It’s something that is rarely talked about in the parenting world. Sure, being overwhelmed with a new baby, or toddler tantrums is pretty normal and a topic most people can relate to-it takes a lot of time, you lose sleep or just peace in your day and it’s exhausting. Sleep fixes these things. But no one ever talks about the dirty little secret of parenting if you’re an introvert- sometimes, it’s really hard to just be WITH your kids, especially if they are extroverts themselves.
Sure at work, you can choose to be on your own, close your office or cubicle door, stick in headphones, or excuse yourself from a conversation that is just too much. Eventually those things end. But as a parent we have to be on 24-7, no excuses, no sick days, no leaving them alone. Extroverts have it easy. Being around other people recharges your batteries, makes you happy, gives you a little ‘lift’- so the near constant chatter that extroverted kids make just makes you smile and you go on with life. If you need something else, just head out… anywhere there are people! But introverted parents have a double edged sword. We all love our kids… but sometimes being around your kids is just too much to take. However any mention of this out loud or online immediately gets the swift hammer of judgment. How DARE you not want to be around your kids? You need a break? Why? Don’t you love your kids? I mean everyone gets needing a ‘girls night’, adult time to recharge and have fun, but the opposite, when you just want to be on your own and rest is seen as selfish, and potentially makes you a bad mother. One blogger mentioned wanting a kids free mother’s day a few years ago and she was crucified in the comments for fairly innocent remarks.
I could really relate to what she was saying, though. As a stay at home mom, I’m raising my own sanity’s enemies and destroying my sense of self-preservation. My kids are ‘on’ the entire time they are awake. Even trying to get my oldest on an art project, she will LOUDLY talk herself through every single step, if she puts on 100 stickers to a paper, she will debate all 100 stickers out loud with herself, sigh, flop, etc for each one. She needs to work through things out loud and I need her NOT to! Nap time used to be when I could take a deep breath, close my eyes, listen to calming music, read, or do any number of things that would instill peace to last until my husband would come home in the afternoon! As they age out of needing naps, getting that small gasp of fresh air in the middle of the day is almost impossible. Their volume and constant need to make noise means that younger siblings rarely get to nap either. So as a now pregnant mom who really NEEDS to at least sit with feet up for a few minutes, this behavior (while normal for them) is torture for me. A toddler missing a nap now and then isn’t horrible. A toddler not getting to nap with a pregnant mom who never gets to rest is a recipe for disaster when it comes to mom’s mental health. I miss that peace and quiet.
With older kids comes additional activities that literally put a body ‘out there’ with other people. Sometimes on a daily basis. Story time, running out of milk, sports, and so on just add a double whammy. Because with extroverted kids comes noise, and judgy-mcjudgertons that want to see and not hear kids. Take the almost unbearable level of noise that kids make anyway, add people tut-tutting, glaring, and muttering out loud at you, as well as well-meaning others telling you to enjoy every single minute and it’s an introverted person’s worst nightmare. You’re suddenly forced to shush your kids, not just for your peace, but for the peace of others. Which means you’re adding your own voice. Needless to say your own RAISED voice so your kids can hear you over their constant bickering, singing, humming, mouth noises, and on and on. Guess what happens next? Everyone swivels toward you again, this time judging you for shushing your child. As an introverted parent raising extroverted children, you really just can NOT win.
I’ve had moderate success recharging by sitting the kids at the table (safely) with crayons or art projects and going and folding clothes in another room, but the bickering often takes precedence and my well-intentioned break is gone. Playing happy music sometimes helps, but what I really need is ALONE time–which is in short supply. On rare days when my husband is home, I don’t have pressing chores, the toddler is in bed, and the other kids are happy enough to play while daddy does his thing (talk about hard to pin down!) AND I’m not exhausted, I take off to do things like return library books, drop by the post-office, and so on. Things I can do without needing to do TOO much talking if I don’t want to. I also find solace in those things I have done before, listen to my own music, read, or blog, but that’s rare too. I wish I had more answers, but I’m muddling through the best I can.
Do you have introverted tendencies? Does this cause you grief if you stay at home with your kids? Are they introverts or extroverts?
I wish I knew what to tell you. I was a fairly introverted mom, but I only had the one kid, we lived in the middle of nowhere and my social life pretty much consisted of work and home. I don’t know how I would have dealt with your situation. My mom was much more in your shoes. Three kids 16 months apart, then more a bit more spaced out until there were six of us. I was the oldest and when she needed a break, I was put in charge. That started when I was about 10, though I was changing baby diapers, washing dishes and picking up after the other kids when I was about 7-8. We all had to go to be EARLY and there was no arguing about it. If we weren’t sleepy, we could read in bed, but we were not to leave our rooms. That gave her a little alone time to paint or sew or just watch TV unbothered. My dad wasn’t around much in those days (he was a radio reporter and general manager and worked odd hours), but he backed her up 100%.
I don’t have advice, either. I can sympathize to an extent, but I have not been there. It sounds very overwhelming, and with the added physical and mental things that go on while you’re pregnant, even more difficult.
For awhile, maybe a year or so, we had the kids head for their rooms at 8:30 PM (we go to bed at 9) so we could have half an hour of time for the two of us in the living room. It didn’t work out all that well, I didn’t like doing it and we stopped.
Of course now we don’t HAVE any kids around and there’s a lot of quiet. I don’t like that either. 🙂