An Introvert's Survival Guide to Motherhood

{This week's series: #IntrovertAlert}

{This week's series: #IntrovertAlert}

Someone once asked me when I realized I was an introvert, and I told her I didn’t fully acknowledge that part of my personality until I became a mom.

Pre-parenthood, my cup of energy depleted at the rate of someone drinking through a coffee straw. Social interaction was draining, but it was easier to prioritize time for myself. 

When our daughter was born, it felt like someone picked up my glass of energy, looked me square in the eyes, and dumped it out all over the toy-littered floor. The intense attention that tiny people need, combined with little time to recharge, made motherhood's first season feel like it was sucking the life right out of me. 

{Photo by @closetoclassy. Photo oh so accurate.}

{Photo by @closetoclassy. Photo oh so accurate.}

I lived for naps and bedtime, and my guilt over that was real.

If I had been given such beautiful blessings from above, then why was I so fixated on spending time away from them? It was then that I realized my strongly introverted personality was taking a beating:

I need downtime to recharge. But then our daughter would wake up early from her nap and I felt all the fury.

I enjoy thinking and creating inside of my head. But babies cry and toddlers talk and that creative process was interrupted often.

I am easily over-stimulated by my surroundings. But two children + whining + toys with batteries + a doll being chucked at my head = Well…a bit over-stimulating.

I enjoy deep conversations when I spend time with friends. But many a play date was spent refereeing the kids {a.k.a. mine} who hadn’t yet learned to share.

My creative hours are from ten until midnight. But a 6 a.m. Baby Alarm Clock meant that those hours were off limits for this person who needs at least 8 hours of sleep.

Motherhood is one of the many ways I’ve been invited to die to myself as a disciple of Christ. Part of coping with my introverted personality as a mom meant realizing that this phase of life would be physically draining, and that certain aspects of myself would be forced to hibernate while our kids are little. But that did not mean I was called to completely neglect my own physical and mental health.

So I’ve stopped beating myself up about needing alone time to recharge, and I’ve found a few ways to cope with motherhood as an introvert.

Take ‘em or leave ‘em:

Play first, work later. My daughter is insatiably social, and whenever I try to complete a chore before I sit down to play with her, she attaches herself to my left knee until I stop working. I sit down to play first, sometimes setting a 15-30 minute timer so our daughter has a specific cue to know when Mommy needs to go make supper or clean the bathroom. Her need for interaction is met, and then I have breathing room to complete my work.

Enforce nap time/quiet time. Our children are nappers, but even when they grow out of it I’ll be a quiet-time enforcer. Regular employees receive a half hour break for every 5-6 hours they work. I don’t think that’s too much to ask as a mom at home.

Put the kids to bed at the same time every night. It helps me to have a finish line each day. My friends joke that they provoke their children into misbehaving so they can send them to bed early. This is a solid Option B.

Read books or watch a show together and snuggle. It’s a way to be together and bond, while relieving some of the interaction. My pipe dream is that someday we will all snuggle on the couch with our own books, but today I’ll settle for “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and "Green Eggs and Ham."

Foster similar interests. I submit to playing dolls on the floor with our four-year-old because I love her, but I truly enjoy when she wants to play catch with a beach ball. We won’t always enjoy the same things, but it’s okay to milk it when you do.

Prioritize socializing with friends and their kids. Being an introvert does not mean it is healthy to live a completely isolated life. Spending time with other moms and their kids allows me to get outside of my own head, and gives our kids time to socialize.

Prioritize socializing with friends without their kids. More deep conversations, less small ones tugging on your yoga pants.

Wake up early or stay up a few minutes later. Sacrificing a little bit of sleep can do wonders for my mental health if it means I get to write or read.

Go outside. Our son is very active, and when I release him into the wild frontier of our alleyway, he becomes a lone, adventurous wolf. Fresh air and tricycles and going on walks together do mighty wonders.

Ask for help. Swap babysitting with a friend to get a few hours away. Call grandpa and grandma to watch the kids for a night out. Pay the girl who lives down the block.

Send the insatiably social one to school. Just kidding. Kind of.

Tell yourself over and over: "This is a long, but actually very short season of motherhood."

If you’re also an introverted Mommy who doesn’t really enjoy the littlest stages, know that it gets better. I’ve just arrived at a place where I want to completely freeze time in our kids’ lives – where before I was more like, “This is only hard and not very much fun.”

It’s Motherhood, so our energy levels will take a hit no matter our personality types. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect our own needs as Moms.

It’s okay to think, “I’m tired.”

And it’s okay to give yourself a break.

 

Grace and Peace,

Kendra