January 19, 2016

Parenting as an Introvert


A few years ago, a friend of mine commented that, as an extrovert, having an introverted child was one of the most difficult things she'd experienced in her life.

I fall on the opposite end of the scale – I’m definitely an introvert.

Almost all of my favorite activities are solitary ones – reading, cooking, photography, blogging, and listening to audiobooks.

I enjoy being around other people, but I prefer small groups to big parties, and I have to really prep myself for social events (and I’m always glad to come home afterward and spend some quality time with my Kindle). Solitary time is what is the most recharging and energizing for me.

So parenting small children can be challenging, because it is exhausting to spend so much time around people, even people I love as much as my little girls. The constant chatter and interaction and requests can really drain me quickly if I’m not careful.

Over the years, I’ve picked up some tricks to keep myself from going insane and getting some of the recharging I need to be a somewhat decent parent.

Here are five of my favorite:

  1. Quiet time. Have I mentioned this ten million times? I think every new parent immediately starts dreading the day when their child gives up naps. How will you survive when you no longer have that afternoon break? Ella hasn’t napped since the late summer of 2013 and Ani gave up her naps at the end of last summer, but they both do two hours of quiet time every afternoon while Star naps (I wrote extensively about how we do quiet time in our house here, if you need ideas).
  2. Train your child to give you a few minutes of peace when you need it. Sometimes, when I can feel my patience fraying and locking myself in the bathroom seems a bad idea, I tell my girls, “I need to sit on the couch and look at my book for 10 minutes.” I’ll get out a stack of books, and they know that their job is to entertain themselves while I sit by them and read (or close my eyes) for a few minutes. Occasionally I set the timer, but it’s become less necessary as they’ve gotten used to how it works.
  3. Leave the house. I find that if we go to a park, the change of scenery helps all of us. They are excited about having some room to run around and be loud, and the noise and chaos doesn’t require as much of my energy.
  4. Find a friend to swap kids with. If you have a friend with children of similar ages, consider swapping kids once a week or every few weeks so you each have a chance to run errands alone or just have an hour or two to yourself. Plus, I’ve found that when my children have new friends to play with, they are happier and less prone to begging for attention (and I get a break from playing blocks on the floor or coming up with different voices for all the dolls).
  5. Have a set bedtime and then be serious about it. My girls go to bed at 7:30 p.m. every night and knowing that’s the deadline helps me be patient and pleasant as the afternoon wears on. Also, nothing is more frustrating to me than when getting them in bed stretches out over an hour or more, with last requests for a drink of water, or one more kiss, or… (well, you know the drill). We do everything before the lights go out – a trip to the bathroom, drinks of water, and hugs and kisses (as well as saying, “Here’s a hug from Mom! Here’s a hug from Dad!” so they know they got them and aren’t suddenly convinced they missed them once they are tucked in) – and then we shut the door. In the last month, the girls have started losing their good habits (argh!) and so we've been really serious this week about retraining them and when everyone was in bed in five minutes, I remembered why it's worth the effort to make sure they go to bed and stay in bed. 
How do you balance being an introvert and a parent?

23 comments:

  1. Oh man. Sometimes I don't. My three boys are VERY LOUD and VERY PHYSICAL, so in addition to the noise issue, I feel like there is always someone touching me. Personal space is kind of an issue for me, so I'm pretty firm about the "Your toys do not need to be on my body," enforcement. (Seriously. They have a whole house. WHY is the truck driving on my arm?)

    My kids have a strict bedtime, too. Also, we don't do quiet time (a foreign concept to my kids, I'm afraid), but we do live on several acres and I will without guilt put them right out the door when their behavious warrants it. If they start to get too nuts and all up in my face, their boots go on and they go out the door, don't care what the weather is like. Of course, I can't do this with the baby (yet), but it works well with the 6- and 3.5-year-old.

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    1. You might want to take into consideration that pushing your children out the door that it can lead to long term abandonment issues. Better to try the quiet time.

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    2. I completely understand the noise and physical aspect of boys..I have 4 boys and send them outside every day for 1 hr before lunch (we homeschool so they are with us every day-no regrets) and then they have 2 hrs of quiet time in the afternoon. They need that outside time to physically work out their energy and then have the time in the afternoon to play or work on their own projects independently. I honestly don't believe that by sending kids out to play by themselves creates feelings of abandonment in children. Please so not feel bad for sending your boys out to play..it's good for all parties involved :)
      - Heather

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  2. Very well written full of some good ideas! I agree that parenting as an introvert definitely has its challenges. I don't have any new ideas to add - just wnted to say I agree and thanks!

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  3. I'm an extrovert and I had almost exactly the same techniques - a strict bedtime, quite time every day and 10/20 min 'pauses' when things got just too much - and yes, the atmosphere of the park or even just a walk really can take the pressure off: and remind us how much we love them even as we yearn for our own fingertips. xx

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  4. YES! Such good ideas. We are very strict with bedtime, and my daughter is still napping thankfully, but quiet time is definitely in the future. It's interesting how this was NEVER a thought I had before having children but it's so true that being around ANYone all day, even my favorite kiddos, can be very draining.

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  5. I'm not a true introvert because I love social interactions. I recharge in small groups better than large ones. But I recharge alone at home as well.

    But I get you on the being with your children all the time (especially when they no longer take naps) really drains me.

    We're really working on quiet time being without exception and we're working towards the 2 hour mark.

    Parenthood, lol!

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  6. I've actually been thinking about this a ton lately! I used to be a huge extrovert (shocking I know), but the last year/year and a half I've actually turned into a huge introvert. I was talking to Derek about this last week and was telling him, "our kids just demand so much of me!" I also told him there should be a support group for introverted parents, but then that would defeat the purpose of being an introvert.

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  7. Oh, my goodness. Thank you for this post. I was reading it and thinking, "So that's my problem!" I am an introvert, and sometimes I need a break from my own children. I thought I was a crazy, unloving mother! (I do love my children very much!) The noise, the close proximity (literally, my 2 1/2 year old sometimes follows me EVERYWHERE), the demands, and the whining can get to me after a time. To top it off, we are housebound because I had a seizure when I was five weeks postpartum (not as uncommon as one might think), and I am temporarily unable to drive. So some of your tips will have to wait for me! Thanks again for this post!

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  8. I love this post. I think being an introvert is one of the major factors in why we only had one child. The constant being needed drains me big time! I also put my son to be at the same time every night, so I have time alone. I also work full time in a job that requires a lot of interaction with other people, so that doesn't help things. We spend a lot of time doing parallel activities at night and on the weekend, so I can have some down time. It is so needed!

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  9. I'm an introvert and we follow several of these guidelines. We do 7:00 bedtime, quiet time or naps every afternoon, and we have a toy clock for mornings. We are not those parents who have children climbing in their bed every morning at 5:00 am. On school days they sleep until we wake them up at 7 and on weekends they have to stay in bed until their tot lock turns green at 7:30. Then they play in their rooms until we come and get them. Hell hath no fury like our family (myself included) when we're not well rested.

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  10. According to Susan Cain, I'm an ambivert, but of course that means I identify with lots of introvert tendencies. Since Alice is so little I'm not yet dealing with chatter or being followed (ha!) but I do feel the need to retreat from the constant eat/play/sleep cycle that is solely my responsibility. Fortunately Jonathan is a huge help when he's home and I definitely make reading and a long shower each night a priority. =)

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  11. Great ideas! I'm a HUGE introvert and having extroverted kids makes it that much harder. I work full-time outside the home, so it's hard to get any break, but this is reminding me how much room for improvement we have with bedtime. I also want to add that I'm getting better at asking grandparents to take the kids overnight! I'm trying to get them in a routine of every two weeks. :)

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  12. As an introvert, I can identify with so many of these suggestions! One of my favorite phrases for when it all gets to be too much is "Motion changes emotion." It helps remind me that literally changing things up a bit can help so much!

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  13. I have to have quiet time too, and I don't have three darling kidlets tugging on me at any given time (except Sundays from 10:15a-12:00p, when it's 8 five-year-olds, and that requires hours of recuperation.)

    Introverts 4 Life!!

    xox

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  14. I thought this was one of the major elements missing from Susan Cain's Quiet. She had a section about parenting introverts, but where was the section about how to survive children when you, the parent, are the introvert? I have to say, that as my kids get older it is getting easier. We have insisted they have time to play on their own from the beginning, and now they are very good at entertaining themselves. Plus, my kindergartener is an introvert too (jury's still out on the other one) and needs a lot of alone time, so he often very happy to be off on his own.

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  15. I'm totally the same. I do things similarly. Just wish my busier social child stayed in quiet time more easily. But he knows that I need time once and a while to be alone. Ive always required solo play time, but he just truly hates it. Sadly, we use shows more than I would like, because he is just so hard to keep busy.

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  16. Was I that friend? Because I feel precisely that way. I thrive out of our house, being out in public and around people. I also, however, relate to needing time alone. I think that stems from me being the youngest child and being alone all the time. I always have these great intentions of being the best mom ever when my kids come home from school, but they bombard their way in the house like a hurricane and they all jabber together at me and there is just so. much. talking. and yelling. I often have to shut myself in my room after they've been home for all of five minutes. It's nice that they are old enough that I can lock them out of my room and not have to worry about their safety ;) And I will cry a lot when Tess gives up her nap.

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  17. Even though I am YEARSSS away from having kids, I can promise that I will be coming back to these tips when the time comes. I'm exhausted after being in the same room as my 2 year old niece for an hour!

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  18. This post came at the perfect time for me! I've been so frame lately, and I've finally realized that the biggest problem is I'm MUCH more of an introvert than I believed. It's exhausting to have so many little people and loud voices in my personal bubble all day long; so this all will definitely come in handy. Read, I'm putting these to work tomorrow!!

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  19. oh wow this describes me totally. I am realising more and more that I am an introvert. Thank you for sharing

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  20. Are you spying on me? All your words and experiences are so similar to mine. Thank you! =)

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  21. Are you spying on me? All your words and experiences are so similar to mine. Thank you! =)

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