Friday, 12 June 2009

Daughters, help me be friendly

So, I talked to another playgroup mum today, a little. We were walking up the hill at the same time. We quite often cross paths on the way to playgroup, but usually only muster a tired smile, or an occassional 'Hi'. Today, I managed to supplement the smile with another comment 'That looks like hard work!' (she was pushing a buggy with a baby in and her pre-school daughter perched on top, up a very steep hill). And Rosemary helped, by saying 'Hello!' very brightly. So we ended up walking together. Her daughter, N, got down and she and Rosemary walked the rest of the way holding hands (awww, how sweet), clutching so tight that a small boy trying to come the other way had to phyically prise them apart to get past (though he could have walked round).

I did pretty well, for me, though missed some important follow-ups, such as when I responded to her question 'Where on S Road do you live?', I should have added 'What about you?' We chatted a bit about her baby (1 year old) and our imminent baby (apparently I don't look 5 months pregnant - those of you going to the BMB meet-up on Sunday can check this out for yourselves). I was surprised to find that she knew my name (she bumped the buggy into me, and said 'Sorry, Tash. Are you OK?' How does she know my name and I don't know hers? She was probably in my class at school, or something and I'm being my usual forgetful self. Perhaps there's a list somewhere of children's and parents' names. Who knows? I certainly don't.

As we got closer to the school, we had to stop every few yards for some parent to say hello to her. She seemed to know everyone. The girls waited very patiently each time, while I was thinking 'Come on! I'm late already!' but not wanting either to separate the girls, or mess up this opportunity. She stopped to talk to at least three other parents, including the new Green county councillor (I voted for someone else) and waved hello to a whole bunch more. At one point she turned to me and said 'It gets ridiculous the more people you know at school. Takes forever to get through everyone,' to which I responded something inane like 'Well, I'm amazed at how many people you know!'

Anyway, I think it's some kind of progress. Maybe. I did run straight off after dropping Rosemary off. Didn't hang around to wait for her and walk back down the hill, as she was talking to the playgroup leader and I had work to get on with. But I still have lots of work to do on this whole being sociable thing. Perhaps some of you can help me practise on Sunday?

It's probable that, if Rosemary hadn't decided to walk with N, I would have just hurried us on past, for fear of saying something stupid, or foisting myself on a mum who didn't really want to talk to me, or just general social ineptitude. So, thank you Rosemary, and Eleanor who is now an added talking point. There may be hope for me yet.


  1. Tash, what a great post. You are so like me. I'm much better now at chatting with the mums at the school gates, but that is because I've had a chance to get to know them. I've been dropping IJ off at school and collecting her since September, but for the first few months I said NOTHING to the other mums. Not because I was rude but because often I'm not brilliant in social situations. Until I know people I'm quite sky and possibly even a little wary of them, and I often feel inadequate when there is probably no need to feel that way.

    Thankfully, after attending several children's parties with the same people we all got chatting and have become good friends. It's taken time though. Some people know everyone and chat to everyone, others, like me, don't. But we probably all have the same insecurities at the end of the day. I'll never be the life and soul of the party but I'm more comfortable with people now. It's taken time though. My advice - just keep saying hello, you don't need to do anything else, the rest will follow.

  2. Thank god it's not just me then, i had a similar senario yesterday when picking up Mia from school. The yummy mummy club are not very consistent with their small talk so i've given up trying to make conversation, i just end up saying something really lame because, like rosie says, i wrongly feel inadequate. So imagine my suprise when i was ambushed by the whole group of them , they were really friendly and wanted to know if i would be attending the school BBQ this evening. To be honest i didn't have any intentions of going manily due to not knowing many mums but i might just be brave and give it a go x

  3. This is a reassuring post. With baby number 1 on the way I am petrified of not being able to speak to other new mums if I come across them. Obviously the school run is a long way off but I need to make some sort of effort to meet some people like me in my area because most of the people that I know with babies live in Cornwall where I grew up and I don't! I am so very shy and useless in social situations. I do not really know how to do small talk and so the idea of this is so hard for me.

    I have decided that I will try and make and effort to get out and meet people, but I think I will join a baby massage class or something, so if I go and do not manage to make myself talk to someone I will have at least learnt something!!!

  4. You have definitely raised something interesting here and I things this is something that a lot of mums have got in common. Especially WAHM or SAHM and the reason is very simple. We have less face to face interaction with adults and especially with new people, therefore we lose confidence and we also get in a habit of being quite centred around people we know and that is our children, family and friends.
    It is our comfort zone and it is always very difficult to get out of our comfort zone. When you are working from home like you and me, we are hidden behind a computer screen and technology is our best friend. It is a great way to meet new people, but it is has downside: we become more afraid of having real face to face interaction.
    When you are the school gate there is nowhere to hide and it becomes quite (or very) daunting at times. There is nothing worse than the feeling of walking towards a group who is not opening up and inviting you gently. It is part of the fear of rejection. Human beings are pack animals and we need interaction, but hate being rejected, apart for the ones who are so confident that rejection is only a challenge. Like Rosie says, it is quite relevant of our own insecurities.
    There are some simple ways though to boost your confidence and to start interacting gently with other mums and they are:
    - like you did with this mum, say hi and something about the weather, about her child, whatever sends the message "nice to meet you, shall we have a chat?" If someone wants to get to speak to you they will jump on the opportunity. If they don't you will receive a nice smile or a physical sign that will tell you "no need to hang around". You will recognise this sign straight away. Don't forget that this person might be feeling like you and persistence in smiles and hello might help them opening up.
    - Smile and look at people straight in the eyes: this will tell the receiver that you are open for discussion. Your all body is open (don't cross your arms). Don't fake your smile, it has to be a true and sincere smile. We are also programmed to recognise when people give you a fake smile. Try this on a day when you feel happy and energised to start with and try to build it up to manage to do it everyday. It will become a habit soon enough.
    - Set mini targets and aim at either speaking to 1 new mum a month or 1 new mum a week, whichever makes you feel comfortable enough to try.
    Slowly you will be so used to doing it that it will be a natural thing to do and then you will be the most popular mum in town!
    I think this might make the topic of my next Monday Coaching tip, because yes I am back!! :)
    I am really looking forward to meeting you at the BMB meeting on Sunday! x

  5. I find my children wonderful conversationg starters, without them im shy and a complete wall flower. I hope you find many more opertunites to meet new people

  6. I can completely empathise with you here. My son is leaving his playgroup at the end of term and I have only got to know 1 or 2 mums. I don't seem to fit in any of the little groups. I'm braving a school trip next week so maybe I'll get to know some more? I've found since making myself to go to the childrens centre and music group I've been a lot better at speaking first, but it is still very hard for me. Hope you continue your chat next time you see her! x

  7. Since my son was about 4m, I've attended our local children's centre groups (at 1st, every day, to help combat PND) as I had been too ill to get our before then. I am naturally shy at first, but force myself to get chatting, I thought, if I don't, I'll feel so isolated in a few months (SAHM). There are lots of mums I chat to, but I have also made actual friends. One in particular I'm so close with, and she's really helping my out with my poor health in my 2nd pregnancy, and has offered to look after my son once a week for 2 months when the new baby arrives! I find catching mum's names really hard (it's the baby's names that are said most often), I would always try to sneak a peek at the signing in sheet at playgroups (that had baby's names too) or ask mums to write down their full name so I could look them upon facebook! (This implied I just needed a surname, or spelling, so wasn't so impolite.)Keep at it,I say stupid things all the time, people don't mind, we're all in the same boat!

  8. It is so hard, I often feel on the edge and assume that everybody is great friends with everyone else. But I reckon a regular smile and "hi" takes you a long way. I think when your kids are very young it's an opportunity to make the connections now. As they get older those opportunities become less. Grab them now and make some friends. :0)

  9. Oh I'm so with you on this...meeting people face to face is just so damn difficult (which is why we're so good at this blogging lark)!! My favourite trick is to go bright red in the face which obviously helps my nerves even more!! And then when I go red all I can do is think about how red I am and so I go even redder. It's just great. And then I either speak too much or talk inanely - oh and btw - that comment you made wasn't inane at all (I would have said the exact same thing)...but hold on - if I'd have said it does that mean it was inane?? Oh I don't know - there you see I'm already talking nonsense and babbling!! But yes, children are always an icebreaker...which is great for Sunday because I'm bringing both of mine!!! Although I'm hoping that tehy won't be too monstrous because I do fancy being able to chat even a little bit!! We'll see. Don't worry about a thing. Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday - so pelased you're coming. Oh and last thing - just noticed your awards - I gave you a 'Your Blog is Fabulous award' and you didn't post it. Don't worry about doing a whole list and tag thing to go with it...but you definitely deserve it - so display it with the others xxxx

  10. Rosie: Thank you - that is very reassuring! I realised yesterday that Rosemary has only been at the new playgroup for about a month, with half term in the middle, so I may well be expecting too much too soon, especially as Chris drops her off as much, if not more than I do.

    Wife of bold: Ooh, did you go? It's funny how our initial impressions of people can be so wrong. I recall one mum at the drop-in I used to go to, who only ever seemed to talk to two other mums and she always seemed a bit stand-offish. One day I said hello and asked her a question (think she was expecting at the time, so probably about the pregnancy) and she completely opened up and we talked every time after that. I think she was as shy as me.

  11. Dancinfairy: I would strongly suggest joining a local NCT group. I didn't do it, and just went to the normal NHS ante-natal classes, which were fine for finding out information, but not very good with the bonding. I know lots of people who have made friends for life (or certainly for pre-school years) with their NCT group. Also, if you have a children's centre near you, they probably do drop-ins for new mums. I used to go a lot when Rosemary was small and, even though I never managed to make outside friends, I did usually have a good chat when there. When you have a baby, or are pregnant, you have a lot of small talk ready-built for you, which does help break the ice (e.g. when are you due, what birth are you planning, do you know what you're having; does he sleep through the night yet, are you having trouble with feeding, is he teething... there's loads of stuff). I just can't follow through and arrange to see people away from the group!

  12. I'll see you on Sunday and I promise to talk to you! And I will sit on you until you talk to me :-)

    Only kidding. I sort of know where you're coming from - except I'm one of the people normally doing the talking. But for some reason I get intimiated talking to the other mums at my son's school. Pre-school is no problem, but school I just don't seem to get anywhere.

    Looking forward to meeting you!

  13. Peggy: Thank you for your very useful tips. I will do my best to follow them! You're right about working from home - I've worked from home for ten years, now, well before Rosemary came along, and it definitely get you out of the habit of talking face to face with people. Most of the work friends I made, were other smokers who I would chat to on the 'smoking bench'. Don't have that anymore! Glad to see you're back in the working saddle. Take it easy and don't try to do too much.

  14. Laura: Thanks. It's true that is much easier to find something to talk about when everyone has children. Otherwise, you have to bring out the weather, or work out if the other person is up to talking about politics!

    Clareybabble: I think two or three is pretty good, really. If there are too many, there's a chance becoming overwhelmed and not having enough time to give to everyone. Two or three good friends, I think, is enough to make you feel secure and get and give enough support.

  15. Allgrownup: Children's centres are great, aren't they? Rosemary and I used to go to ours twice a week, though don't go any longer, as there's only one session she can go to and it's a fair trek and she usually ends up falling asleep on the way home and being up until 9pm afterwards. But I did chat to quite a few mums, there, though never managed to cross into being friends away from the drop-ins. That's lovely that you found a good friend there. It sounds like she'll be a great help when the new baby comes. I did the sneaking a peek at the sign-in sheets trick, too - even then, it took me a fair while to fix some names in my head, but it helps so much to be able to say 'Hi, So-and-so' instead of just 'Hi, how are you?'

    Kelloggsville: Yes, you're probably right that now is the time. Hopefully, Rosemary will be going to the school attached to the playgroup (though there's no guarantee and about 100 new houses just been built in the catchment area), so if we can start now, it will make things easier next September. Maybe I need to get on the committee!

    Emily: I always feel like I'm going red, but apparently I don't. But, even though, I know I don't, I still worry that I do which can make me more tongue-tied. I always find a drink helps loosen my tongue. Unfortunately, I don't think it would be a good idea to have glass of wine before morning drop-off! Can't believe I missed your award. I thought you'd given me one and looked through your posts when I was doing the award post and came to the conclusion that I must have been mistaken. Found it now, though, and popped it in the sidebar. Really don't have the energy for doing the full thing, though. Sorry! Looking forward to meeting you and the girls tomorrow.

    HOM: Oh yes, please do talk to me! How odd that the pre-school mums are fine but the school mums are scary. Looking forward to meeting you, too.

  16. Have a lovely time on Sunday, sorry I won't be there to meet you!

    I must admit I'm terrible, I know people to wave at in the playground and maybe the odd hello, bit of small talk. But I've never gone to the coffee mornings and if I can hide behind my iPhone looking like I'm doing something important all the better. So you're doing better than me xx

  17. Oh I love this post! I was always wondering if I was not very sociable with other mums because I'm not 100% Bristish and always fears of not being totally understood/not understanding/saying something stupid. I find it hard to chit chat about the weather, etc... At playgroups, I just write blog ideas on a notebook ;-)

  18. Liz: I can just picture you standing there with your iPhone! I bet they all think you're very glam and sophisticated and are dying to invite you to their dinner parties, but daren't in case you snub them!

    Fanny: Chit chat is so hard and the weather chit chat is such an English thing. I don't recall people talking about the weather at all when I lived in Spain or France. Writing blog ideas in a notebook! At least you're doing something productive. Last time Chris took Rosemary to a drop-in at the children's centre, he come home and said 'Remind me to take a book next time.' Rosemary was quite happy amusing herself and not really needing much of an eye on her and he couldn't do the whole chit chat with all the mums.

  19. hey you lot of schoolies, stop raining on our parade! It's us home edders who can't socialise, isn't it?!