How To Deal With Being an Introverted Parent
Being an introverted parent has been a struggle for me. I’ve been feeling very alone on my journey (no pun intended) and completely overwhelmed. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on where this overwhelm came from. So as I was just browsing for inspiration, I came across an article that hit home with me. It highlights two different perspectives on motherhood from two introverted mothers, who have very different hardships with parenting.
I needed to read this to know that I am not alone. Some introvert parents struggle with the physical aspects of raising a child, while for others the emotional aspects are more difficult. But one thing remains the same. It’s extremely hard for an introverted parent to be available to their child 24/7.
It’s hard being an introvert in this society and it’s even harder being an introverted parent. Most people think of introverts as being shy, but it goes deeper than that. Some of us are rather high functioning introverts and don’t necessarily appear shy to the average observer. But interactions drain us and we prefer to spend time by ourselves more often than most. Doesn’t mean we don’t have friends or we don’t spend time with them. We do. We just don’t want to be in contact with them every day.
If you ever wondered if you are an introvert, take the quiz below and find out.
My Personal Introverted Parent Experience
Now that you have a better idea of whether you are an introverted parent, you might have a question.
So how does parenting a child work for an introvert?
To be honest, it doesn’t often work well, especially if you are the stay at home parent with young children. We all know that young children need a lot of interaction and physical contact. But I, just like all introverts, love personal space. I also enjoy having an uninterrupted conversations with my husband. And I enjoy the quiet moments cuddling up with my animals and just vegging out.
But from the moment a baby enters your world, your personal space is invaded. You breastfeed, you hold, you cuddle, you play, you baby-wear and so on and so on. The time with your partner becomes more fragmented and less fulfilling. The world around you becomes significantly noisier, which is difficult for introverts to handle.
If you’re introverted, you can suffer from not having enough time to recharge. In turn, you feel like you have less to give to the people around you. You become irritable, frazzled, and stressed out. Interactions with your children start to feel forced rather than joyous. You simply Burn Out.
I constantly read about how women who breastfeed or have small children don’t want intimacy with their husbands because they feel touched out, and like they have nothing left to give. I didn’t truly understand this until I stopped breastfeeding.
Turns out, the anger and irritation I felt was, in part, due to my personal space being constantly invaded by my son. I felt very happy when someone wanted to hold him or spend time with him. It gave me a moment to just exist, by myself. I really was touched out. The physical closeness and neediness was overwhelming to me and in turn caused a lot of negative feelings.
When Things Got Better for Me
My struggles only recently became easier. My eldest son is 4 and enrolled in a full time preschool program. And this brother is almost 2 and a very independent little gentleman. But it wasn’t easy being pregnant with a very needy 2 year old around. I had a difficult pregnancy and felt sick for most of it. I honestly just wanted to be left alone on the couch and not move until it was time to birth the baby. But a 2 year old doesn’t allow that to happen. He always wanted to be around mama, play with mama, go to bed with mama, take a bath with mama. Not a second alone and not interested in being around his dad either.
So I struggled through my pregnancy and through the first year of my youngest son’s life. Not only was I constantly attached to a baby, but I also had a toddler who felt replaced, jealous, and disconnect from his mother. Which meant that any free time from the baby had to be given to my eldest, or else his whole world exploded. Needless to say, none of this left any time for me to recharge my batteries and feel human. Thus the second bout of PPD (though much less severe than the first time around).
The good news – I survived. The bad news those years of now having the time to recharge left a mark. And that’s why I wanted to share with you some things that you can do to make your life easier as an introverted parent.
How To Take Care of Yourself When You’re an Introverted Parent
So how does an introverted parent make sure that their needs are met and they are able to give to their loved ones?
- Self-care (read my self-care tips for introverts for ideas) has to be a priority for an introvert. You have to make time for it, otherwise you will crash. Your self-care may look very different than self-care for an extroverted person. For an introvert, making sure you have time blocked off for a favorite solitary activity is very important. Do it daily. Step away from your children and do some breathing and practice mindfulness. (If you need a place to get started, check out my Mindfulness Bundle for great book recommendations for short meditation practices)
- Accepting help from others – make sure you have help from your partner or another family member, so that you can have alone time. It may mean that your partner takes the kids out for a shopping trip, playground excursion, or just out to the back yard. You need space away from your children to be able to clear your mind and have resources for them when they need you. Same goes for needing outings by yourself. You may want to take a solitary walk or run. Go grocery shopping by yourself or get a much needed spa treatment of massage. Don’t neglect your needs.
- Scheduling small play dates for your children – keep it to no more than 2 other families. No matter how you cut it, your kids have a lot of energy and a great need to socialize. And as counter-intuitive as it seems, you need to socialize too. So schedule a small play date (I prefer texting my friends), let the kids go wild, while you enjoy the much needed one-on-one interaction with another adult. This will actually be an energizing activity for you.
- Having recharging rituals – whether it’s getting up before your kids, taking time during nap time, or doing this right after the kids go to bed, create a recharging ritual. It can be journaling, drawing, listening to a podcast, watching a short show, knitting, doing yoga, making a schedule for the day. Whatever helps you relax and reconnect to yourself as a person must be practiced daily. Dishes, laundry, scattered toys can all wait. Make sure to prioritize your recharging ritual before doing any of these mundane tasks.
- Having at least one pleasant adult conversation daily – there is no specific topic just that it’s about more than what the kids did and what tasks need to be accomplished. Make sure you have meaningful adult interaction to balance your interactions with kids. Introverts are not antisocial, they just want their social interactions to be deep and meaningful.
Also realize that a lot of the “advice” others give you may not work for you. For example, I didn’t find taking my son to activities to be a pleasant experience for me. The stress of getting a baby ready to be somewhere by a certain time, outweighed any benefits of the activity. So I didn’t bother with my second. And so far, I’ve been much happier.
I also realized that preschool offered the best of both worlds – activities for my son and free time for me. So once my youngest turns 2, he’s heading out to preschool as well.
Be kind to yourself and realize that being an introvert in our world does make life more challenging. And it’s even more challenging being an introverted parent because you have to available 24/7 to another human being. But when you take steps to take care of yourself this task becomes less daunting.
Quote of the day
Mental Health Tip of the Day
When you feel drained by the world around you, take a break. Let someone you trust take care of your baby, so you can relax. Escape into an activity that helps you reconnect with you and helps you be the best you can be.