Lessons from Social Awkwardness

Hi everyone,

It’s been awhile, I know, almost a year since I’ve posted! Life is busy with two young children and a part time job and something had to go for awhile. Priorities have to shift around from time to time to make sure my ideal life is on track. I’ve been wanting to get back to the blog, but felt I needed a fresh start and listening to a podcast yesterday (James Altutcher interviewing Ramit Sethi) kicked me in the butt to just get started!

Speaking of ideal life, how does one define that? Well, after reading many self improvement books and blogs over the years, one that sticks out is The Code of the Extrordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. I read this book when it came out over a year ago and he has “Twelve Areas of Balance” modeled heavily after Jon Butcher’s "Lifebook" categories, so I set goals for each of those 12. Some categories were easy (health & fitness, intellectual, family) because I felt I was already meeting how I’d like that part of my life to be, but others not so much.

One area that I felt was not meeting my expectations was my social life. Any parents out there can probably relate that your social life changes when you have a baby. Non-parents might have noticed this in their friends with children. Well, I had a baby and became a bit of a hermit with the exception of the weekly grocery shopping and going to work a couple days a week. I wanted to be sure I was doing right by baby and not disrupting his nap routine, not over-stimulating, not exposing to extra germs, etc…

But then I realized I was missing out on important social interaction with my peers. Yeah, I had some adult interaction with my co-workers, but let’s call them “The Grandpa Group” because yes, 6/9 of my immediate co-workers were men with grandchildren. Limits what we have in common, for sure. I would find myself talking like crazy when someone would make a welcome comment about my kid at the grocery store. And before I blame everything on having a baby, let me be honest, I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly before having kids, so I felt I had a lot of work cut out for me.

So, I set a goal, an intention to make some mom friends with kids of a similar age, moms with similar interests to mine, moms I felt I could spend a weekend camping with. Yes, I got specific, so I would know when I met the right people. I wanted friends like my parents had when I grew up; we’d go hiking together and the kids all played. They’d have weekend BBQs and the kids would all play. My best friend growing up spent a ton of time at our house and I at her house (and we are still friends!) I wanted that for my kids as well.

Next was how to meet these other moms? Hurray for the internet and social media (kinda.) I joined local parenting groups on Facebook and found out about play dates (and actually went to them!) I looked at some of these women’s profiles and I messaged ones I thought I had stuff in common with. One attempt drastically failed when I asked her about her health coaching business to see how she liked it, etc… and ended up with her trying to recruit me to join her team for BeachBody. Scratch that one. No MLM for me, thanks!

Another failed attempt occurred when I set up a play date at my house, invited 100 people I didn’t know and NOT ONE showed up. Ouch! What a failure I felt for my kiddos who were looking forward to some other kids to come over and play that afternoon.

The kids and I went to the local parks more regularly to try to make new friends. I met some moms that way, but no real friendships were made. I just didn’t have enough in common with these women I met and we didn’t see each other regularly enough to try to find common ground or exchange phone numbers for play dates.

What really ended up working for me was signing my son up for karate classes. He started going during the summer and there’s quite a few kids and with the class being only 30 minutes long for the 4-6 year olds, the parents stick around to watch. It’s pretty darn cute and funny at the same time watching a group of mostly awkward 4-6 year olds trying to do push-ups (they look more like pelvic thrusts into the floor.) And kids this age are just learning numbers, so they are tasked to do 5 push-ups and one jumps up “I did 40!” Another kid chimes in “Well, I did 100!” All the parents snicker. Great entertainment at the end of the afternoon and the kids love it.

Finally! I’m around the same group of parents on a regular basis AND we have something in common to start a conversation. But where to start? Let me interrupt with a plug for one of my favorite books: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I’ve read it several times, including right after setting my goal to make new mommy friends. One of the lessons Carnegie teaches is to help people like you is to show an interest in them. Easy! What parent doesn’t like talking about their kids? Especially a parent who makes the effort to sign their child up for an activity such as karate and take them 5 days a week. So, I’d pick a parent that I was standing near that day and ask them about their kid and how they like karate, etc… Lucky for me, it worked! These parents could hold a conversation about their child and then actually expressed interest in return about my children. Yep, Sissy has been to all of her brother’s karate classes with us.

 Sissy watching Bubba's karate class

Sissy watching Bubba's karate class

Two months into karate classes, I have talked to all the parents who stick around to watch, introduced myself to all of them and consider many to be friends. What has been harder is to ask for phone numbers so it is easy to talk outside of karate and set up play dates. At least my son’s birthday is coming up, so that will be a great excuse to exchange contact info.

As you can see, my social life is still a work in progress, as are all aspects of a happy, healthy life, but I’m making the effort and actually DOING SOMETHING to get what I want and actually reflecting on what do I want? What would make all aspects of my life a happy one? How often do people do that? Not as often as they probably should, or else we probably wouldn’t have so many people unhappy at their jobs, in their cluttered houses, bored on the weekends, just trying to drown out their mind with constant noise from the radio and TV.

The lesson I hope to learn and pass on to my children (who are learning by example) is you can always DO SOMETHING to make some kind of forward momentum toward a life you love if you just sit down to figure out what you really want and then set an intention to get there.

I’m working on a coaching program to help people do just that. Let me know if you’re interested in being a beta tester. :)

 

With love, hugs and smiles,

Carolyn