The other day a friend sent me an article called “When you’re a socially awkward ‘weird’ mum”, commenting, “Can you relate?” Now, I have to admit that my first reaction was, “Hang on, she thinks I’m socially awkward and weird? As IF!” but my second reaction was, “Ohhhhhhhh. Yes. Yes, I am socially awkward and weird.” You see, I want to fit in with the other mums. But I’m a serious introvert, and that means I’m nervous when I speak, so sometimes my mouth gets ahead of my brain and gibberish comes out. And I always seem to stumble over the appropriate thing to say.
Example: The other day I took the baby to the park. She was playing in the grass, rolling around and kicking her bare feet against the trunk of a nearby tree. Another mum was pushing her little one on the swing a few metres away. “She’s having fun, isn’t she?” the mum said to me. I replied, a bit too enthusiastically, “Yeah, she’s getting great proprioceptive input right now!” The other mum froze, looking at me bewilderedly. Because I’m the socially awkward, weird mum who didn’t just say, “She sure is! Your little girl looks like she’s enjoying herself too!”
I’ve always been a bit socially awkward. I would go so far as to say I’ve got social anxiety. I like catching up with friends one-on-one, but invite me to a Tupperware party and I’m liable to sit in the corner and keep my mouth shut — if I come at all. (Being force-sold things in a room full of other people I don’t know is a version of hell for me, although if you put a catalogue in my letterbox I’ll almost definitely want some of whatever it is you’re selling.) (Although not Tupperware, not right now, because I own too much already.) If a telemarketer calls me, I can never just say no thanks and hang up — I need to spend 10 minutes telling them I know how hard their job must be and I’m so sorry but I can’t take their survey or buy their insurance.
Then there was that time I took my baby daughter to this expensive baby gym class. We were sitting in a circle with the other mums and babies, who were wearing Lululemon and had tiny designer bows in their wispy hair (both the mums AND babies, yes), and the teacher asked us to go around the circle saying our babies’ names and something they liked. When it was my turn, I said, “My baby likes to chew food, spit it out, and smash it into the carpet.” I was going for humour, but I was faced with a circle of concerned and confused mums staring back at me. “Why do you let her do that?” one asked. “When my baby tries to do things like that, I say, ‘Food goes on the table!'” said another. Then suddenly they were all offering me advice on how to fix my daughter’s food-smashing problem. Sitting there in my worn trackpants and messy bun, I had completely misread the vibe of the room. As my six-year-old likes to tell me, “You’ve made it weird, Mum.”
So I don’t fit in. I bet there are lots of other mums out there who feel like I do. I just haven’t met them yet. Where are you, my socially awkward, weird mum tribe? Will you join me for a picnic at the park one day, where our babies can play together and we can just sit in our mutual weirdness and social awkwardness? I’ll probably “let” my baby chew food, spit it out, and smash it into the grass. At least the birds won’t mind.