Stay-at-home mom with no friends: is that you?

As a stay-at-home mum, perhaps you are feeling disconnected from the real world. For a start, you find that you have more friends on Facebook and other social networking websites than pals whom you can hang out with.

There's nothing wrong with that, especially if the Internet is the only form of social contact available to you.

But you should try hard to develop and maintain healthy friendships as you did before you chose to stay at home to raise your child.

The advantages of cyber relationships are clear. You can be whoever you want to be on the Internet (assuming the other people on the forum haven't actually met you in the flesh).

You can pull out of a friendship whenever you want simply by dropping out of the forum and changing your e-mail address. You don't need to get dressed up, put on makeup or travel anywhere when you socialise in the virtual world. Put that way, cyber relationships are very attractive.

Yet these are also the very reasons why you need to maintain friendships in the real world, too. Human beings are, by nature, social animals.

Making an emotional effort, listening and responding with appropriate body language as well as spoken language when your friends talk to you - these are all essential social skills that are either underused or unnecessary in the virtual world.

So if you're lost in cyberspace, now is the time to get back to the real world. Start off small and take it from there.

Ignore the many reasons why you shouldn't get reconnected: you're always too tired; you feel you don't have anything worthwhile to say; you think your friends will find you boring; you don't have the latest clothes; or you've run out of cosmetics.

That's just your inner voice trying to persuade you to take the easy way out.

Instead, pick up the phone and call a friend. Arrange to have tea without your child in tow if you can find a babysitter, or suggest that both of you bring along the kids

You only need to meet for an hour or so for the first time. That gets you back into the habit of mixing with your pals.

Then, make sure you keep that date. Don't let anything get in the way of it.

So maybe you won't have the most fabulous experience ever, and perhaps it isn't as fun as you thought it would be. But you can be sure it's better than having friendships only in the virtual world.

You'll feel better afterwards, your confidence will be lifted and you'll be glad you made the effort. It also means that, the next time, you won't be so hesitant or feel so ill-prepared for it.

Remember that being a good parent doesn't mean devoting yourself to your child at the expense of your own development. Your little one will much prefer to have a dynamic, sociable and happy mum.

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