by Jessica Towns
Introversion is often thought of as a quiet nature, or just plain shyness, but there is more to it than that. Introverts are people who thrive in solitude, who function best when they’re able to process internally. They are energized by solo activities and drained by social situations.
As an introverted mother, I am constantly being pulled out of my comfortable head-space. I struggle with the external demands of my daughter and the interactions with other parents. Since I’m not the world’s only introvert, I’d love to share a few ways I’ve found to mitigate the stress.
Fiercely guard the time you do get
Choose an activity that recharges you—yoga classes, solo trips to the library, lunch with a good friend—and defend it like a mother grizzly. If someone tries to schedule a meeting during your weekly me-time, tell them to shove off. (More likely, because you’re an introvert and a Seattleite, you’ll politely say, “No thanks” and think unpleasant thoughts about them. That’s fine, too.)
Wake up early
I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. Get up, drink coffee, put on real pants, and do something that relaxes you. Read the newspaper or stare out the window. An hour of time alone can be worth more than an hour of sleep for your overall sense of restoration. (Parents of newborns get an exception. For you, I’ll say: just try to stay alive.)
There’s a lot of pressure to do all sorts of activities with your kids, but it’s important to pick and choose. Spend your limited energy wisely. Favor outings with people you feel relaxed around, preferably in small numbers. And give yourself permission to bail on commitments if you’re not feeling up to it. A relaxed parent is better for a child’s well-being than a schedule full of activities.
Take little steps back
Keep your eyes open for small moments throughout the day when you can remove yourself from kid-world to take a breath. I keep a book of poems in my kitchen, so when my daughter gets caught up in independent play, I can sneak over and read for a few minutes. And if your kids are old enough to play safely, try actually closing the door when you use the bathroom—it feels amazing.
Be patient when making friends
The season of parenting brings about a need for new relationships—namely, with other parents—and forming these bonds can be tricky for an introvert. I find it disheartening when people around me seem to click with each other right away. That’s just not how I work. But I’ve learned to be patient and accept that I need time to warm up to new people. There’s no need to panic; those other parents aren’t going anywhere. Stick it out and the friendships will, eventually, blossom.
It’s also important to note that you may not find close friends in every environment you enter. If you don’t gel with the group at music class, for example, maybe try a co-op preschool. Keep trying, and you’ll find the vital connections you need.
Seek out one-on-one connections
I’ll admit I haven’t been great at this. I feel safer in a group, when others can carry the burden of moving the conversation forward. But the most fulfilling interactions I have are when I’m with just one other parent and we can talk candidly (read: complain) about our kids. This is the sort of socialization that uplifts an introvert, and it’s worth the effort to make it happen.
Speak up early
It might go against your instincts, but if you find yourself in a group of new people, insert yourself as soon as possible. Risk saying something awkward. (Maybe tell your most harrowing infant poop story.) Once you hear your voice in the room, you’ll feel like a part of the conversation. Too often I think that I’ve lost my chance to participate, and the friend-train rolls off without me. So climb aboard. You don’t have to speak often, but do speak early.
This is the corniest advice on the planet, I know, but it’s true. If you are an introvert, don’t force yourself to be outgoing because you think you should. You’ll wind up drained, which is bad for both you and your kids. Embrace your introversion, and grant yourself permission to do things your way.
Consider the positives
Introverts are often keenly aware of the feelings of others; you can be sensitive and empathetic, teaching your child early on to express subtleties of emotion. Your deep processor allows you to see each situation from many angles and not be too hasty. You can model self-restraint and thoughtfulness. Let the extroverted adults in your life demonstrate those elusive social skills. You have other gifts to offer.
Caring for yourself is one of the best things you can do for your children, no matter who you are, and it extends beyond an occasional day at the spa. It means paying ongoing attention to your inner world. Build a lifestyle to support your own unique temperament, and everyone in your life will benefit.
About the Author
Jessica Towns is a full-time mom and two-time PEPS graduate. She lives in Wedgwood with her husband Will and daughter Ravenna, and spends her limited free time writing and drinking a lot of coffee. Jessica holds a civil engineering degree from Seattle University.