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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.