We introverts need quiet and alone time. It’s how we recharge and often where we get ideas with which we rule the world. (I’m only half-joking! Here are a few examples of introverted leaders/change-makers). As a parent, though, quiet and alone time can be hard to come by. Yesterday, I gave my personal background on this!
As promised, here are 5 tips to help you survive the noisy close-quarters of being Mommy or Daddy to little children.
1. This, too, shall pass.
In my last post, I mentioned that my older two (being 7 and almost 5) are quite capable of loooong play periods with each other or on their own. This is FABULOUS and just the environment I need to conserve my energy-battery. I found that, by the time they were 4, I had individual humans who were happy to physically detach themselves from me to indulge in their own fun.
This wasn’t always the case. When my first daughter was a baby, I could not see the end in sight! People would tell me, they’re only this clingy for so long, and I’d be like HOW long?! It was the first time in my life that, when I wanted to be truly alone, I couldn’t be. It was a bit of a shock to the introverted system.
But she did grow and blossom and venture forth from my hip, legs, arms, chest…she loves her own alone time or happily sits in quiet beside me working on her art, or reading. I actually have a journal entry in which I am practically screaming in all caps, something like, “SHE’S SITTING BESIDE ME, QUIETLY COLOURING!! THIS IS AWESOME!!” She was 4. It was a momentous day.
So when my son was a baby, I had that glimmer of hope that I held on to with both hands even as I wiped the tears and snot with the back of my sleeve on a T-shirt I was wearing for the second day in a row. It gets easier, it gets easier, this little mantra played through moments of fear that all my quiet moments were lost forever. (I also did something else during this time that helped significantly which I will talk about in a tip below).
Now I have baby #3. Sweet, fiesty, tiny little girl who just turned one last month. Her ability to communicate hasn’t quite caught up to her desire to do so. So there’s a lot of frustrated squawking, crying, head-shaking while grunting. And the separation anxiety has kicked in; there are times when I move a few steps away from her and she’ll go from happily playing in her exersaucer to screaming bloody murder.
I see her sister and brother in her these days. This is actually great! I have living proof all around me that things get easier! My mantra with this little girl has been, This time next year which I told you about when she was 6 months old. Now, only half a year later, there are already more opportunities for me to refuel the way an introvert naturally needs. See? This, too, shall pass. Hang in there!
2. Twenty minute time-outs.
You may pine for a solo, week-long retreat in the woods, but this is not (always) possible. However, you do need to recharge your energy daily – just as you need to eat, breathe and sleep to survive. What can you do in 15-20 minutes every day that will allow your sensory system to decompress? Here are some suggestions: read, shower, walk, meditate, lie down in the dark, yoga. Grab those twenty minutes while the baby naps, or when another adult is home. Do it every day. And when you’re stuck in a loud, snotty, tantrum-y moment (yours or your kids’) remember that you have that precious time set aside. You. Just. Have. To. Make. It. There.
3. Seize the moments!
Grab ’em when you can, and soon you will spot more of them! Yesterday, when we all piled into the house after school, the kids got to work on their after school routine of putting everything away and washing up. After that, my older daughter grabbed her book and settled on the couch. I wish I could do that, I stared longingly at the novel I am currently reading (on the end table beside the couch) like a love-lorn teenager. The baby crawled over to her pile of toys by the exersaucer. My son grabbed his bin of superheroes and started to work on bringing his action figurines to life. Quietly. Everyone was engaged without me. Maybe I could read my book! I picked up my novel, a little nervous to break the spell, but it was clear to see – these kids were in it for the long haul. A half an hour of being like that in my happy place, with my little munchkins all around me, was the perfect addition to my day.
4. Schedule in plans to get out of the house for your ‘me’ time.
So far, I’ve talked about how to find your juice at home for a few minutes at a time. Once you can (which for me revolved around the breastfeeding schedule), make it a point to spend longer chunks of a day outside of your favourite place. Go to your other favourite places – either alone or with friends. Yes, remember: introverts have friends. We have long and deep relationships and you know, we really do like to have fun with other people, too. Go back to all the things you did when it was easy to just pick up and go: the library, a restaurant/coffee shop, the movies, a creative workshop, a poetry reading…whatever tickles your fancy. Plunk them into your calendar, arrange for childcare if need be (and I know that is easier said than done, but it must be done), and follow through. As per tip #1, it will get easier and easier to do this.
5. Have an on-going project/hobby or something that gets you excited outside of parenthood.
This is what I was referring to in tip #1 when I said I started doing something when my son was a baby. I actually did two things: I began volunteering with Pandora’s Collective as a fund developer, and I started this blog! The thing with having something going on outside of parenthood – whether it be your work, your hobby, or a creative project – is that you can mentally escape to them at any time!
Take this blog, for instance. Only a fraction of my time spent on Let ME Out!! involves writing. Outside of that, I am thinking of blog post ideas, corresponding with PR reps who introduce me to products/companies I might be interested in writing about, bouncing ideas around with other bloggers, or thinking of ways to make my site more reader-friendly. And I love all those things about it! I get excited and happy and can draw on those feelings even in the middle of a 3-child simultaneous meltdown.
In fact, last night, the baby woke me up three times within an hour and a half (introvert or extravert, nobody would find this appealing!). The third time she cried out, I could see this wasn’t going to end any time soon so I succumbed and fed her back to sleep. While doing so, I had a choice: I could stew over the fact that she really didn’t need to be fed and that breaking this habit was going to be a lot of work OR I could think about this blog post and how I was going to word some of these tips. I did the latter and even though I would have preferred a full night of sleep, I got through it without too many negative thoughts!
So, there you have it: 5 tips for surviving parenthood as an introvert!
I love having a ‘big’ family and being with my kids: joining them in their play, listening to their stories, having them involved as I cook (we did this yesterday when we made palak paneer from this video). As a family, we love playing basketball with the kids’ basketball hoop in the basement and joke about how, when the baby is older, we can actually be a basketball team, the 5 of us. Many of my dreams and aspirations involve my family.
But I have to honour who I am so that I can continue to be the mom I enjoy being. Those 5 tools have helped me and I hope they do the same for you!