It’s that time of year. Our kids are headed back to school, some of them for the first time. They may be nervous, scared, excited, or worried – or maybe a combination of all the above. Maybe you’ve heard a few of their fears: will my classmates like me? will she be my friend? will he talk to me?

I know how they feel.

I was a working mom for four years before I quit my job to stay at home. In a lot of ways, it is wonderful and rewarding. In many other ways, it is isolating and lonely. Funny, huh? I am surrounded by my children 24/7 yet I am lonely.

It wasn’t like I was a social butterfly when I was working. I wasn’t meeting up with friends daily for lunch or going out with the girls once a week. But I was busy. I worked 40 hours a week, some of those nights, and when I was home I wanted to spend what little time I had with my family. So friendships were often put on the back burner, unfortunately. I didn’t realize how much I missed and needed female friendships in my life until I was at home all day and had no one to talk to but my children.

In truth, I have one person in my life that I consider a “best friend.” She’s been in my life for 12 years now, and even though we’ve drifted away from each other recently, I will always consider her to be my bestie. She probably knows me the best of anyone on this earth, and that’s a bond neither time nor distance can destroy.

I do have friends, don’t get me wrong. I have a group of girls I get together with once a month. I have girls I socialize with from church. I have women I am friendly with from my son’s sports teams, Mom’s Club, and my neighborhood. Any of those women would most likely be there if I said I needed to talk. They would probably say yes if I asked them to hang out. The problem is that I never do.

This weekend I had some girlfriends over (see, I do have friends) and we were discussing life and friendships. I mentioned how hard I find it to make friends, and one of the girls said “really? I never would have guessed that about you.”

But it is true. Making friends does not come easy to me. I’m always worried about what other people think of me. Will they like me? Will they judge me? Are they going to talk about me behind my back? And while I KNOW that is ridiculous and completely unimportant, I still let those thoughts get in my head and paralyze me. I’m the girl sitting in the back row, smiling and hoping someone will talk to me. I’m the girl standing on the edge of the group, nodding but not participating in the conversation. I’m the girl sitting at home, lonely.

In addition to suffering from social anxiety, I also am proud. I’m too proud to reach out to people and tell them I need help. To admit I’m having a hard time and could really use a shoulder. To admit my kids are driving me absolutely crazy, I fear for my sanity, and could you help me, pleasepleaseplease? To admit I really need prayer.

I don’t know if anyone else is like this, or if it is just me. I will tell you – if you are like me – that most of what we fear is all in our head. No one is going to laugh at us. Most women will say yes if you ask them to lunch or invite them over for a play date. If you’re hanging at the park and you strike up a conversation with a mom that you really click with, I promise she won’t think you’re crazy if you give her your number. She probably was trying to figure out the least non-stalkerish way to give you hers.

Last week my friend Diana invited me to be a part of her Bunco group. I walked into a house of a woman I didn’t know and was faced with 10 women I had never met before.

I immediately wanted to walk back out. I had a total panic moment and contemplated making an excuse so I could leave. But I stuck it out. And you know what? I had a great time. It is never as bad as I think it will be, this making friends. It’s all in my head.

So reach out. Set up a play date. Invite some friends over for a girl’s night. Ask for prayer, or tell a friend you are struggling. I promise you’ll benefit, and so will your friends. We are all in the same boat, fighting the same battles. Remember that when you feel lonely.

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