two introverts and a baby
August 2, 2007 1:51 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are expecting our first child - we are older, fairly introverted, no extended family nearby, and most of our friends either have older, not-very-dependent children, or are childfree. We don't belong to a church or synagogue (and won't be joining one) and our neighborhood is secluded and full of older folks who we don't really interact with much. I have a very real fear that I will be isolated once I have this child and stay at home with it - a friend of mine said "don't expect to find a fun time at Gymboree - those mothers are bitches!" So there goes that. Has anyone else overcome their introvert tendencies once they reproduce? If at all possible, I want my baby to get out in the world more than I usually do. I'm intimidated by the hot young moms I see with their babies in slings around town - I don't think I would have much in common with them.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
a friend of mine said "don't expect to find a fun time at Gymboree - those mothers are bitches!"

Take this with many grains of salt. Try it out for yourself. We are older introverted parents and Ms. DarkForest has found friends among other new parents in our area through playgroups, etc.
posted by DarkForest at 2:03 PM on August 2, 2007

I am not a mother. But I have a lot of friends who are moms. I offer this advice: Do not assume that your friends with no kids or older kids do not want to hang out with you. Do assume you need to invite them to do things. When my friends had kids, I was worried about visiting/calling because I was afraid I would mess up a schedule or wake up a baby. I would invite my friends out, but often they would not want to go out -- can't go out to dinner that late because baby is sleeping, too tired to lug all the stuff around. With some friends, I felt comfortable enough to just invite myself over, but not with others. So, I guess I'm just saying, make the effort to invite -- and I bet some of them will even offer to bring dinner!
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:07 PM on August 2, 2007 [5 favorites]

Never underestimate the ice-breaking power of a cute little baby. I'm pretty introverted, but when I carry my daughter around, all kinds of people want to come up and see her, and we wind up having conversations. Especially in the early months, it's pretty easy to make connections just by showing up with a baby.

My wife joined MOPS and really liked it. It's pretty religious, I guess, but she said half the women in her group weren't connected to any kind of church at all, or even Christians, and it was a pretty comfortable environment for them. Might be worth looking into.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:08 PM on August 2, 2007

Babies get bored around the house after a certain age. You will be forced to go out with little baby no matter what happens. You will go to the park, or the play area at the mall, or gymboree, whatever gets you through the day.

So, don't worry about being stuck at home. You won't be able to stand it.

And, when you do get out, you will find that other moms are not all hot and young, or bitches. You'll find a few here and there that are nice and easygoing and likable, regardless of age. You will wind up in conversations with these moms because you have something in common, whether you intend to or not, just because everyone is not an introvert. So it doesn't matter whether you are one or not. However, follow-up, towards a friendship, does matter.

When you really like one of the folks in these random conversations, perhaps you suggest a playdate in the future.

To summarize: Do not sweat this.
posted by poppo at 2:09 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Check out Motherhood Later Than Sooner for a possible network of over 35 moms. I also found some very nice folks to meet up with via TableTalk at
posted by jeanmari at 2:12 PM on August 2, 2007

I would try to let myself off the hook about this and relax! You know how when you go the dog park, even shy people are chatting it up with other dog owners? It's hard not to make (shallow) connections when you have this creature with you that is intensely interested in other creatures, and you can pursue deeper connections if you wish.

Having a baby will be like that, but better, because the baby will not, you know, hump other babies while everyone pretends that it's not happening.

This is a problem that will take care of itself. Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy. :)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:14 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Having a baby will be like that, but better, because the baby will not, you know, hump other babies while everyone pretends that it's not happening.


Agree with what's been said--Don't take your friend's word for it about the other mothers, go see for yourself!

My mom still loves being around young children and friends with young children, and I know many others are the same way...don't assume that they won't want to be around you because of that. They are your friends, after all.
posted by DMan at 2:22 PM on August 2, 2007

At a birthing class we met a number of parents to be who we still hang out with - these parents had dual benefits - this was typically their first child as well as being due around the same time.

This really helps with setting up playdates and getting social in general as the offspring pass the various milestones around the same time and you shouldn't underestimate the support that you/someone going through exactly the same stuff as you can offer.
posted by azlondon at 2:28 PM on August 2, 2007

You do in fact have something in common with those hot young women - those cute little babies. It is very easy to find yourself exchanging stories about colic, poop, sleepless nights and other things that you never before considered to be polite conversation.

I found that you do have to make some effort to make and keep real friendships. It helps if you can set up a regular date. With your current friends, maybe coffee or a light bruch on the weekends (at your house so you don't have to worry about waking baby, having toys, or babyproofing the other house) or maybe going for a stroller-friendly hike.

Check out parent-baby play groups. In California there one called Los Madres (not spanish speaking, despite the name) that matches people in the same neighborhood who have children born the same year. Another place to look is your local parks and recreation program - they may have mother-toddler classes and sometimes even mother-baby exercise classes.
posted by metahawk at 2:30 PM on August 2, 2007

a friend of mine said "don't expect to find a fun time at Gymboree - those mothers are bitches!" So there goes that.

Imagine that your child comes to you in 10 years and says, "I wanted to learn to play piano, but a friend told me it was too hard, so there goes that." You'd encourage your child to try it out herself, and not just default to a position of defeat straight out of the gate, right?
posted by scody at 2:36 PM on August 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Do not assume that your friends with no kids or older kids do not want to hang out with you.

And, oh yeah, seconding this. I don't have any kids and I LOVE hanging out not only with my nephews, but with all my friends' kids. Seriously, I have often been known to volunteer to babysit. For free. Again, don't make negative assumptions from which to draw your conclusions ahead of time. All it does is paint yourself into a corner that you might very well not need to be in.
posted by scody at 2:40 PM on August 2, 2007

a friend of mine said "don't expect to find a fun time at Gymboree - those mothers are bitches!"

I dunno about gymboree, but every indoor play place and outdoor park we've been to so far, to a one, have been filled with (a) extroverted, friendly, interesting people to talk to while our kids all interact, or (b) quiet, friendly people who hang out and watch the rest of us talk while their kids interact. Precious few bitches.

I'm intimidated by the hot young moms I see with their babies in slings around town - I don't think I would have much in common with them.

Eh, my wife wouldn't put herself in the "hot young mom" category, since we had kids later in life as well. Nevertheless, you'll have one HUGE thing in common with every other mother there -- you'll have kids. All other incompatibilities tend to go out the window at that point, because people love talking about kids, especially their own. Don't think you'll have something in common? Watch someone's child until they do something cool, then compliment the kid -- then turn to the mom and say "I'm surprised s/he can do that already; how old is s/he?" Then hunker down to have your ear talked off.

I have a very real fear that I will be isolated once I have this child and stay at home with it

There will be a period of isolation, but you'll probably enjoy it (unless you're suffering from post-partum depression); it's called nesting, and for several months you won't want to do anything but stay at home with your son or daughter.

However, at some point you'll want to get out, and you'll find that you're so proud to be out and walking around with your child that you don't really need other people to be happy (so long as you and your significant other are running around together with the kid, so that you're having a real conversation.)

One thing we did that worked really well was sign up for a Music Together class. I can't vouch for all of 'em, but the one we signed up for in Burbank was/is awesome (say 'hi' to Patricia for us!) -- we still take the kids there over a year later, and we have a group of parents we get to see once a week who are as excited as we are to watch our kids go from lumps of clay staring at the other kids to active, dancing and singing wunderkind.
posted by davejay at 2:41 PM on August 2, 2007

I've found that different parks and playgrounds have different "cultures." Some have the young, hot moms. Some have the Gymboree bitches. Some have awesome parents who want to chat while the toddlers are off toddling. So the first thing you can do to get out of the house is to explore a new park or playground every week until you find one that suits you and the new child.

I don't know what your definition of "older" is, but at 33 I'm one of the younger fathers in my geographical area. The hot, young moms may not be as much of a problem as you anticipate. All of the parents at my daughter's preschool seem to be a good decade older than me.

Lastly, a good trick for breaking the ice is to buy a sackful of disposable dollar-store toys to the park and let all the kids there play with them. This will make your kid the hero of the playground, teach your child the value of sharing, and the other parents will notice. Buckets, plastic shovels, balls, cheapo plastic cars and trucks are good for this.
posted by lekvar at 2:43 PM on August 2, 2007

Try a library story hour. They have some for pretty young kids.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:44 PM on August 2, 2007

Your question motivated me to join metafilter after years of limiting myself to reading (now that's introverted). My partner and I are older, bookish, not joiners, un-hot, and the new parents of a four-month-old boy. In my admittedly limited experience, I strongly believe that if one has managed to nurture and develop a loving and healthy relationship with any other human being (a partner, a friend, a family member) than you have all the tools you need to make a new person in your midst happy. Luckily, you and your husband are your child's first and only meaningful experience with the human race--I promise your baby will not wonder where his foxy, sling-wearing, party mama is. A baby just makes what ever you already are more of what you are, and if there is love, there is more love, and yes, if there is some homebody leanings, there will be more of that too. But, I promise that your baby will teach you how to be his or her parents, and if your baby needs to be a bit more out and about, you will learn that from his or her positive reactions to his or her first social outings. And, you will so want, so need to make this person who you love happy that seeing him or her react positively to something you may have not been normally comfortable with will strongly, deeply motivate you to do it again. Think of all the crazy things we are all willing to do for love! It really is like that.

To answer your question more directly, start with a context you are already fine with. For example, I have advanced degrees and work in higher ed, so I started with the baby parenting classes offered by the hospital. I was more willing in this context to chat up the other parents and plan other outings than I would have been in the Gymboree-type context. Also, I'm passionate about lefty political action so I found myself willing to get involved via (which has meetups) and my local Le Leche group. Through this kind of thing I found my tribe of bookish shy moms and we have low-key hikes and book club type stuff that we do. Certainly don't try to make these new friends in ways that you would never connect with others before baby.

There are all kinds of families--and the homebody ones are just as awesome as the do-everything variety. You'll have the kid you are supposed to have and after your initial and crazy adjustment period you'll have more and more of your own kind of fun every day. Congratulations.
posted by rumposinc at 2:45 PM on August 2, 2007 [8 favorites]

I'm middle of the age range when it comes to having kids. Tons of my parent friends are in their early 40s. And lots of the hot young mom types are my friends, which stunned me. It's amazing how much you have in common once you have a baby. If you can go to a parent-infant drop-in, you'll find that you don't have to be all that outgoing to meet people. Someone will turn and ask, "What do you do when the baby starts doing ....?" Or "Has your baby started solids?" The other parents are desperate for social contact, information, support and so on. You don't have to be outgoing -- just respond pleasantly and take some sort of interest in them by at least trying to remember stuff they tell you. If you do this when the baby is young, everybody will know you as your child gets older and you won't have to make much effort to meet people.
posted by acoutu at 2:52 PM on August 2, 2007

I'm going out for drinks this weekend with a woman I met five years ago at Gymboree. She's the most fun-loving, liberal, laid back, intelligent woman I know. She and I (and a couple other ladies we get together with regularly) bonded over what crazy bitches the other moms in the baby class were. So,even if your friends are right, it doesn't mean you won't make friends.

There are lots of places to socialize with babies. Swim class. Story hour at the library. Your local hospital may have some new mom classes. There's a snowball effect to getting out, too. Someone at swim class will tell you about a great yoga class, at yoga class you'll find out about a cool playground, someone on the playground will mention a concert series. The important thing is just to get out. The more you do, the greater your chance of finding people you click with.
posted by jrossi4r at 2:53 PM on August 2, 2007

Nth the "don't count out the kidless/single friends you currently have." It can be a little harder to coordinate, as they may not quite get how to schedule social time with someone carting a toddler around, but many many many of them will still be your friends, will still want to make the effort to spend time with you, may even be excited about helping out in any way. So when you have to get out of the house with the baby cause you're stircrazy, call one and see if she can grab ten minutes to chat with you while you're strolling the baby. Or hold the baby while you have a nice sit in the sun.

Most of my later-in-life mom friends do this.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:01 PM on August 2, 2007

My husband is an introvert and he stays home with our now seven month old baby. He takes our young baby hiking and to the dog park. They seem fine without an orchestrated social life. Your kid doesn't really get the whole social play thing until age two, anyway.

Our childfree friends like the kid (so far, anyway) so it's ok to have the childfree friends over for BBQs and socializing. You probably won't turn into a hobbit (unless you have PPD, as mentioned above).
posted by crazycanuck at 3:05 PM on August 2, 2007

you'll have one HUGE thing in common with every other mother there -- you'll have kids. All other incompatibilities tend to go out the window at that point

This seems a little harsh, a little "You're a MOMMY now; that's all that matters!"
posted by kmennie at 3:12 PM on August 2, 2007

Perhaps you should consider joining a mother's group -- assuming there's a person in your area organizing one (check at stores that cater to new parents, online resources, etc. for info). You'll get to know a group of 6-12 other mothers, assuming you don't drop out. Chances are you will find one or two mothers you would want to be friends with, even if you didn't have kids of the same age. The worst possible outcome -- which isn't that bad -- is you decide it's not for you.

I'm a working father, so I'm speaking more from my wife's experience. I know she felt isolated at times. You might find yourself itching for adult conversation a year from now, even with people you might not ordinarily hang out with.
posted by ferdydurke at 3:28 PM on August 2, 2007

How about La Leche League meetings? Contrary to the very granola rep, I found that my local meetings had allll sorts of women in attendance, and I made some great friends there.

Also, please don't discount young moms just because they're young! I was 23 when I had my son (and yes, he was a very planned baby), and I was very serious about the business and the joy of being his mother. I got along quite well with the older moms, and of the women I'm still in touch with (the kid's now 10), all age groups are represented.
posted by houseofdanie at 3:39 PM on August 2, 2007

What everyone else is saying--you are going to be fine. My wife was 42 when Wonderboy was born. Sometimes we would feel a bit old when taking him to a birthday party where the other parents averaged 15 years younger than we. But we always had a good time talking with the other parents about our kids. And we began to notice a LOT more parents around our age than we had realized existed. We have done quite a bit of travel with the boy and met so many great people who came up to talk to us because we had a kid.

Good luck!
posted by LarryC at 4:19 PM on August 2, 2007

Not sure where you are, anon, but there's a good chance there's a Mom Meetup in your area.
posted by the jam at 4:36 PM on August 2, 2007

I was the same with my first child, and to be honest, I found it very hard to connect with other mums until my child began kindergarten. With my third I am meeting more mums by attending library storytime, attending my local playground (in my area there are lots that are free and attract a diverse socio-economic group) and just walking around the neighbourhood and local park. I often bring an interesting book to the park so I can read or, if someone strikes up a conversation based on my book I can speak with them as long as I choose. To keep my childfree/older children friends I realised it was a LOT easier on me to host get-togethers at my house, less to carry around and I could relax more at home. Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 4:37 PM on August 2, 2007

When my first daughter was born 11 years ago, my wife joined the local "Mommy & Me" group.

While we didn't have much in common with most of the families, we did strike gold with two other families that our our close friends to this days. Having them as friends as we all had second children and one couple a third was wonderful.

My suggestion would be to give it a try and see who you meet.
posted by Argyle at 4:46 PM on August 2, 2007

I know that it can be a point of contention, but as far as my mom put it, this is what daycare is for. Kid entertained. You free to be an unencumbered adult again. I know everyone has their own issues about this stuff, but sending it off to half-days might be worth considering.
posted by dame at 5:08 PM on August 2, 2007

Just one more data point on the "you might be surprised who'll be your buddy front."

My wife was 25, skinny, and fresh to the suburbs from NYC when our first was born ... and almost instantly made as her best mom friend a neighbor who'd recently had her second daughter and who was almost 15 years older. Still great friends now. It can totally happen.

On the other hand, even with the fellow-mom, there are definitely bitchy, or more charitably just completely socially incompatible, mom cliques, just like their cliques in any other sort of situation. But there'll always be alternatives.
posted by MattD at 5:24 PM on August 2, 2007

My wife joined MOPS and really liked it. It's pretty religious, I guess, but she said half the women in her group weren't connected to any kind of church at all, or even Christians, and it was a pretty comfortable environment for them. Might be worth looking into.

Seconded. Ms. Cool Papa Bell is a violent atheist, like me, and apart from the fact that the MOPS group takes place in a church hall, there's no pressure whatsoever. And they do things outside of the church setting, too -- they go to dinner once a month, and helped out at a children's hospital once.

Although the sub-group does come up with wacky, non-religious names for themselves (i.e. Ms. Cool Papa Bell is in the "Brilliant Buttercups" group).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:32 PM on August 2, 2007

I write a Mom blog, and belong to a web community for Moms called MayasMom that I like a lot. Although it is a web community, just like Metafilter, I know that members have met each other through the site, and the forums are a good way to check out what their personalities are like before setting up a real-life meet-up. You already know if they are hausfrau types or skanks or genuine, likeable women (the majority, I have discovered). They have specific groups tailored to more mature Moms, professional women, writers, bloggers, etc.

I met the Director and the CEO at Blogher, and they are both passionate, savvy professional women.

I think you might enjoy giving it a try, so here's the link!
posted by misha at 5:37 PM on August 2, 2007

i'm rushing out the door, so dont' have time to read everything.... sorry everyone... but mother's group rocks. don't know where you are, but they're lovely support.

does your local clinic run one?

or else, the women from your birth class. they're not always bitches. in my group, i'm the bitch! no, really, it's a tremendous group of women and i'm so grateful i met them.

we have rampant extroverts in our group... and several very very introverted women. we love them all dearly and their babies. i doubt a group of nervous mums of newborns are in any position to be bitchy ever. they're too overwhelmed.

i've heard urban myths about mother's group... but have yet to meet someone this really happened to... or experience it myself. and when mother's group is rolling along... you'll naturally drift towards the company of other mums you like more.

and babies make you talk to people by the way, get used to that now. the whole world wants to discuss your baby.... much like your belly when it's huge and yummy and full of baby.

i'll be back later if i get any more ideas.... off to my mother's group... today, at the library.

kisses for your bump, you poor thing.
posted by taff at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2007 operates online forums for moms in several cities around the US. I've found my local forum to be a great place to chat online with other moms, and members schedule lots of events including playgroups, mom's night out, and groupwide gatherings. Check their website to see if they have a forum in your area.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:08 PM on August 2, 2007

> This seems a little harsh, a little "You're a MOMMY now;
> that's all that matters!"

I think those who said that you'll have a baby and thus stuff in common meant that this forms an instant shared trauma. As your baby gets a little older, you start realizing philosophical differences and may drift toward certain people. But, at the beginning, you've got all these nervous parents who are looking to connect. They may not stay that way, but it at least means a lot of people will open up in the beginning, even if you're not extroverted.
posted by acoutu at 6:28 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another site that seems to develop pockets of meet up communities is, based off Ariel Gore's zine, HipMama. It probably saved my sanity in the first couple years of my oldest daughter's life. One of the publisher's goals is to foster the ability of women to create parenting communities local to them. It tends to happen organically though rather than being anything organized.

[And here's the rest of that story: After being on the site for about 4 years, I found out that I had gone to college with the publisher & a couple other women on the site, and had, indeed, actually grown up within spitting distance of the publisher, I ended up helping moderate the site & am now the executive producer, so this is kind of a self link, but mostly this is a testament to introvert finding a community of mamas -- I'm still an introvert, but I did find some mama-friends, both virtual and corporeal, when I had no idea how to go about finding other mamas. I would not be doing what I do for them if I hadn't gotten something pretty profound from those first four or so years...]

What I discovered with my second is that swimming lessons, the parent-tot ones for infants through 2yrs is a fun thing to do & the parents, at least at the pool I go to, are a huge range of folks & it's a mellow place to go be with other parents & their kids while still giving you space to be kind of introverted & interact as much as your comfortable with. Plus if you have to do that 'imagine them naked' thing to help you get over nervousness when meeting people for the first time, most of the work has already been done for you what with swim suits being basically fancy underwear. And you get to see who has ink & other interesting things that you wouldn't normally get to see...
posted by susanbeeswax at 11:16 PM on August 2, 2007

My wife is no introvert, but she did just have our second child in an area that we moved to fairly recently, and had no friends or family living locally. She really just made a big effort to go to as many pre- and post-natal activities as she could, and strike up conversations with other people there. It seems to have worked pretty well, and she has acquired a circle of what looks like becoming close friends. There is a huge advantage to meeting up with other people with kids around the same age too (you're all limited in the sorts of things that you can do in exactly the same way).

There are a vast number of things you could be doing: pre- and post-natal swimming or exercise classes, yoga, baby massage and so on. Just get information about what's going on locally, try stuff out and drop it if it doesn't look like delivering what you want from it, moving on to something else.

By the time your kid is old enough to enjoy gymboree btw it will probably be a full time task making sure that they don't kill themselves or others while they're there, so not sure how much adult interaction you're likely to get. Best to try to meet up with new friends early on while your baby's capacity for self-harm is still limited.
posted by bifter at 3:11 AM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

One other thing to consider is friendships for you based on what you and other parents have in common. (besides the kids, I mean). Check out the various interest group/meetup sites for people interested in the things you're interested in - tai chi, hang gliding, etc. At least a few of them will have kids, too.

And if they don't you've got something different to look forward to every so often.
posted by lysdexic at 5:05 AM on August 3, 2007

Having started out later in life having kids as well, one of the pleasures is that people think I'm about 10 years younger than I am. ;-)
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:33 AM on August 3, 2007

I am still great friends with the other couples my first husband and I met 10 years ago when my oldest was a newborn and we joined a parenting group (they aren't just for moms-are group was all couples). It has been an amazing asset in our lives-it's the closest thing my daughter has to cousins and aunts and uncles close by. We camp regularly, drink wine, eat, go to baseball games, have sleep overs. We swapped babysitting, and I didn't pay for a babysitter for two or three years.

My now-DH and I joined a group when our daughter was born last year-it hasn't been as cohesive and has drifted away a bit, but we have made friends with at least one other couple we do things with regularly. They are very different than we are-we are 37 and 30, they are 25 and 30. Their first child, my second. They have more blue-collar jobs than we do, and less money. Nevertheless, we enjoy our time with them immensely and it's been great watching our little ones grow together.

We're really pretty social people, so maybe this comes easier to us. I guess my point was to nth the comments to not assume that "all those mom's are bitches"-probably some of them are, lots of them are nice, nervous people that may seem bitchy when they are shy or insecure. You'll do great.
posted by purenitrous at 11:22 PM on August 5, 2007

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