I'm an Introvert and I Worry My Kids Can't Make Friends

I have always been very introverted. Sometimes on the side of extreme social anxiety and shyness. Most days, I don’t mind it—it’s just part of who I am. I have difficulty dealing with situations where there are vast amounts of new people. I’m very thankful for the internet age, because it’s perfectly acceptable now to spend time at a table of strangers staring at your phone. But I’ve been uncomfortable talking to strangers and in social situations that involve a lot of people since I was a small child. It’s affected my relationships at school, with my family and neighbors and at work.

I think I come by it honestly. Both of my parents have very few close friends and we were pretty insular as a family unit (when we were a family unit). When we had large social functions to attend (even family), I’d often spend my time in a corner reading a book, or, when I got older, I’d volunteer to take care of my younger cousins while the adults talked. While I try to stretch that these days, I’m still more likely to be down in the basement with the kids then up talking with the adults.

[tweetthis]I have no lifelong friends that have been with me since childhood. Not one. #introvert[/tweetthis]

I have no lifelong friends that have been with me since childhood. Not one. I did keep up a relationship with a girl I meet in high school (she went to a different school), she was my Maid of Honor in my first wedding. But that relationship faltered along with the relationship with my ex. And if I’m honest, although I was also a bridesmaid at her wedding, we were never really extremely close, and would exchange phone calls every few months (usually at her lead—because I’m dreadful at that sort of thing).

I’m thankful for Hubs, who although an introvert like me, also exhibits some extroverted tendencies. He doesn’t have a lot of close friends, but when he walks the dog, he’ll happily chat away with anyone he meets along the way. He knows all of our neighbors (not by name though—still introverted). I (mostly) know the neighbor’s faces and will talk to them if they talk to me, but I usually don’t go out of my way other than a quick wave if I happen to see them.

Even at work

My work life is much the same. I’ve had two friends who I met through work that I do keep up with regularly (both attended my second marriage). We’re closer than I’ve been with anyone else, but still, those relationships are distant. In my current position, although there have been opportunities, I’ve squandered them. Seven of the women on my floor had babies the same year Bae was born. We got together monthly with the kids for about a year, but beyond that…I talk to them at work—but I don’t consider them to be “close”. So basically after twenty years working here, I have two friends I’d consider close, both of whom I no longer work with and one of whom moved to the other side of the country.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that’s not normal.

Amusingly though, I was somehow able to make a full day drive to one writer’s conference and I flew to a second one with Hubs. At the first I met a number of lovely ladies that I’d been stalking for a while on the internet and stayed in a hotel room with two women I’d never met before. At the second I met back up with a few of those women, but this time I stayed with Hubs…to allay some of the anxiety. There were still a few people that I really wanted to meet…but was too intimidated by to make it happen on my own. Overall though, this was a huge step for me. I’ve even told a few of the women that I’m happy to host them if they ever make it up my way. And I meant it.

It’s about the kids though

My issues with social anxiety make it very difficult for me to help the kids make friends. I don’t like inviting strangers to my home, but I have difficulty going beyond casual strangers with most of the parents at their school. My work hours don’t permit me to be there at normal drop-off/pick-up times (and exposure to the other parents), but the Goblin King is able to be there because he has different hours. As well, I’m embarrassed by both the things the Goblin King does at the school and the things he says about me to the other parents. I think I also lack certain social skills as well as the motivation to develop them.

It’s not just that though. The custody schedule makes it difficult for me to schedule play dates at times. And sometimes I just want to spend what little time I have alone with them. I know it’s selfish. I’m working on it.

I do try to make an effort. Puck has a two neighborhood friends. I text regularly with one of their mothers, and we’re friendly. The other mother also has regular interactions with my ex, so I’ve steered clear of a closer relationship. (She’s also insisted that the boy has a dog allergy and isn’t allowed to come to our home…I wonder if it’s more likely true that my ex has said something and she doesn’t trust us.)

I’ve had birthday parties for both of the kids (and even a couple in my home with the parents invited). I’ve got them in after school activities and try to arrange for them to be in “people” situations on a regular basis.

And now it’s a new school year

But now we’re back to a new school year. I’m friendly enough with a few of the moms to say hello and make small talk, but it gets awkward when there’s a large school event that I don’t really know any of the parents. Especially because for some reason my daughter seems to be best friends every year with the girl who moves the next year. I spent the first day of school in the yards with the kids, but awkwardly hanging with the kids instead of engaging with the new teacher or the other parents (although this was in part because the Goblin King threatened to show up and make a scene).

But I’m determined to keep trying to get out of my comfort zone, at least as far as they’re concerned. I can’t say that I’ll ever be an extrovert, but I can still strive to ensure that I’ve tried to give the kids those skills.

Do you have any social anxieties? How do you cope? Are you struggling to ensure your kids don’t develop those issues? What are you doing?

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  1. This. Is. Me. I am an introvert. I can’t people. It’s hard to people and I try to people. I have friends but they aren’t super close friends. Anyways, when I had my kid I knew I had to be more outgoing for his sake. That meant coming out of the box and being awkward at parks and grocery stores. Shockingly, despite how much of an introvert I am and my husband is, he is doing just fine in the peopling department. Parenting is a tough sport isn’t it?

    1. Author

      It is hard to people. It’s even harder to make the effort to people. And my husband is one of those weird extrovert introverts too. He talks to all of our neighbors but has no idea what their names are. I generally just wave and smile.

  2. The fact that your children do have friends and get along in the neighborhood and at school means you are doing the best you can and it’s working.

  3. I’m an ambivert. I mean it. A true one. And I think it’s funny that I can relate to introverts and extroverts. It just all depends on my mood, the setting, anxiety, etc.
    I’m not a best friends person and I get envious sometimes of people who are, but I really only have a handful of good friends from the past.

    1. Author

      I can see that in your writing. And like me, you seem to be very good at talking to strangers on the internet. And despite what my mother says, i think that’s a good thing. 😉

  4. It sounds like you’re really doing the right things though – you’re aware of your behaviour where it’s affected by your introvert nature, and because you want to encourage your kids to make friends, you’re taking steps to overcome your anxieties and enable that. Your introvertism isn’t WRONG, and I don’t think you need to worry about wanting time to yourself with the kids – they probably appreciate it too!

    I’m so proud of you for having gone to the conferences and met all the people. And I’m glad you had so much fun at them. From what I hear, they thought YOU were wonderful, too! I know *I* think that 🙂

    1. Author

      Awareness is really the most important piece.

      And I’m proud of me too. They really are such fun people. And some day Lizzi, some day you and me, right?

  5. I’m dreading when my daughter starts school and I have to talk to the other parents. I’m lucky that I have one best friend in town that has a son that is 3 months younger than my daughter but other than that, I do not want to have to talk to other parents!

  6. I can relate, especially with the kids and playdates part. My daughter can be a bit shy and I don’t set up enough play opportunities for her. Like you I want to spend time with her when I do get to see her. Glad you shared your feelings, courageous!

    1. Author

      Yes, on the divorce side it’s a struggle to let them go any more than you already have.

  7. I’m always surprised to hear that you’re an introvert because you seem so social and bubbly on the internet. Isn’t it funny how our personalities show differently to different people? I personally find a large crowd better because it’s easier to disappear and stay quiet. I do have anxiety and I deal with it by reminding myself I’m making a ‘bigger deal’ out of things than they might be (socially speaking). It’s ok to be shy and your children may be more outgoing in spite of you being introvert. My daughter was waaayyyy out there as a child…I just stood by and watched 🙂

    1. Author

      I’ve got to say – being on the internet has actually made me slightly more extroverted. I think having the mask of the internet helps me to interact with people so that when I meet them in person it’s like they’re already friends. And the fact that I can’t see their reactions to something I typed means I’m not struggling to (mis)interpret the way they feel about me.

      And yes…I’m constantly taking a breath and reminding myself that this is not the worst that could happen, and that seems to help.

  8. Oh, Liv, I understand so well every word you have here (minus the ex part – don’t envy you that). I worry about this sort of thing ALL THE TIME. I wish I had something more profound to say, but…I don’t. I just know. <3

  9. I am an not a mother, but I do struggle with social anxiety, and I think I always will. Both of my parents are extroverted, and they produced extroverted children, except for me. Over the years, I have learned that there is no way to cure this, but that it is something that one just needs to accept. The only advice I can give you is to simply keep trying, and to always have someone you’re comfortable with, nearby to help lessen the anxious feeling. Knowing that someone you’re familiar with is there, will help keep you grounded.

    I hope it gets better.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your advice Tatyana. I’m a lot luckier than some folks out there because I can stand to be in the situations and for the most part it’s awkward but not crippling. But you’re right – having someone I can lean on is always helpful. Thanks for stopping in!

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