Before I had kids, there was no one who would describe me as anything other than an extrovert. I went out all the time, I was social as could be, sometimes I even danced on tables if I’d had enough juice. But then becoming a parent turned me from an extrovert into an introvert.
The truth of the matter is that there has always been an introvert hidden inside me. As outgoing as I might seem, the side of me who needs to go back home, be alone and refuel after being with people has always existed. It’s just that before kids, I had the energy to go out and be social because alone (refueling) time was so plentiful to me.
I could say no to any number of invitations and read a book instead. I could use an entire Sunday (after going out Friday and Saturday nights) to watch a Sex and the City marathon and just chill and recharge.
Now I have two little people who need me all the time. Pretty much 24/7. They’re always in my space – in fact I have no space I can claim that they will not come into, including the bathroom. They say mom and mommy and mama at a rate and velocity that would drive Gandhi bat-shit crazy. They need, need, need something all. The. Time. Their voices (and their fighting) ring in my ears constantly. Parenting is chaos and chaos is draining.
What I’ve found is that parenting is the quickest way to convert someone with plenty of extroverted tendencies into an introvert. My energy is always sucked dry and so the amount of time and energy I have to be social is practically nonexistent. I just feel completely drained.
It’s not your fault. It’s not that I don’t want to be around you. It’s that I need to carve out some time and space to be alone and do whatever recharges me. And that’s really, really hard right now while my kids are young. I don’t have free time. I have to MAKE it, and that often means saying no to going out or hanging out.
I had no understanding of this when my first child (now 9) was a baby and toddler. I just couldn’t understand why it was so hard for me. Why I felt so drained all the time. And I think my husband was very confused because he didn’t think I was the person he’d married anymore. Where were the nights out drinking and laughing with friends? Where were the drunken game nights at home? Where was the desire to even invite people over?
Gone, that’s where. Gobbled up by parenting. That’s how parenting turned me from an extrovert to an introvert.
It was only recently that I realized having introverted tendencies was what made parenting harder for me than for some others. I don’t get energy from socializing, from being around people, from being needed – in fact, quite the opposite.
By the time my son would go down for his nap, I would just collapse in a chair – too drained to do all the housework, blogging work, phone calls and other things that needed to be done.
My head buzzed with anxiety and panic from hearing mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy all the time. From being needed all the time. From being WITH someone all the time.
I hope it goes without saying that I love these two boys more than anyone on the face of the earth. But I think it’s important to draw the distinction between parenting as an extrovert and parenting as an introvert. It can help some of us stop feeling so guilty and like something is wrong with us.
In fact, I highly recommend these two books. I’m reading them right now and they really help you understand (for yourself and for your introverted children) how underutilized the power of introverted people is because our society puts so much emphasis on the extroverted personality type. Both are very interesting and very useful. I have an introverted child so I’m reading these for myself and for him.
It’s been hard now that I have two boys to realize that it’s okay to feel this way. It’s part of my nature. Being with other people as an introvert is giving to those people. While it can be very pleasant and even fun, it drains something out of you while the extrovert next to you (my husband) is getting energy from the interaction.
So I just wanted to say to you introverted moms, who are suffering and wondering what’s wrong with you and why parenting is so hard for you – this is it. I haven’t solved the problem but I do have some suggestions that I TRY to follow and you can too.
1. I try to take the 30 minutes before my kids come home from preschool/school all to myself. I don’t always do this successfully because often I’m frantically trying to finish something, but when I do manage to do it, the rest of the afternoon with the kids goes much more smoothly because I’ve recharged a bit and now I can do homework with them, catch up on their days, separate them during fights and make dinner without totally losing my shit. And I hate losing my shit.
2. Don’t be afraid to say no to social events. I hate hurting peoples’ feelings by saying no but the truth of the matter is that I know my limits. If I’m as drained as I am, I’m going to come to your event with a sour face and have little to say. Then what kind of impression am I going to leave? I’ve been at events before that I felt pressured to attend and I’ve literally had to escape to the bathroom and chill out until someone knocks on the door. #introvertproblems
Just remember, the kids will get older, it will get easier and you will be able to find the energy to go back out again.
3. Explain this to family and friends. Tell them what it means to be an introvert. Most people thinks it means you’re shy. It doesn’t. I think if more people understood that it’s about how you get your energy, they would be more understanding, and maybe even try to help. Maybe grandma would grab those babies a little more often and take them to a movie so you could have a little time to not only wash the clothes and clean the kitchen but even curl up and read a book for 45 minutes uninterrupted. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
So that’s how parenting turned me from an extrovert into an introvert. I’m hoping to slide back to the middle sometime soon as my kids are getting older – and I try really hard to give as much as I can now socially, because I do want to see friends and I do want to go out with my husband (who could go out every single night, seriously). It’s all about finding some kind of balance. I haven’t found it yet, but at least I understand more about why I feel off-balance and some ways I can help make it a little easier.
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