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Monday, April 09, 2012

Community Building for the Socially Anxious

Sometimes when I really stop to think about it, I realize how overwhelmingly difficult it is to not only be a parent, but to be one in a different country. Had I gotten pregnant and given birth here, I would have had in intrinsic network of people to use for resources. I would have had friends to call up on those difficult days, play dates to set up and so forth.

Being a stay-at-home-mom who's working on being a work-at-home-mom is more challenging than I ever anticipated. There was nothing in my difficult journey to being a parent that could have ever prepared me for how damned hard it is to not only raise a child but be with them day in and day out.

In that same breath though I can barely express how much joy and love I have and receive from my daughter. As often happened in the first year of her her life, I started posts and then never got around to finishing them. Sitting in my post list was this little gem:

Dearest Bean,
Yesterday you turned six months. When you were born, indeed, even before that, I had planned to write you letters to let you know all that was going on in your life at that time. But it was not to be. You will discover, in time, that the saying is true: "Life is what happens when you are making other plans."
I look into your smiling face as you giggle and wonder if you'll ever know just how much my heart aches in its love for you.

I never wrote any more than that and I surely can't remember what else I wanted to say to her.

So much love. But ache is the right word too. Some days, trying to deal with a two and a half year old threatens the very last strands of sanity I have. But as always, the moment passes, the day is over and we start again.

Because I have this social anxiety in my life now, reaching out to strangers is incredibly difficult. Even just starting a conversation with another mom I don't know can make heart race. But as soon as the words come out and the dialogue started, I relax back into the friendly and sociable person I truly am. 

People think that moving to Scotland means I live some sort of glamourous life; as if I am some trendy jet-setting mother off to show her child all the riches of the world. I am not. Really, it's just the same as being back home, except that I've lost a huge chunk of my support network, or the network I do have is 5-8 hours behind me in my day. That being said, the support I do get here is wonderful, if limited.

It was the unexpected curse of the newly relocated SAHM. I've met lots of other moms- at the playground, at playgroups and indoor play places. The issue? More often then not, they are working, even if just part-time. I'm not. So inevitably they don't have much time for me, since when they are off, they want to be spending time with their family and the friends they do have. There isn't a whole lot of time for that woman who just moved here that they don't really know yet.

But I'm lucky at the moment that I have found one friend to hang out with during the mornings, once a week or so, who just had her second child a few months ago. She's at home with both of them, so we can commiserate. I also have a feeling that if ever something happened and I needed help, I could call or text her and she'd be there for me.

I can't express how powerful and comforting that is. A year after I moved here, I'm only just starting to feel like I'm really settled and that I have a life here. Some days it doesn't feel like much, but I am ever grateful for it.

Going forward and knowing that I will be moving in a year, I can prepare ahead of time, if only mentally for the transition. I'll once again be the newbie trying to settle and fit in, but having done it once, I know what I need to do to build my little network around me. Doesn't mean it'll be easy though. Is it worth it in the end? I surely hope so!


areyoukiddingme said...

I'm glad you're finding your way - even if it is taking longer than you would have thought. It's probably easier if you have a specific activity that you attend regularly - I noticed that all the moms who had kids in soccer or gymnastics were pretty close. It's just surprisingly difficult to meet people!

Mrs. Gamgee said...

I struggle so much with this... and I haven't moved.

Because most of my friends pre-Ginny had either already had their kids (as in years ago) or weren't in a married/stable relationship and weren't planning on kids, most of my relationships with them have faded to a once a month get together (if that). I feel like I should be out there making mommy-friends, I just don't know how.

Add in the fact that we only have one vehicle and public transit here is pitiful at best... it all translates to me not getting out much.

It's hard and I worry if I am doing Ginny a disservice (not to mention how lonely I feel sometimes).

Sorry for the pity party. I just want you to know you aren't alone.

St Elsewhere said...

I think several things will change/are changing already in my sphere of the world, since the girl's arrival...and my social connections are very strongly a part of that change. But I know that your issues go to a more complicated level simply because you are not only living the mum life but also in a new place with hardly any support system in place.

I can't say it enough, but I know it must be very hard on you.

I am glad for that one friend you have finally found with whom you can hang out if the need be.

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