The struggles of parenting when you’re an introvert

Family, Introverts / Friday, April 21st, 2017

Introverts have it rough in a time when social interaction is at it’s highest, but many are able to avoid the situations that make them most uncomfortable, at least some of the time. But what can you do when you’re a parent who prefers being alone? Children need their parents and often, an introverted parent can’t simply avoid their child when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Having three children has taught me a lot about coping with my introversion. Staying home with them for three years has taught me even more.

It’s okay to want to be alone

For awhile, I thought there was something wrong with me. Why did I constantly feel the need to escape? Why was everything about being home with my children so overwhelming? Do I not love them enough?

It took a long time for me to understand that there is nothing wrong with needing to be alone. One of the most common traits of introverts (you can read about more of these traits here) is needing to recharge after being social for awhile.

When you’re a parent, you are always on. The two year old needs his blue cuppy, no his red cuppy, wait no his blue cuppy! At the same time, the seven year old needs help with his homework and the eight year old needs to tell you what happened at recess, and don’t let dinner burn, oh is that your husband walking through the door, be pleasant and excited to see him!

That can be overwhelming to even the most extroverted parent, but to someone who craves quiet and solitude, it’s downright exhausting. That doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for parenthood, you’re not a bad parent! It’s okay to want to be alone, to shut down and just be. 

Being “touched out” is a real thing

This was something I didn’t fully comprehend until I had our youngest.

With just one or two children, I thought they were just a little clingy and I was a little impatient. They’d climb up on my lap while I was on the computer, or they would grab on to my leg while I was loading the dishwasher and I would shoo them away.

But with three, it was a whole different beast. I would sit down on the couch at the end of the day to watch TV with one of the big kids on each side and the little one in my lap. I would tolerate it for awhile, and then they’d start to fidget, their toes would wiggle, they’d play with my hair or pull on the blanket. It would only take one little thing and I was done, I needed my space and everyone had to stay out of my bubble.

Now that I understand it better, I can anticipate it. If I get ahead of the feeling, I can be much more gentle in asking everyone to back up a little and no one gets their feelings hurt.

Find the quiet moments when you can

Nap time, oh how I miss nap time. If your children still take naps, do whatever it is your introverted self needs to do! Those quiet nap times are so precious when they become few and far between!

Now that my littlest doesn’t usually nap, I try to find other quiet moments when I can enjoy some peace. He’s almost three, so he can play independently for a little while. If I need to take a breather, I tell him he needs to play in his room for a few minutes. It usually lasts just long enough for me to prepare myself for the next onslaught of questions about every possible things a toddler can ask.

Sometimes, you can’t plan for a quiet moment, but you realize it’s happening. Relish in that immediately!

Look for hobbies that allow you to “introvert”

I’ve discovered that a few of my favorite hobbies are things that aren’t group activities. I often use them as “mandatory alone time.”

When the weather is nice, I love to run, but I do it alone. I don’t take any kids with me, it’s just me, my music and the road. The combination of physical exercise and being alone is an incredible mood lifter.

Crocheting has become a favorite hobby as well. When I’m crocheting, no one can climb on me or sit too close, so it solves the “touched out” issue I often have. I also find that, if the pattern is easy, I zone out a little, my hands are moving but my mind is focused on something else. It’s kind of like when I have a coffee cup in my hand, I find it easier to make conversation. (I don’t know, maybe that’s just a weird thing I do!)

Find a couple things that you like to do that require you to do them alone, it will give you the time and space to refresh and recharge yourself.

Explain your needs to your children

I’m a believer in being honest with your kids whenever possible. It’s a lot easier to explain that you need a few moments alone than it is to apologize for blowing up after becoming too overwhelmed. I think it’s also very important to be straightforward in saying that this is what you need not  something that is their fault.

The two most difficult things; ask for help and say no!

I used to greet my husband as he walked in the door from work with an exasperated “I’m so glad you’re home, you won’t believe the crap day I’ve had.” I can promise you, while he let me blab on and on about tiny issues that were huge to me, he was just wondering why the house was a mess and what was for dinner.

I’ve since learned to delegate. I will prioritize the housework, what must be done, gets done. If there are things I just can’t get to, I will ask my husband (or the older boys if it’s something they can handle) to help out.

I’ve also decided that sometimes you have to say no. There isn’t enough time in the day for all the things you want to do, let alone all the things other people want you to do! If the thought of doing something is causing you anxiety, just say no. Daily playdates are not a necessity. Your friends will not hate you if you skip a coffee date once in awhile!

These are definitely two of the hardest things to do for many, many people, but they are such easy solutions.

When all else fails, hide in the bathroom

My old go-to. Some days, I don’t feel the overwhelming cloud creeping in on me until it’s too late. Some days, everything is going wrong and my husband has to work late. Some days, everything is fine and I’m still freaking out!

That’s when I grab a snack, my phone, and hide in the bathroom scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest until I’ve regained my strength, which is usually right around the time the littlest one’s fingers are wiggling under the door!