Being a mom so often involves a social whirl of activities: playgroups when the children are little and hours of hanging around other parents at parties and school events as they grow. As an introverted mom to three boys, it is, frankly, hell at times.
I spent years trying to match up to society’s expectations by playing endless games with the kids and attending every event we were invited to. Any time I sat quietly by myself, I felt like a failure. Any time I left my children to play by themselves for a while, I felt immense guilt. How did other moms make it look so effortless?
Then, I read an article about different personalities and realized I’m just not made that way. It’s not that introverts don’t like being with people. It's just that socializing needs to be balanced with a healthy dose of quiet alone time. And anyone who has small children will know that once you get home from a party, the last thing you’ll be getting is quiet time.
It wasn't immediately obvious to me how I could better cope with being a mom while at the same time looking after my introverted self. But over time I came up with routines that now work well for all of us.
I held on to the idea of those few hours of alone time to get me through.
First of all, when things get too noisy at home, I take the children out somewhere they can really let off steam, like the park. Once they've been outside for a while, they’re always much quieter at home and more able to settle into something.
When I need a break from lively activities, I also encourage them to do activities for short periods that don’t involve noisy play, such as drawing, creating or reading. I set up a table or cozy den for them, provide a drink and a snack and then let them learn to entertain themselves. With young children, it doesn’t necessarily last long, but I found that over time they became better at concentrating and sitting quietly. (This wasn't only great for me, but it was a good advantage for them too, especially when they started school.)
No doubt there will be other moms in your circle who would cherish some free time too, so see if you can organize things so that you look after each other’s children for a while. Although it means looking after more children for a morning or afternoon, quite often children will be more self-sufficient when they have friends to interact with.
Don’t be afraid to ask for regular help if that's an option. If there’s no one you can ask, consider a professional babysitter. I found that having a scheduled afternoon to myself once a week was a real lifesaver, allowing me to spend some time doing the quiet things I enjoyed. I held on to the idea of those few hours of alone time to get me through the days when things were noisy and chaotic from start to finish.
And don't forget to give yourself some slack. There are benefits to being introverts. Because we tend to absorb more information, we also have a better understanding of our children and can more easily pick up on their emotions and spot behavioral cues. We are good at being in tune with our kids and knowing how they’re feeling and what they need and enjoy.
We just need to give ourselves the space to tap into those benefits. There's no reason to feel guilty for who we are.