Tips for the Introverted Mom
Before I was a mother I imagined my days as a stay-at-home mom would go something like this: I’d wake up my children for breakfast, we’d do a craft or bake together, we’d have some outside time, I’d finish the cleaning and then read while they played, we’d cook dinner together and have family time while watching a DVD, playing a game, doing a puzzle or some other quiet activity.
And then I had three boys. And while they are generally quiet and calm compared to other boys their age, the level of activity and interaction that was required of me as a mom drained me completely dry before I realized what was happening. I knew without hesitation that I was a good mom, but I craved time alone more than I felt comfortable admitting.
I loved being a stay-at-home mom, but I often felt like crying when my children wouldn’t nap or took short naps. I relied on that precious silent hour each day.
I criticized myself for my desire to be alone. I felt guilty for feeling angry when I was snatched out of deep thought by the demands of my children. I felt sad that I was irritated by the noise level created by my children’s innocent play. I continued to press on for several years, moving deeper into an anxiety that was induced by constantly being “on” for my children.
Are You An Introverted Mom?
When I was a new mom, I didn’t know that I was an introvert. Like many people, I assumed that introvert meant shy and I wasn’t shy. I was simply quiet, enjoyed reading and loved to daydream.
Discovering that I was an introvert and had a physical and emotional need for silence, stillness and time alone was liberating for me.
If you are overwhelmed by the demands of your children, ask yourself these questions:
1. Are you ever angry or sad when your children wake earlier than normal?
2. Do you feel annoyed when you are interrupted from your thoughts by your children?
3. Do you feel overwhelmed by the noise and activity level in your home?
4. Is it difficult for you to tune out your children and tune in other moms at play dates?
5. Is it difficult for you to relax in the same room where your children are playing?
6. Do you need blocks of time without interruption in order to be productive while cleaning, creating or planning?
7. Do you look forward to having the whole house to yourself while your children are out with your partner or other caregiver?
How to Survive as an Introverted Mom
As a mom I’ve learned a lot about myself and learned new ways to cope with my introversion when I’m in situations that require me to interact with others for extended amounts of time. Once I realized that I was a better mother when I respected my need for time alone, I began to implement ways to achieve balance between my needs and children’s needs. Here are my best tips for surviving as a introverted mom.
Have a Daily Quiet Time
When your children stop napping, begin a daily quiet time. For tips on how to do that, check out my post about how we used a daily quiet time when my children were younger.
This daily quiet time saved my sanity and became cherished by my older, introverted children when my extroverted youngest son became old enough to demand constant interaction.
Plan Time to be Alone
Stop taking time for yourself whenever you can get it and start making firm plans for time alone. Talk with your partner to find the best time to count on him or her to take the children out or to be the parent on duty while you lock yourself away in another room.
Don’t feel bad about taking this time for yourself! I used to plan a long, hot bath with a book at least once per week while my husband cared for the children in another part of the house. My boys would sometimes cry for me and I felt devastated and guilty at first, but I knew I would return to them as a better-functioning mama.
Tell Your Children What You Need
Don’t be afraid to tell your children that you need silence or stillness. Tell them who you are and what you need in order to be your best self. When you advocate for what you need, you teach your children to advocate for what they need.
When you are overwhelmed and are not responding to your children in a loving way, it is important that they understand it isn’t their fault. If they understand that you have reached your limit for interacting, they know that your mood is a result of that and not something that they caused to happen. As they get older they will appreciate your need for solitude more.
Purposefully Engage With Your Children
This one is simple — make a daily schedule and include blocks of time to purposefully engage your children. Don’t make them come to you for interaction. Interact with them first.
When I was mindful of how much time I was spending actively engaged with my children I found that it was less than I had thought. It also filled their need for interaction and allowed them to happily engage in activities alone more often.
Ask for Help and Utilize Resources
Although I am a happy homeschooling mom, I sent all three of my children to preschool as soon as they were old enough. I even sent two of my children to public school for a total of three years between them.
Sending my children to school and leaving them with caregivers that I trusted was vital to my wellness and to helping me be the best mom I could be. While school is not the answer for every introverted mom, it might be the answer for you.
In addition, organizing a care co-op with other moms you trust may be a great way to exchange childcare so that each mom gets some child-free time at no expense.
Oh, this one is controversial. I suggest using electronics to engage your children sometimes. I used the TV daily to entertain my children –even before the age of two. My children, at the time of writing, are 14, 12 and 9.5. Electronic time has not led to anything negative for our family.
A mother who is overwhelmed and can’t complete a thought without interruption is likely to reactive to her children in a negative way that will affect their well-being and behavior. If a 20 minute TV show gets you 20 minutes to write a grocery list, pay the bills or meditate in peace, use that TV already!
Remember – It Doesn’t Last Forever
As my boys got older, it became evident that my older two were introverts and my youngest is an extravert. Even so, my youngest’s son need for interaction is much less than it was when he was under 7 years old. He enjoys short stretches of time completely alone and can sit quietly in the same room with another family member while they engage in parallel activities. It’s much easier now to give him the interaction he needs to feel good.
Eventually your children will find enjoyment in solitary activities and in time spent with friends and other family members. You will cease to be their only source of interaction.
You will eventually have all of the time you need inside your head and all of the solitude you crave. For now, focus on getting through one hour at a time and implementing the tips above.
Always keep in mind that what is healthy for you is ultimately healthy for your children. A whole and happy mom can do more for her children’s well-being than a guilt-ridden mom who is operating on obligation.