The thing is – socializing as a parent is HARD.
One of my current goals is to build up my community – to feel more connected to my neighborhood and to the people around me. I’m an introvert and a homebody, so building my community without becoming completely exhausted is a challenge.
It’s going pretty well. I’ve been maintaining a decent balance of time at home and time socializing with others. One of my mini-resolutions has been to accept as many invitations as I can. (I have a tendency to decline invitations to hang out and then whine about not having any friends, which is ridiculous.)
Trying to be social while also being a parent is tricky.
There are a few different reasons why this is tricky, in my life.
The first is that I’m a working parent. I’ve found it extremely difficult to be a working parent, which was a genuine surprise to me after Teddy came home. I’ve always worked, and our family’s plan was always for me to continue working. But once Teddy was here, I found it really hard to be away from him, and I found myself wishing for more flexibility with my employment.
The end result of this is that it’s extremely difficult for me to spend any time away from Teddy when I’m not working. Meeting a friend for coffee? Sounds awesome – and I bring Teddy along. That way, I get my friend time, which I love, and I don’t sacrifice time with my kid. It’s not perfect, but it works for me. This was a pretty good deal when Teddy was a baby who slept all or most of the time and was confined to his car seat or someone’s arms the rest of the time.
Now – I have a toddler. Once I started socializing with my son THE TODDLER – it was a totally different story. A few months ago, I had a brunch date with my friends, with Teddy along. It was disaster. I tried hard to focus on my friends, on catching up, on listening to their stories – all while Teddy fidgeted and stood up and fell down and just existed as a toddler in the world. He required attention – attention I couldn’t give to socializing. I simply could not stay present and focused with other adults – half of my brain power is always focused on what Teddy’s doing and what he needs.
Simply the logistics of socializing as a parent can be difficult, too. I’ve always taken pride in being pretty easy-going and flexible when it comes to planning. “I’ll be at the coffee shop all day,” I’d tell someone. “Just stop by whenever and we’ll catch up.” No timeline – no big deal.
But now? Sometimes, I want to meet a friend for coffee. And it HAS TO BE exactly at 10 a.m. Because of naps, and food, and car rides, and crankiness. And, as much as I want to be flexible – I find that I have to be honest about what will work for me and for Teddy. (Because when I try to adjust things, brunch is DISASTER.)
I have ventured out, on a handful of occasions, without Teddy. I am careful about when I do this – for example, NOT on Sunday night when I’m already cranky about the work week starting on Monday. Once I went out to meet up with friends at around 7ish, right before Teddy’s bedtime – Tee took care of bedtime and I didn’t miss too much of my Mommy-Teddy time. That worked.
I’m hopeful that as time progresses, it will get a little easier for me to socialize without Teddy. I’m not sure if my reluctance to be away from him is typical or not; maybe it’s something other working moms feel, too. Someday, hopefully, the math of my work life will change – shorter hours and more time at home.
And then, maybe it will get easier to allow myself time with friends sans kids. Because it’s refreshing to have that – a time when I can completely focus on others and myself, without having to ensure the safety and well-being of a dependent little person.
But also? I’m trying my best not to feel bad about not wanting to be away from my kid. We get so many freaking messages from the world. We are often told what we need. I personally am often told that I *need* time away from Teddy. And maybe I do. But I should get to determine that for myself, thankyouverymuch.
There are so many obstacles – finding a go-to babysitter (still working on that), and just plain finding mutually free time to connect with a friend in our always-busy culture. But I’m working on it, and like everything else in my life, the key is BABY STEPS.
AND becoming more comfortable being the hostess. Because then your friends come to you, and your son can run and play in his most comfortable environment. WIN-WIN.