My name is Kim and I’m an introvert. There, I’ve said it. I don’t know why it feels like some sort of confessional, owning up to or admitting to something, but it does.
For me, being an introvert means that I get my energy from being alone and I find it difficult to make friends. It feels like such a huge effort that for me, making friends is exhausting. Now I don’t mean an effort as in a “I can’t be bothered” kind of way, because I can be bothered and I do want to make friends, it’s just immensely draining and a little bit scary.
People often perceive me to be stand-offish, disinterested or even cold, though that is very far from the truth. In fact, I’ve recently found out that when a lot of people first meet me they assume I’m a confident, sensible vegetarian; when in fact I’m full of self-doubt, love a good booze up and a juicy, rare steak! The impressions we think we give out can differ wildly to the impressions others receive.
You’d think I have a handle on this friend malarkey by now, huh? Well the thing is I kind of did, but in February this year I became a mum for the first time and it was like starting all over again. As any new mum will know, you go through a period of adjustment, trying to figure out who you are in this new role as well as having a body which is unfamiliar, a bit of “who am I now?”. How can you expect new people to like you when you’re not even sure who you are? So, I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to make friends as a new mum, but for us introverted types it’s especially difficult.
I’m very self-aware and understand that my introversion often leads to me being socially awkward, so I’ve decided to force myself into situations to try and make it easier to make new mum friends. Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant, my boyfriend (also an introvert) and I decided to book onto an NCT antenatal course after friends recommended it. All of the other 7 couples we met are lovely and we don’t regret signing up for it. But, in a way, it felt a bit like paying to make friends which made me uneasy and in turn led me to put up my introverted barriers. I don’t make it easy for others sometimes! Sorry NCT friends, I will try and be better.
My local bumps and babies group was recently looking for volunteers. I’d been struggling to talk to the other mums there each week as most of them seemed to be in their own little groups already, a bit too intimidating for me to break into. So, I decided to volunteer as it was pitched as a great way to make friends (and also valuable for the local community, obviously). I thought being a volunteer for the group would give me a real reason to talk to people and I suppose it has. I’ve made friends with the other volunteers but still feel like I’m all alone in the group some weeks whilst others chat around me.
Perhaps I don’t seem approachable, maybe I’m giving out bad vibes? I should wear a badge that says “please talk to me!”. I’ve spoken to others about this alone feeling and it turns out that so many of us feel exactly the same. Occasionally I feel like this even within groups of people I’m already friends with, but hey, that’s introversion! I’d like to think that if I was joining in with a group and saw another mum sitting alone that I’d strike up a conversation and invite her to join in too. Safety in numbers and all that, but a lot of groups never do include the ‘loner’ and I don’t know why.
You may have heard of the mum ‘dating app’ Mush. I joined thinking it would be a great way to meet other mums as we could chat first and find out what we had in common. I was contacted by a couple of people but after a bit of back and forth chatting our communications fizzled out. I do now have a couple of coffee dates lined up for me and my little girl to go on, hopefully I’ll make some new friends. If not I guess I can put it down to experience.
Pregnancy yoga has been, for me, the best place for making friends. There wasn’t that much actual yoga going on! It was more a place for a weekly meet-up to chat, and air the ups and downs of our week. I’ll admit I really struggled when it came to my turn to speak out each week, I would feel hot tears pricking at the edges of my eyes as I started to speak, willing me to crumble in front of everyone. Such a strange and horrible feeling, but it comes from that HUGE effort I was talking about earlier. I’m still in touch with a few mums from the group, with two in particular having become really good friends. I now feel comfortable around them and my introversion doesn’t get in the way. But it took weeks and weeks and weeks for me to get there.
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, I’m very happy; remember as an introvert I get my energy from being alone? I enjoy being alone! I have no real solution or guidelines to follow for those of you out there who also happen to be introverts. Though I will say that if you want to make friends you have to persevere. I didn’t think I would have any mum friends when I became pregnant but my weeks are now so busy meeting up with various new friends that I often have trouble fitting everything in!
It’s fun, but exhausting, and makes me cherish my time at home with my daughter and boyfriend even more. The message I do want to send is to the extroverts, those that don’t ‘suffer’ from introversion. Try to notice the mum on her own and try to include her, she desperately wants to speak to someone and she’ll happily talk to you if you talk to her. In fact, she has a lot to say and has a wicked sense of humour, she could be the best friend you haven’t met yet.
A Guest Blog from Kim Hanafin
Kim is a Maman who has lived in Cheltenham for 18 years, currently living in Bishops Cleeve with her partner Rob, their 6 month old daughter Mollie and Clarence the cat. Mollie loves being outdoors so future family holidays are being planned accordingly. Once Kim’s maternity leave ends she will go back to her job in human resources. In her spare time, Kim makes and sells cakes, though has been taking a break since having Mollie. You can find her Facebook page here. Kim has also recently started an Instagram feed for Mollie’s journey into baby led weaning here.
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