Being a new mom with social anxiety can be challenging. New motherhood is exciting and wonderful and life changing. However if you suffered from social anxiety prior to your pregnancy, chances are you will feel socially anxious in your new role as a mother. And there are things you can do to help your social anxiety.
But first, a few words about the general feelings of anxiety you may have…
Realize that any feelings of inadequacy you may have about new motherhood are entirely normal. You are the most important person in your new baby’s life, and he or she is completely dependent on you. Caring for an infant’s needs may not come naturally at first, but it does get easier within the first few days or weeks.
Always remember no mother is perfect, and your new baby will love you, imperfections and all. If you experience severe anxiety or crying bouts that persist or interfere with your ability to function, talk your doctor right away, as it may be post partum depression or post partum anxiety.
New Mom Social Anxiety Help, Tips & Resources
1. If possible, do not make any major life changes in the first few months following the birth of your child.
This includes quitting your job, buying a house, etc.
New moms with social anxiety are highly sensitive to begin with. Since your hormones are fluctuating wildly after childbirth, maintaining a normal routine can really help. As a first time new mom, I not only quit my job, I moved and bought a new house all within the same time period. Looking back, it would have helped my stress level significantly not to have done this all at once. Since hindsight is 20-20 hopefully my mistakes can serve as a warning to you. Take it easy. The new house can wait. Make sure you are ok first, and then everything else will fall into place.
2. Create a support circle for yourself – friends, family, babysitters, and neighbors- that you can rely upon when needed.
As a new mom, you will likely connect with other new moms, whether through your church, from your La Maze or birthing class group, or through online meetups. You are all together because of your new mom status. It is possible that you will like some of the other new moms you meet. You may also come from such diverse backgrounds that you have little in common besides your babies.
Social anxiety can come into play within the new mommy groups for a variety of reasons. Cliques within the groups can start to form, where some moms pair off or gravitate towards one another. A socially anxious mom may not feel at ease within these new mommy groups. To the other moms, she may seem quiet or stand-offish. She may even be judged as being snooty or stuck up.
When I was a new mom, my social anxiety made me feel very awkward. I was not only a new mom, but also a new resident of my town, and newly not working, after 7 years of being employed full time. My work defined me to an extent, and I had to learn how to be comfortable staying at home. Being around these new moms who I didn’t know was hard for me. Some had had careers and some didn’t. Some moms would be returning to work as soon as possible, while some moms would be staying at home indefinitely.
And just like the movie Mean Girls, I felt there were also Mean Moms- I did my best to steer clear of this negativity. I advise you to do the same.
A study of new mommy groups by Fiona Nelson, professor of women’s studies at the University of California found the following:
“Mothers who had little contact with the mommies’ club were more likely to be depressed and stressed,” says Nelson. “Contact with other new moms is a lifeline but one that women can struggle to claim because they do not always see themselves as being like other mothers.” -Source
I knew that it was vitally important to me to meet other moms so I could socialize my baby. So while I suffered with social anxiety, I still went to the ‘Mommy and Me’ groups at 2 local churches each week. It did feel like a lifeline, because I was home alone with my baby all day and this was the only social contact I had with other moms. I wanted very much to be a part of everything, and I wanted to fit in, but somehow I felt I didn’t. I’m not going to sugar coat it- it was hard at times.
Other moms were from the area and new each other, for instance. I didn’t have that luxury. I naturally gravitated towards other moms who were also new to the area. Some moms were neighbors, so they had that in common. I didn’t have any mommy neighbors. The 2 church groups were pretty large, and this was a bit intimidating for me as well.
So while new mommy groups aren’t perfect, try to see them for what they are: a way to get out and feel somewhat connected to other moms. Get involved, show up at the get togethers and meet ups, try to find moms you have things in common with, and above all, try not to take the whole thing too seriously.
3. Remember to take time away from baby.
It’s easy to get lost in your role as a new mom, especially since your baby is dependent on you. But a socially anxious mom needs to have time away from her baby. Hire a babysitter or call on a relative to have time away from your baby just for yourself. It can help you feel more balanced. I remember once I just wanted to go to a bookstore- alone- and browse and spend a few hours there. It felt wonderful!
I remember when my daughter took afternoon naps, this was a time when I would catch up with friends on the phone. I was really lonely in my new house, and talking to my friends helped me feel connected to other people.
It was also nice once in awhile to use the babysitter or a relative and have a date night with my husband. Usually all we did was talk about the baby, but still it was nice to get dressed up and go out to dinner once in awhile.
4. Talk to your doctor if the stress of being a new mom becomes overwhelming.
Since I already had been diagnosed with anxiety, I worked closely with my psychiatrist during the post-partum phase. It was hard logistically, but I made sure to keep my appointments every 2 weeks to meet with him. We also had a phone consultation on the weeks in between appointments, just to make sure I was ok.
This helped me just knowing I was being cared for by a professional, and my doctor was also available to me via phone in case I felt overwhelmed. That was important too.
I didn’t have to call very often, in fact I only had to place one emergency phone call to him (I was having a really bad panic attack in my kitchen while my baby was asleep). Just knowing he was available to me “Just in case” made a huge difference to me.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with anxiety prior to giving birth, or know you have social anxiety, make it a point to have a therapist’s number on hand. (for more information, see: Getting Treatment for Panic Disorder). You may also choose to book some therapy in advance so you can have someone to talk to and reason things out with as you work on your social anxiety in your role as a new mom.
Social anxiety help is a process that requires that you work to have a balance between being with your baby alone, being with your baby with others, and being alright without your baby.
Prepare yourself as much as possible prior to giving birth, join new mom groups, and work with your doctor if you feel overwhelmed with social anxiety.
And remember, it doesn’t feel like it at the time, but new motherhood goes by way too quickly. As much as you can, work on your anxiety, and cherish the moments, both the good and the not so good. With time and practice new mom social anxiety does get easier.
JC. “Postpartum Anxiety: The Lesser Known Sister of Postpartum Depression.” Associated Content. 12 May 2008.
I wish you peace,
ps.- If seeing a therapist isn’t for you, you can work on your social anxiety with a self-treatment program. I have had a lot of success with and recommend Social Anxiety Secrets by Dr. Todd Snyder. Click here to learn more.