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David Baxter PhD

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Opening Up Tips for Shy Moms
By Stephanie Elliot

Motherhood comes with all sorts of new challenges, from learning to care for your newborn to dealing with postpartum emotions, feeding obstacles, and lack of sleep. One of the biggest challenges you might have is finding a support system of other moms as you grow into your new role as a mother.

Perhaps you held a full-time job before you had your child and now you're working part-time. Maybe you've quit work altogether and are feeling alone and unsure, with no support other than your family. It's important to find friends who can understand what you are going through and be there when insecurities arise. It's also comforting to have mom friends who can share the joys you experience as a new mother.

Eight years ago, Kelly Vesey, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, was newly married and working two jobs in a city where she didn't know anyone. Soon after, she became pregnant. When her daughter Shannon was born, Kelly was thrilled to be a new mom but didn't know how or where to meet other moms. "I was feeling a bit unsure of myself in my new role, and a bit lonely. I needed advice and called a woman whose husband worked with mine, and whose son was a little older than Shannon. She put me in touch with a new mom's group," said Vesey, now a seasoned mother of three with another on the way. The group met every week, and many of the moms have remained close, while friendships have formed between the children as well.

If you tend to be shy, Jennifer Trannon, of Naperville, Illinois recommends you ask a mother you'd like to befriend specific questions about her child. "Ask how old she is or where she found that cute dress," said Trannon, who is a mother of three. "Women love to talk about their children and it's a good ice-breaker. Then, if there's a connection, the conversation will keep going on to other things."

Participating in a hobby you enjoy will also give you the opportunity to meet others who already have something in common with you. Try a yoga class, scrapbooking, or join a book club. National organizations such as MOPS, Mothers & More or International MOMS Club also allow you to meet mothers in casual and friendly settings, while offering unique programs for moms and children.

Shy moms can also get involved in their child's school as a way to meet others. "Volunteering to help out on a committee gives you immediate reasons to interact with other moms, and a way to get to know them," said mother of three, Amy Garvey, of Yardley, PA.

Other places to meet moms include your pediatrician's office, churches, libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, toy stores, children's clothing stores, parks, and playgrounds.

Dr. Leah R. Jackman-Wheitner, Ph.D., psychologist, life coach with Life Design Concepts, and author of the upcoming book 5 Steps to Greater Confidence, says she was an incredibly shy child. "I wanted to have a lot of friends, but didn't know how to get friends or talk to people," said Jackman-Wheitner. "Over time, I learned to act friendly and made friends."

Jackman-Wheitner, who is also a mother of two daughters, offers a few suggestions on how to overcome shyness and be comfortable in new situations:
  • If you are shy, don't change your personality--change your mindset and accept that it's okay to be shy.
  • Open up to people, and be honest about how you feel in particular social situations. "Tell people that you are shy and that handling this situation is challenging. If you join a mother's group, for instance, the first time someone asks, 'How are you?' tell them, 'I'm so glad to be here, but I always get a bit uncomfortable when I don't know many people.' The outgoing among the group may just take you under their wing if you let them know. They'll make sure you get to know people."
  • Reach out to others who appear shy. "Act as if you are the host. Act as if your role-your job-is to make sure that everyone has a great time. You wouldn't want anyone to feel as uncomfortable as you used to feel. So reach out to the wallflowers! Get them involved," suggests Jackman-Wheitner.
Remember, every mother has been a new mom once, and many probably felt a bit insecure and in need of companionship from someone who has experienced similar feelings. The next time you're at the grocery store and notice a mother with a newborn, take into account your feelings the first time you took your baby out shopping and reach out to her. You may be giving a new mother a much-needed boost in her self-esteem. And you never know, she may even become one of your closest friends.
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