Thursday, 14 June 2012

Hiding behind my children

Although we usually think of kids cowering behind their parents' legs, I sometimes feel as though it is me who is hiding behind my children. 
It's not that I'm unbearably shy.  But I certainly don't have an outgoing and gregarious personality.   Just like little children hiding behind their parents, it takes me a while to warm up to others and become relaxed enough to be myself around them.  Social situations can be uncomfortable and stressful - I worry about whether I've visited with and chatted to everyone, or if I’ve come across as being unfriendly and austere, and I hope I don’t come across as clumsy or gauche. 
Sometimes, I worry that I am socially awkward.  But, in ways that are both good and bad, having young children provides a way to hide.
In social situations with my children present, I can use my children as an excuse to limit the amount of mingling, chatting and socialising I do.  Having 3 young daughters to care for requires a lot of attention, so it is all too easy to hide behind the requirements of motherhood as a reason for not being more sociable.  The messes to clean up, keeping them busy and entertained so they don’t get out of hand, getting food and drink, making trips to the bathroom, their demands for attention and a platform to speak… a friend of mine calls it ‘kid interruptitis’.  It all takes time and energy away from the efforts I should be making to visit and talk with the others around me. 
And although it is simple enough to shield myself from awkward social situations by using my children as an excuse, I know that I shouldn’t rely on it.  I need to overcome this defence mechanism or I may never develop the social graces and relationship skills that would be of great benefit to me, both personally and professionally.
My workplace recently hosted a family social event, which seemed like a great opportunity to bring everyone’s worlds of work and home together.  I was excited to introduce my family and show how much the kids had grown since I last brought them into the office during maternity leave, and I was really looking forward to meeting the family and children of my colleagues.  It also should have been a good opportunity for relationship building.  But once we were at the group lunch, it felt as though I didn’t really see or talk to anyone at all.  I think my husband and girls did more socialising than me.  We sat with some friends, but it seems like I spent more time getting food and drinks and napkins than actually visiting.   And as families arrived and departed, I was too tense about avoiding any antics or tantrums to stay and mingle with my co-workers.   I hid behind my children.  I missed the opportunity to get to know my friends’ partners or kids, and to nurture relationships with my colleagues.

So even though the busyness of my children can be a welcome distraction for me in social situations, I know that it's something I shouldn't rely on.  Much like we encourage our children to come out from behind their parent's legs, I too will work on developing my social side.  After all, the kids are going to grow up eventually, and then who will I hide behind?

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