I’m standing here again to pick up my son from school at the end of the day. Except I’m looking around from the outside, in. I’m here everyday, yet I know no one. I quietly watch all the other parents chat, laugh and make plans. I’m always observing, and hoping someone notices me, except not really. I wouldn’t know what to say if someone did, and my words would fail me, like usual. And I hate it.
All my life I’ve been that shy kid.
The one who got called on in class and then would completely freeze. I always thought it would get better as I got older. And it did, kind of, but not really. I’ve always been the outsider, watching safely from a distance. But, I’ve always wanted to be the one who gets in there and is carefree and outgoing, but I just can’t. I’m awkward, and quiet. No matter how hard I try, or don’t try. Things never really change. And even though I know all this, it’s never easy, even today.
Before having kids, my crippling shy-ness only affected me. It was something I hated, but I just dealt with it the best I could. And I always thought that once I became a mom, things would get socially easier for me. Moms just naturally become friends with one another and we all live happily ever after, right? Well, to no surprise, that’s not true.
And making “mom” friends, or hell, any friends in general, only seems to get harder for me, the older I get. Now, not only am I trying to make friends by having people like me, I’m also trying to get them to like my crazy kid too.
A few months ago, I went to an event where I was going to have to mingle with a lot of people I didn’t know well: aka my nightmare. Beforehand, I was stressing out. My fears must have been pretty transparent, because when I came home that evening, my 6 year son sweetly said to me, “Mama, how did it go? Did you make some new friends?” I started tearing up and told him “yes.” But in reality, it was awful. I stood around awkwardly trying to start conversations, but ended up quietly leaving while fighting back tears. Just another failed experiment to put on the books. And my confidence takes a little hit each time.
This event was especially painful, because it was the first time I realized that even my young son can see how hard I struggle with making friends. I felt foolish and weak. Which are things no mom ever wants to feel. I want to be seen as a strong and confident woman, especially to my 2 young boys. And I hate knowing that no matter how hard I try, I can’t change how awkward I am. Will my kids be embarrassed of me some day? Is my social awkwardness now affecting them too?
School pickup has become a daily reminder of my shortcomings.
It’s like a little bit of torture I have to live out every day. I’m usually in the back corner, watching everyone and wondering if people actually do see me? Am I this invisible mom that I think I am? Surely, no one would notice if I wasn’t there, because I haven’t formed any relationships with these parents I see every day. And I know what you’re thinking: “Why don’t you just go up to someone and say hi?” Well, I have tried time and time again. Some people have endured the awkward small talk with me (bless their souls) and others have flat out ignored me. Rejection wears on a person, especially introverts. I feel like I’m forever the “new kid.” People I’m around every day don’t know me at all, but they see me around a lot. I’m always struggling to connect with these people I don’t know.
So, here I am. The invisible mom.
And I’m here to tell you that: yes, I am quiet and awkward and I keep to myself. But, you shouldn’t interpret that as me being “mean” or “stuck up” (both things people have assumed about me before talking to me) I want you to know that if I give you a one-word answer, it’s not because I’m uninterested, I’m probably desperately thinking of a million things to say in my mind, but none of those things are forming into actual sentences. And now I’m sweating.
But, I am real, not invisible. I am struggling.
I know I’ll never be outgoing and I try to be ok with that. But it’s hard, and it’s painful to look back on all the prospective new friends I’ve encountered and inadvertently turned off. It’s embarrassing to admit that I’m still nervous to talk to people, even though I’m a 30-something grown up who owns her own business, and should be better at this by now. I just hope that my kids can someday see that even though I’m an awkward mess, I still go out into the world every day and try. I try, even though I know I’m likely going to fail. And even though my failures are embarrassing, I always am able to laugh at myself. That’s gotta count for something, right?
So, if you see me out in public, and I’m adjusting my glasses like a huge nerd, and I look like I’ll probably pee myself if you talk to me. Just know that I’m nervous as hell, but I swear I’m a really funny and cool-ish mom. And if you’d like to listen, I have some hilarious stories to tell about all my adventures in the world of being an awkward and invisible mom.