We all have our own parenting style. Sometimes it takes you some time to figure out what yours is but once you do, lean in and do you! Taking care of yourself helps you be prepared to take care of your kids.
Never has a personality trait resonated so deeply with me. Being an introvert is so uniquely and completely me that I wish I knew about it sooner. There were clear signs throughout my life that I was always this way, but I didn’t truly realize I was one until I became a parent. It just wasn’t something that affected me much until I had children. Sometimes I had anxiety after being social, or grew really irritable around others, but I always seemed to have the alone time afterwards to counterbalance. My energy could pick back up and I could feel at my best again.
And then came babies.
I was in a slap happy fog of sleepless nights and fresh from heaven baby snuggles with our first. We had such a warm reception from family and friends when she was born. It was so supportive and wonderful, but as the crowds left I felt more drained than I already was. I started putting a little sign up, “No visitors today please.” I also turned my phone off. It was magical. I started feeling more hopeful and present with my baby and husband. I was still tired. So tired. But just my body, as my mind felt well rested. Then came other festivities such as the baby blessing, baby shower, and other community ‘baby and me’ type classes. I felt like I was hit by a train after these social gatherings. There was so much noise and pressure to get out and socialize and be with other moms, but yet I felt so much worse off doing it. Instead of feeling supported and connected to others, I left feeling absolutely frazzled and exhausted. I became so much more negative and irritable with each social gathering.
I’m not sure exactly what all the details were the moment I discovered it. I initially thought I had social anxiety that would happen only post social interaction. Introvert tests and information started popping up in my internet searches. Each time I read something about introversion it was exactly how I felt. Being around people, most especially people outside my own little family, deeply drained me.
I was most definitely an introvert.
I started just cutting what little things I could socially. Play dates, classes and other social engagements. There really wasn’t a lot to be cut, but I felt immediate results. Solitude, even still with a babe in tow, was my battery charger. It was a game changer in my new life as a stay at home mommy. Though, when naptime dropped and a new baby came, I had to try to cut out even more due to energy depletion. And now with 3 kids, I have to prioritize that much more what outside people time I can muster. I’m almost always a no to any social get-togethers. It’s been a struggle. I often wonder if I’m offending anyone somehow or seeming cold, distant, or unreliable. But there is one thing I’ve come to know and value more than anything:
My family deserves the best of me and not the rest of me.
Every time I say yes to a social engagement I am saying no to my husband and kids. Fake it as I may with them afterwards, I can’t hide my agitation, overwhelm, and absolute exhaustion. And it’s not fair. Not fair for me or for them to give my energy to outsiders when I desperately need it to love and nurture these precious beings. I need my energy to feel my true self.
Taking care of little ones is fatiguing, but figuring out that I’m an introvert has actually helped alleviate some of that exhaustion by being more proactive. I’m able to look more closely at my days and decipher my needs of solitude. It’s taken a lot of breakdowns on my part, but I’ve finally been able to navigate in a way that gives what I need to truly thrive.
10 minutes a day of Daddy time with the kids does wonders. It’s easy with multiple children to get caught up in tag teaming and splitting off responsibility. “You get this one in jammies and I’ll get the other 2.” But for me it doesn’t matter if it’s 1 child or 3, it’s still very taxing to be totally responsible for bodies other than my own 24/7. No matter how much I love them. My husband takes complete responsibility of the kids while I lock myself in a back room. I read, write, pray, nap, watch Netflix, anything that gives me that recharge. Some days I get a lot longer and some days I’m not able to get it at all, but eventually it balances out.
As for the outside exchanges, there are different things I do to limit socializing. I usually try to do outings and errands weekday afternoons. Playgrounds seem more deserted and grocery stores too. I’ve found limiting my social media use has also been a big help. Committing too early to social engagements seems to really affect me, so I don’t commit to anything until it’s closer to the date and I can see what sort of energy I have.
I know this is just a phase of life. Someday my children won’t be home with me all day and will all have grown to school-age. I will have loved and relished in every second of their littleness in being home with them despite the exhaustion. I will bawl at my last child’s first day of school. An end to a most cherished era. I will be sad, but I will also bask in the quiet. My energy will start to fill. Then, perhaps, I will call up a friend and we’ll do a much needed years-in-the-making catch-up on eachothers’ lives.
For now though, I give myself the space and solitude needed to raise these darlings and be the happiest I can be as an introvert parent.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.