I have a confession to make: before Charleston was born, I prayed (actual, honest to goodness prayers) that he would be an introvert. I prayed other things for him too, of course (like a healthy body, a kind heart, a passionate faith), but amidst those more significant prayers was a very real request that God give me a child who was introverted . . . just like his mama.
My reasons were purely selfish ones. As an extreme introvert verging on social recluse, I simply couldn’t fathom how I would have the emotional bandwidth to keep up with a child who would want to spend a lot of time with other people and who would need my assistance in making that happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually do just fine in social settings. I’m not a shy person and I have no problem interacting with people, even strangers. In fact, I’ve convinced more than a few new acquaintances that I’m an extrovert. The problem arises after the socializing has taken place and I fall into a massive introvert hangover. It can take days of near-isolation for me to fully recover from a single night out with friends. So you can see why the notion of a child who would lead me into even more public situations might have been overwhelming to my pre-child self.
Charleston is now 3-and-a-half and I still have no idea whether he’s an introvert or extrovert. He loves being around other people, but also does quite well on his own. So far, he hasn’t required excessive amounts of social time, yet I actually find myself going out of my way to seek out extra social situations for the two of us because I see how happy it makes him; his joy boosts me up and keeps me going long past the point when my childless self would have had to peace out for some alone time. As with so much of parenting, this simply hasn’t been the problem I worried it would be.
Another concern I need not have worried about was that my mind, brain, and body would classify parenting time as social time and leave me feeling depleted. Happily, I’ve found that spending one-on-one time with Charleston doesn’t drain my interpersonal tank the way I thought it might. Even now that he is older and we converse throughout the day, the interaction doesn’t exhaust me in the same way that time with adults does. (Not that parenting isn’t exhausting, but it’s a different kind of fatigue.) And speaking of adult time . . . I’ve discovered that I actually crave adult interaction more now than ever before! I willingly engage in—and enjoy—more social activities (church groups, friend hangouts, etc.) than any other time in my adult life. What an intriguing change of events! Something about this new life stage has me seeking solidarity!
That said, I am still an introvert to the core. I still require copious amounts of quiet time to reflect and recover after a social interaction. And THIS is where the challenge lies—because it isn’t always easy to get recovery time when you share a house with a 3-year-old who really likes to spend time with his mom.
Carving out that private Mama Time has involved some creativity and a great deal of help from Luke, but we make it work: I am able to replenish during our near-daily trips to the gym (free babysitting for the win!) and also at nap time—even when he doesn’t nap, Charleston still takes a 45-minute rest time in his room each afternoon, and that gives me some rest time, too. Of course I halso have my evenings to myself after Charleston and Luke are in bed. And lately Luke has been taking Charleston to his parents’ house for several hours every Saturday so that I can get some writing done, or simply run errands alone or clean the house without a child underfoot.
I realize that these pockets of personal time are rare for a mom, and an enormous gift; not many stay-at-home-moms have a husband with a flexible work schedule, or a gym with free child care, or an only child who can be trusted to stay in his room during quiet time. I often feel guilty for taking this time to myself, because I know that it isn’t the norm. It feels indulgent and selfish, and even writing about it here feels like exposing a dirty secret.
But here’s the thing: I know that I need more personal time than most. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s my reality, and barring a massive alteration to my personality, it probably won’t be changing much. Instead of begrudging my very real personal needs, or ignoring them because I know other moms have these same needs and are letting them go unmet, I choose to acknowledge my requirement for personal space and embrace the time I get to myself. I view my participation in these times as an exercise in radical self care. And as with all self care, this personal time serves to make me a better parent, wife, and friend. My tank is filled, enabling me to pour into and appreciate others instead of resenting or trying to avoid them.
I don’t have many Introverted Mom friends, so if you happen to be an Introvert raising tiny humans, I’d love to hear from you: how do you manage your own emotional needs while also carrying for your littles? How and when do you carve out time for yourself? Do you ever feel guilty for taking personal time or (be honest!) find yourself judging or resenting other parents for their own unusual forms of self care? I would LOVE to hear about your experiences!