My toddler rushes to the playground as soon as it catches her eye. She already seems to have forgotten that I exist. I settle down on a bench close by. Finally, I can think a whole thought without interruption. As my mind starts to wander, I catch another mom looking at me.
It must be her daughter that’s playing alongside mine, I think. She starts walking my way. Usually, I’d brace myself for the inevitable small talk to follow: "They grow up so fast, don’t they?" she might say. Or maybe she’d say something about the wonderful weather we’ve been having, or make a comment on how easy it is for kids to make friends. I know she’s probably looking to connect with someone who knows her situation. Being a mom — especially if you stay at home — can be incredibly lonely. I know, I get lonely too.
But I don’t want to connect, at least not today. Today, I want to retreat into the quietness of my own mind. I want to have a thought that isn’t interrupted with someone else's. So, I hold my phone to my ear and pretend to talk on the phone, hoping she’ll just go away.
You might be thinking I’m not very friendly, or perhaps even completely antisocial. I mean, what harm could it do to chat up a stranger at the park? It wouldn’t take much of my time to be a little friendly, right?
But I don’t want to be friendly. I just want to be alone. Oh how I wish I could be completely alone. But I can’t. Being a mom is more than a full-time job. It’s non-stop caring for little humans, who talk, yell, screech and do anything else to make sure they have your attention 24/7. It’s rarely having your mind to yourself.
But right now, at the park, my daughter is happy without my attention. She isn’t telling me to look at her, or making me pretend that I’m actually good at playing pretend; she’s playing without me. My mind is free for a couple of minutes, and it’s the first time all day. No offense, but I don’t want to spend this time listening to someone else's thoughts and nodding in agreement. I don’t want to talk about the weather we’ve been having, or listen to someone ramble on about their kid. I just want a couple of minutes to think about a news story I read, what I’m going to cook for dinner or who got killed on The Walking Dead.
And yes, I went out in public and should know that other people might approach me, but I shouldn’t be expected to socialize. I came to the park so my daughter could play and talk to other kids. I’m trying to get her needs met, even though being around people is the last thing I want to do.
I’ve known for a long time that not everyone is wired like me. Some people are extroverted and get a boost of energy from social situations, but I quickly wind up drained. I’m an introvert and I need to take breaks from socializing to recharge.
My daughter, on the other hand, seems to be an extrovert. If she had her way, I’m sure she’d talk my head off from sunrise to sunset. Many days my energy levels are near depleted by noon. I know that I cannot fulfill her social needs alone. So, I take her to the park, because she deserves to spend time in a place where she’ll meet other kids, maybe even make a friend or two, even on the days I don’t feel like making friends with all the other mommies.
Sometimes I wish I were more like those more extroverted moms who look forward to socializing with the other parents at the park. Being a stay-at-home mom gets lonely, even for an introvert like me. If I weren’t so drained already, I too might look forward to making a new friend or two. Maybe in a few years when my daughter wants a little less attention from me, I’ll have the energy to talk about the weather, or how fast kids grow up, or to attentively listen to stories about someone else’s kid.
But for now, I’ll just keep pretending I’m on the phone until the other moms leave me alone.
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