Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to survive as an introverted parent.

Since a couple of people asked to talk about how to survive as an introverted parent, I thought I'd share my (admittedly limited) experience from the past 6.5 years. I'll be even more inclined to call it "advice" if I survive the next 6.5 years! Until then, we'll just call it musing. ;oP

Here are things I've learned the hard way:

-marry an extrovert. ;P They have more relational energy at the end of the day. (I say this only half jokingly; Nate and I are both introverted, and while we understand with a good deal of sympathy each other's need for space and quiet, it makes it harder when we're spread thinner. :P)

-be frank with your children about what it means to be introverted, tell them that you like them a lot, and make sure they understand that "needing quiet" is just your way of recharging. My oldest daughter needs a lot of alone time, too, and is actually really understanding when I tell her that I need a little space to gather my thoughts.

-leave the kids at home with daddy. One of my friends put it to me this way (and I happen to wholeheartedly agree): Dads don't babysit. They parent. It's not an imposition to ask a parent to spend one on one time with their own child. Take advantage of your spouse's ability to supervise your kids, if you have a spouse. If not, grab the nearest and dearest person you can, promise to bake them a nice pie or something in exchange for cooperation, and leave your kids for a few hours. It doesn't even have to be daily; one afternoon or night a week seems to be enough to do the trick.

-Quiet Hour. It's hallowed and sacred in our home, because mommy is not a very nice mommy when it's not honored. People who can't say their ABCs are exempted and instead placed in a tub full of some sort of sensory gook that entertains them for a while. People who cannot talk at all nap during this time. :P

-Outdoor play. Most neuro-typical kids become quieter, less clingy and totally engrossed in their own world when taken outside. We spend a LOT of time outside when the weather is nice, thus lowering the overall noise level.

-Buy your reading children as many books as they care to devour. If they're not into fiction, give them encyclopedias and how to manuals. Sell your hair if you have to. Give the talkative child unlimited access to decent literature.

-When you feel like tossing your clingy child across the room, hug them closer. Consider this an investment. I've caused both myself and my touchy feel-y child needless hours of agony by avoiding her rather than gritting my teeth and spending that agonizing 15 minutes she needs. Not worth it. Suck it up and do the interaction, even if you're brain dead, and your child will be able to move on more quickly. It's OK to fake it...even forcing yourself to fake it comes from a place of love. ;)

-Don't over-commit. Especially if you're a relational introvert, don't commit yourself to more interaction outside your family than you can handle. A couple of outings a week seems to be my limit as a mom of smalls, unless, of course, I'm just hiding in a corner of a coffee shop with a book by myself. I have a few close friends that aren't counted as "outings", because they're more like family. Which brings me to....

-DO cultivate friendships with people who you connect with, who you trust with your children, and who do not wear you out. If you're an introvert blessed with an extroverted child (God help you), having trusted friends who are willing to chat and read and play with your little ball of relationship will become invaluable to you (and your child). I may be exhausted the end of the week, but grandma or my best girlfriend who doesn't yet have children might be delighted to read a bedtime story to my chatterbox. And I'm delighted to LET them. It really does take a village.

-Feel free to decline random interaction. If I'm running on "low", energy-wise, and I know I still need to give a little for my kids, I don't make it a point to carry on a detailed conversation with Betty Sue Shopper at the grocery store. Even though I cringe as I say it, I'm learning to say, "You know, I don't really have time to chat right now. Have a great day!" I don't always have to answer the phone or go to the door or respond to the email right away, if it's not pressing.

-Be reasonable with myself about how much alone time is actually attainable at this point. Right after my firstborn entered our lives, I was absolutely gob-smacked by the loss of my "alone" world I'd had my whole life. I seriously grieved it. I spent quite a lot of time intensely angry over the fact that I was never. ever. alone. Gradually, though, my kids become part of my new "normal", and I find myself less uptight over the fact that they're constantly present. They've kind of entered my inner sanctity bubble, in some ways (out of necessity) more than even my spouse, especially when they're nurslings. It helps me to remember that this chapter of life is fleeting, and they won't be so close to me in physical and emotional proximity forever. I have hugely conflicting feelings about this, of course. ;oP Nothing's easy come or easy go for me, and I'm already bracing for the grief that their absence will bring, once they're ready to try their proverbial wings.

That's pretty much what I've got tonight. Others feel free to post ideas in the comment section! :O)


  1. thank you for this! Nice to hear someone affirming how we do things and to hear some good advice :)

  2. love this post- thank you! this is a daily struggle for me. I am learning not to feel guilty for taking time alone- rather embracing it. I always enjoy your posts!

  3. What a perfect articulation of what is my world as an introverted parent to at least two seriously E-extroverted children.

  4. I really appreciate this post. It reminds me to just find alone time if I need it and to stop feeling bad about it. Thank you.

  5. Excellent post. I'm sorry I did not respond sooner. My time to gather my thoughts and read stuff is limited. I really do like your list and am making a list for myself. One thing I have on it is emergency evacuation...throw a cartoon in for the kids and get myself to the bathroom or bedroom with a book/chocolate/whatever will work for the moment to take a few minutes to regroup.