I wish that I knew that I was an introvert before I had children. Because parenting as an introvert is quickly teaching me that I need alone time in order to recharge my batteries.
I didn’t understand there is zero alone time when you have young children who want to be with you every second of the day. Every. Second. Even the bathroom is a shared experience in our house! Alone time, and privacy apparently, can be non-existent here. And whew, do I so desperately need it!
Parenting as an introvert, with little time for a break, and no babysitter or village coming to save me, gets overwhelming. Especially as a SAHM. (That’s “Stay-At-Home-Mom” or as I like to call it “Someone-Anyone-Help-Me.”)
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom (most of the time), but never having my functional requirement of alone time takes #momlife to a whole new level of dumpster fire. Imagine a skittish cat that accidentally drank a gallon of coffee. That’s me some days, trying to exist as an introverted parent with no breaks and a very unregulated nervous system! It’s not pretty.
When I was a full-time preschool and kindergarten teacher, nothing seemed to faze me. A busy classroom of “controlled chaos”? No problem! A million transitions every day? Thumbs up! Nothing going to plan? Roll with it, baby!
So, why does it feel so hard to deal with these same things as a parent?
The thing is, I could be with my students for eight hours and then go home. Alone. And not talk to anyone or do anything I didn’t want to do for the rest of the night. I could read. My students didn’t come home with me and cry about dinner or bedtime or run through my house throwing toys around or asking for a million snacks. If they did, that would be a different problem. Now, the call is coming from inside the house, so to speak. The controlled chaos is 24/7.
I didn’t recognize my own introvertedness because I didn’t realize that eight hours a day was actually not constant chaos. I didn’t know how badly I needed the alone time to recharge.
I also didn’t understand that being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t social.
I like being social! Sometimes. It just really wasn’t clear to me that having children meant you needed to be social all the time. Not just with other parents and families, teachers, crowds, weirdos that want to touch your pregnant belly, or chatty strangers on a playground, but also with your own kids!
They want to talk to you, touch you, and interact with you every second. I love them, so I want that too, but maybe not all day every day. Now I know that the level of togetherness they want isn’t possible for me. I need to get a little bit of alone time each day in order to function.
Unfortunately, alone time isn’t always possible when I’m home by myself with two young kids and one old dog with an anxiety disorder.
Yes, they go to sleep at night, so sometimes that offers a break. On a good night. But to be honest, how many of those “good nights” are there, really? Parents, you know what I’m talking about. Child-free folks, read on and pay attention. What often happens is that one kid falls asleep and another wakes up for a hug or glass of water or just because they “miss” me when they are sleeping. Spending the entire night in their own beds is a bridge we haven’t yet crossed. I have, but they have not. But oh, how that’s a bridge I can’t wait to cross someday.
As bananas as this might sound, I use chores to get a moment of Zen. Alone time is alone time, no matter what the cost. Even if it means hauling wood or doing laundry. Forever. (These chores are basically endless when you’re a parent so this is sort of a plus, kind of.)
I absolutely LOVE stacking firewood so when I am sure my kids are firmly engaged in an activity, I head to the woodpile. It’s my chore that I can do alone while also getting fresh air and exercise. I am still shouting distance from my front door and my kids are safe- and I am blissfully alone. I’ll carry as many loads of wood to my house as possible before the actual shouting of “Mom! Mom! Mom!” starts.
Laundry is another great escape as no one wants to do it except me, and there is something soothing about folding. Putting it away is another story, one that never gets told because I don’t like putting laundry away. But if I get fifteen minutes to stand in the cool air of my basement and listen to a podcast while folding before my kids find me, I’m golden.
Deep breathing can help too, especially if I can tune out the cacophony for a moment. Thank you, headphones, you are the GOAT! (I’ve heard a lot about “noise-quieting” earplugs. If you use these, DM me. I need to know more!)
Parenting as an introvert has taught me a lot about overscheduling.
I felt this immense pressure to plan lots of play dates, attend every child-friendly event, and go to crowded places. All. The. Time. Gotta keep those kids entertained! But when the pandemic shifted things, I realized my kids and I didn’t really miss it all that much. Now that I’ve been adding those kinds of activities back into our schedule again, I’m also making sure I have adequate “alone time” to decompress later on.
My unsolicited advice to all is to figure out if you are an introvert or extrovert (or ambivert!) before having kids. Parenting as an introvert is an extra challenge, but if you know to plan a few “moments of Zen” throughout your day, you can get through it without losing all of your mind. And if you can’t, well, get yourself some earplugs and meet me in the laundry room!
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