I have always known I am an introvert. It never really bothered me; it is just the way I am. But being an introvert became a huge obstacle when I became a mom. Becoming a mom has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, thanks in great part to being an introvert. Non-moms (ahem, husbands) and extroverted moms probably won’t understand why being an introverted mom is so hard, so I’m here to enlighten you on behalf of all of us introverted moms.
What is an introvert?
An introvert is someone who probably exhibits these personality traits to a certain degree:1
- You love having time to yourself. It energizes you.
- Your best thinking (and most productivity) occurs when you’re by yourself.
- Surprisingly, you’re an excellent leader, but you don’t necessarily take the lead unless it’s handed to you or no one else steps up.
- You’re the last to volunteer in a group effort; you prefer to take the back seat.
- Other people seek out your advice and opinions.
- Often, you wear headphones or avoid eye contact in public situations (like the gym or on a bus).
- You avoid people who are in bad moods, angry, or upset.
- Prefer to communicate by text or email instead of phone calls.
- You rarely initiate small talk, which may make you uncomfortable.
Of course, not all of these traits will fit all introverts, but you get the idea: social situations are uncomfortable, and we often like to be alone. Some introverts are what psychologists call “extroverted introverts,” which means you’re still an introvert; however, you’re good at and enjoy social interaction in small doses and to a certain extent.2 I fall into that category, and I honestly think one of the reasons I have become more extroverted is because I was so lonely as a mom. I desperately wanted friends who understood what I was going through. Being an introverted mom is a complicated dichotomy.
Why is being an introvert especially hard for moms?
Being an introvert, even an extroverted introvert, is especially hard for moms. Here are just a few reasons why:
We need alone time but get very little. Since becoming a mom, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually had some truly quality alone time. Generally, my alone time consists of running to Target without the kids for a couple of hours on the weekend. I need more time to myself than just a couple of hours vegging out in front of the TV after the kids go to bed (and that doesn’t even count when my husband is home because he’s still there–sorry, hubs). When I want alone time, I really need the house to myself for several hours (or a night in a hotel room by myself; seriously, this is bliss).
It’s hard to ask for help. If being an introvert wasn’t hard enough, being a perfectionist introvert is even worse. I rarely ask friends or family for help when I need it because my inner perfectionist/introvert freak tells me that “good moms” don’t need to ask for help. More importantly, asking for help requires actually talking to someone. On the phone or in person. Or having them come over to your house. Just . . . no.
Having playdates or being at a busy park can be anxiety-inducing. Oh, lordie. Playdates, you all. They make introverts hyperventilate. When I first became a mom, I thought the idea of a playdate for an infant or toddler was the most ridiculous, hilarious, absolutely petrifying idea anyone had ever had. Any situation where I had to be around a bunch of people I didn’t know surrounded by a bunch of other children I didn’t know sounded about as appealing as pulling out all my eyelashes. I couldn’t even fathom it–until I got super lonely and realized that I might actually make friends, and my kid could go nuts for a couple of hours and pass out later. Suddenly, playdates didn’t sound so bad, but they still make me nervous as heck.
Having an extroverted kid drains us. The cruel irony of an introvert having a child is that you have at least a 50/50 chance of ending up with an extroverted child (see also: Tips for parenting an introverted child.). A child that loves to talk (and talk and talk), say hello to everyone, play with friends, and be in your business every minute of every day. This is my daughter, to a T. She is her father’s child–boisterous, outgoing, loud, and full of energy. I am sure I am exhausted ALL THE TIME because I have an extroverted child.
Our productivity plummets when we’re surrounded by people/noise. I don’t think well when I have many people (read: children) going bonkers in my general vicinity. I think it’s more about the noise than anything else for me. When I’m trying to think or do anything productive, it’s challenging for me to concentrate if it’s not quiet. It’s not just “kid noise” I have a hard time with; I can’t focus at a busy cafe or coffee shop either. It’s just the way I’m wired.
What’s an introverted mama to do?
From these examples, you can understand why things can be a little hard for an introverted mom. Would we choose not to have kids so we can be happy little hermits? Of course not (most days). But we must practice self-care to be better mamas to our precious little noise-makers. Here are some of my favorite ways to feed my introverted soul:
1. Find out-of-home child care.
Full disclosure: I am a stay-at-home mom, but I put my kids in Mother’s Day Out twice a week. It seems selfish, I know, but it’s really not. I need those few hours on Tuesday and Thursday to get stuff done and just “be.” I relish that time to myself, even if all I do is catch up on laundry.
2. Institute quiet time every day.
This is also a daily life-saver for me. My four-year-old daughter no longer naps, but she sure as heck takes a “rest time” every day. One of the best things I ever bought was a Tot Clock, which allows me to set a chunk of rest time every day. When I press the right button, the clock turns blue, and my daughter knows she must play quietly in her room until the clock turns yellow again. We also use the Tot Clock to keep our kids in bed in the morning until a reasonable hour. Best. Invention. EVER.
3. Get up a little early to start the day off right.
I’m still working on this one, to be honest. I love my sleep, but getting up an hour before my kids has helped my mental health. Some mornings, I just sit silently and enjoy my coffee while it’s hot. On other mornings, I’ll do a little devotional and pray. Just having that little time before the crazy of the day starts has done wonders for me.
4. Stop feeling guilty.
As a new mom, I spent a lot of time feeling guilty that I felt the need to be alone. I berated myself because I thought any “good mom” wouldn’t feel an overwhelming desire to be away from her children. Once I realized that being introverted was simply the way I was wired, I accepted that I needed to take some time for myself regularly to be the best mom I can be. I had to let that guilt go. You can’t help the way you’re wired, mama.
5. Go on walks.
Even if I can’t manage to go on a walk by myself most days, I can “get away” by wearing my headphones while pushing my kids around the block in a stroller. I listen to my music instead of Disney Princess Radio (kill me now), and I just let my mind wander. If my kids need something, I’ll know from their body language, but for the most part, there’s not much that can happen with them strapped in the stroller for 20 minutes. Plus, you’re getting exercise!
6. Join a gym with childcare.
If exercise is your thing, join a gym with childcare. I love taking the kids to the gym every morning: they get to run around like loonies and get their wiggles out, and I get to fit in a good workout and take a shower ALL BY MYSELF. I’m telling you, showering and getting ready without interruption is worth every penny of my gym membership.
7. Have a glass of wine (or two).
I’m all about transparency, folks, so if telling you that I have a glass of wine every night makes me a bad mom, so be it. I may not get an hour by myself that day, and I may have to share happy hour with my husband, but you all, mama juice time is sometimes the only break I get after a long, hard day, and I don’t care if it’s not diet-friendly. Can I get an amen?
For us introverted moms, finding the right balance between soul-refreshing alone time and taking care of our children, husband, and household (and out-of-the-home job, if you’re a working mom) can be challenging. If you are an introverted mom, please let go of that guilt and do whatever you need to do to be the best mom you can be, even if that means escaping your children for an hour or two. And if you are an extroverted mom, give your introverted mama friends a little grace: if they cancel that playdate or don’t answer your phone call, don’t take it personally. We’ll get back to you once we’ve recharged!