I’m an independent person and a total introvert. But I’m also a mom, and those two identities often conflict.
Before my son was born, I had a lot of responsibilities, including managing a full-time career while getting my undergraduate degree at UCLA. I basically never stopped moving, but every step I took was mine, for me, to reach my goals. If I hung out with my boyfriend, it was because I was in the mood for company. If I stayed home, it was because I needed time alone, just me and my dog.
That time alone was the only way I survived my frenzied schedule. It was like plugging into myself and recharging my batteries.
But that all changes when you have a baby.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom. But it was like one day I was myself, and the next day I was somebody else. I was never alone, and almost never free from somebody touching me. I loved my son so much, I tried to make myself become the person I thought I needed to be in order to be there for him.
What I didn’t realize was that you can’t just stop being an introvert when your kids are born. Trying not to be an introvert took its toll on me, and I became more frustrated and short-tempered with everyone.
Now that my kids are older, I’ve learned a little bit about how to survive parenthood as an introvert. Here are seven things you need to do, as an introverted parent, in order to truly feel like yourself again …
1. Accept that you need to be alone sometimes, and stop judging yourself.
For introverts, alone time is as important as good nutrition, exercise, and adequate rest. It’s not selfish, and you’re not spoiled for wanting it. You’re taking care of yourself, and that’s an important part of being a good parent.
Stop beating yourself up for a part of yourself you cannot change.
2. Schedule downtime for your kids.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of putting your kids’ activities ahead of your own need for downtime. Parent and Me groups, playdates, and classes are great, but remember that taking care of yourself is also good for your kids.
Playing quietly at home with no screens, music, or other noise actually encourages kids’ creativity and independence, while giving you time to recharge. Wooden blocks or a box of crayons and paper can be an introverted parent’s savior.
3. Designate daily “alone time” — even when your kids are around.
As your kids grow older, schedule in some independent reading or coloring time every single day.
Let your kids know that this is when you will read or do a quiet activity alone, and your child will do the same. Explain that as soon as the time is done, you can talk and play together again.
Not only will this time foster independence and creativity in your child, it teaches them to respect other people’s needs. Kids often think of mom or dad as a part of themselves, put on Earth solely to entertain and serve them. This isn’t a character fault, it’s natural for kids.
But it’s our job to teach them that every person has unique emotional needs, and that those needs should be respected.
4. Hire a sitter or make a “parenting pact” with someone you trust so you have time truly alone every week.
It’d be great if we all had a Super Nanny or Mrs. Doubtfire to help parent our kids so we could take a yoga class or go for a walk alone in the woods. But let’s be real: most of us barely have time to shower, let alone the time and budget to hire a regular nanny.
Instead, set up a schedule with your partner, co-parent, or a relative that will allow you time every single week to be alone. If that’s not a possibility, find a friend who would like to swap childcare and take each other’s kids for a couple hours a week.
It might not be easy, but it’s important that you get what you need to be the best parent you can be.
5. Do not let your alone time become work time or cleanup time.
Unless working or cleaning up brings you that deep sense of joy and peace that introverts gain when we are alone, do not let your important alone time be eaten up by chores you think are important.
The laundry can wait. That email to your boss can wait. Right now, doing the alone things that make you feel human are what matter most. Take that bath or that drive around town. Realize that you will be a better parent if you let it all go, so you can truly reconnect with yourself.
6. Schedule playdates that take some pressure off socializing.
Playdates are great for your kids and may help you feel less alone in the world. My kids learned how to share, read other people’s emotions, and respect people’s space from having playdates.
But for introverts, especially shy introverts, the parental interaction part of playdates can be uncomfortable.
To save yourself some of this stress, set up playdates where you don’t have to entertain someone, like at a park where you can step away to help your child on the jungle gym, or at a movie theater. If you’re feeling outgoing afterward, ask your friend to join you for a meal where you can really talk.
7. Ask your kids to stop talking.
Yes, this sounds cruel! But this rule is only for parents of older kids who can understand that begging out of a conversation isn’t a rejection of them, but rather honoring your own needs.
Now that my kids are older, this is getting easier for me. At the end of a long day this summer, after hearing them talk to each other (and me!) for six straight hours, I sat my kids down and explained that, as an introvert, all of the talking starts to take a toll on me and makes me tired and anxious.
I explained that it had nothing do with them, that I love the way they talk and play. It was just that I also needed some time when I didn’t hear any talking at all.
And so we went into different rooms and did different (quiet!) things for an hour. For an introverted parent, this kind of silence is one of the best parts of having older kids.
But this request doesn’t just serve me. It also offers them a lesson in how to advocate for their own needs without hurting other people’s feelings, and shows them that part of loving someone and caring for them is allowing them to have the space they need to be healthy and happy.