besides, you might just find out that you are cooler than all of them.

2. Compliments and more compliments.

You run into a fellow mum and her baby just happens to have the most beautiful hair color that you have ever seen. Tell her! People, especially females, love compliments. Mum may also look perfect; even though she gave birth yesterday. Resist the urge to throw rotten tomatoes at her, and let her know that! She may have had a difficult morning and needed to hear the praise.

3. Find common ground.

You run into a mum at playgroup with a similarly aged child. There are so many things to discuss: milestones, preschools, and potty training to name a few. Bonding with this mum may also result in later play dates. Who knows? You may have met your new best friend.

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4. Join online forums.

Joining my local parenting group on Facebook was one of the best things I ever did. I felt as if a whole new world had opened up for me. I quickly learned the names of the most kiddie family restaurants and best local play spaces. A lot of times there are also events to join.

Making friends is tough, but it does happen in time. Image via iStock.

5. Just do it!

Okay, so you got that invite for mummy and me lunch. However you do not know anybody else on the list. Who cares? Although it is nerve wracking, try to remember the reason you are doing it on the first place. You are enjoying time and making memories with your children.

6. Don’t be afraid to try again.

Maybe your first get together was a total flop and you spent more time talking with your 8-month-old than an actual adult. Don’t let that dissuade you! You did a great job in showing up and there will be more gatherings. You will learn to rock them! Slowly but surely, you will see familiar faces and become more and more comfortable.

7. Keep a sense of humour.

I can’t even begin to describe how important this one is. Motherhood is tough. It is exhausting. Many times, we just need to have a good laugh. If you have a funny side; don’t be afraid to show it. Comic relief is always appreciated.

8. Remember that you are setting an example.

My own mum was a very outgoing and friendly woman. She was social and happy. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Children can easily sense tension and unhappiness. A confidant, friendly and happy mum does have an impact on her little ones. Also, by being assertive, you are teaching them to be their own advocates. It will help them gain their own confidence and stick up for themselves in the future.

Sleep school is a game changer on I Don't Know How She Does It. 

9. Learn not to care.

First and foremost, we are here to make beautiful memories with our children. Do not let constant worrying get in the way of that! You know what is best for your own child and do not give in to peer pressure or let others criticisms affect you. If a breast feeding group shuns you because you formula feed, they probably weren’t the right group for you anyway. If you notice a mum constantly criticising your parenting style, walk away.

Making friends is tough, but it does happen in time. And, remember, if you are ever lonely you can always hang with me. I’ll make sure to bring the wine.

Kathleen Sullivan is a freelance writer and a full time mum, she blogs at Three Kids, One Husband, And A Bottle Of Wine. 

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