5 Secrets of an Introverted Mother

introverted mother

photo credit: moriza via photopin cc

I almost flunked 4th grade.  I was in an independent study program and I couldn’t focus enough to get my work done. The students ranged from 4th to 7th grade in my class, and we sat in one large open room. It was noisy at best but most often a overwhelming onslaught to my introverted self.

Fortunately, my teacher was observant and creative. She suggested giving me credit for “daydreaming,” which we agreed would mean drawing and free writing. I could do those tasks outside of the classroom at the library, in the quiet study room that was normally reserved for older students, or in our building’s back patio while other classes were in session and it was quiet.

I didn’t know the term “introverted” back then, and likely my teacher didn’t either. Still, she recognized I needed quiet alone time to function and perform the tasks expected of me. She offered space for that and got me back on track. She also sewed the seeds the self-care practices I have been depending on ever since.

I have been thinking of the quiet of that back patio daydreaming time often recently.  My little one is starting to talk in earnest, which means that she is now talking ALL THE TIME. She is also in an independent phase, which is balanced by a need for lots of reconnection with me. That’s manifesting in separation anxiety, unwillingness to play alone, and wanting to nurse more. She’s also starting to refuse naps some days, so I don’t always get a quiet break mid-day to recharge.  I didn’t realize how much I depended on that down time until I started not having it.

By the time my man gets home from work I’m crawling up the walls, snapping at Bean to stop climbing on me and please be quiet for just a minute so I can think. I’m checking out into my Instagram feed or locking myself into the bathroom for a moment of solitude while I count the remaining hours until I can reasonably put her to bed.

And then I get her asleep and I collapse on the couch while two cats climb on my lap and my man snuggles up to tell me about his day or what he’s reading or turn on a movie for us to watch. All I want is for everyone to leave me alone and stop touching me. And then I feel like a jerk, because of course I want to hear about my man’s day and spend time with him but just

not

right

now.

When I get to this point I can’t bear to be touched.  I can’t focus my thoughts. My attention span shortens to the point that I walk into a room and can’t remember what I was going to do. I can’t be articulate about anything I need to communicate. I feel irritable and cranky and I snap over the most minor things.

I withdraw from everyone. I stop calling people back because I can’t bear to spend any precious alone time talking to anyone else. I keep my eyes down when I’m out to avoid interactions with strangers. I tune out my child’s inquisitive chatter and stop responding to her until she ramps up into a fit.

I learned ways to take care of my need for alone time pre-parenthood, but those don’t all work any more.  I can’t just pick up a book and disappear for an hour like I used to. I no longer have a long solo commute to process my day. But slowly, slowly, I’m learning some strategies to keep more of my needs met.

Insist on daily quiet time

Naps are awesome.  But on days when they don’t happen I make sure there is some other quiet gap in the middle of the day. Even if she doesn’t sleep, I see that Bean feels better after a rest and some time at least a little bit apart from each other. Bean still sleeps in a bed in our room, so her room is a play space which I have made safe, inviting and try to keep tidy. She’s pretty good about playing in there by herself for a while, though we haven’t practiced this enough for her to stay put for more than about 10 minutes.  It is a start.  As naps really become a thing of the past (sob!) I’ll get more structured about this, and use a timer or play a CD and let her know she needs to stay in her room until the music stops.

Make sure her needs are met

Bean’s recent neediness has been hard.  But I’ve learned from stretches when she was sick or going through other needy spells that me pulling away or losing patience just makes the problem worse. She gets more clingy, I get more frustrated. Instead, I lean in (I can’t not think of Sheryl Sandberg when I use that phrase!). I make sure she’s had enough to eat, I offer her cuddles and extra play time. Soon enough she’ll wander off to do her own thing and I get my break.

Write it out

I have found writing is the most efficient way for me to process my thoughts.  I can spend two hours in the garden shoveling dirt or I can write fast for 30 minutes. The first 20 minutes tend to be complaining drivel, but if I just keep going I almost always hit an epiphany. Though shoveling dirt burns more calories and there’s something to be said for that, too.

Get outside

Even if I’m not alone, getting fresh air and sun, especially in the winter and early spring, helps my mood and ability to deal with parenting immensely. It is kind of magical. If nothing else is working, I put my walking shoes on, bundle Bean into the Bob and head out the door. Even if we just walk a couple of blocks and top at the local cafe for a cookie to share, I feel so recharged by the time we get home. And the chances are good that she’ll go play by herself for a while after an outing, so I get a little alone time to boot.

Schedule regular “me time”

While these strategies help me get little blocks of recharging throughout the day, I also need longer blocks of alone time to feel fully together. Lately I’ve been getting those chunks in yoga class (not really alone, but not interacting at least!), and during the one evening a week my guy is away from the house.

I realize I am not very good at making sure I have these breaks and this is where I need to work the most. I would like to have time alone in the garden in the evening once or twice a week.  I’d like an hour or two on the weekend to sit in a coffee shop or wander through the art store or a bookshop. I would like, just occasionally, to go out to dinner alone.  Just me and my journal like I used to when I was single.

What I have learned NOT to do is to stay up too late and short my body on sleep. It is so tempting to when the house is quiet and I’m involved in some project to just keep going.  But the long day following a late night is just not worth it.

 

Are you an introvert? How do you balance the demands of motherhood with time alone to recharge?

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29 Responses to 5 Secrets of an Introverted Mother

  1. Amanda September 13, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

    I so get this! My hubby is quite an extrovert and he just doesn’t get that I need some me time. Then at the same time when I insist on having a weekend to treat myself what is the first thing I do? I booked Saturday to clean and Sunday I couldn’t help but invite hubby and bubby to join me for lunch between my massage and hair appointments. I felt worse at the end of the weekend than I did before! It’s so hard to balance the desire to be the perfect mum but also keep your sanity. My kindle is my only real escape into myself – I can just zone out. I really need to take your advice on walking. I always feel guilty about butting bubby in a stroller just so I can go for a walk. I feel like it is better for his development of he’s toddling around or playing etc, but I guess it’s equally important to have a sane mother right?

    • Doña September 15, 2015 at 11:12 am #

      I hear you about feeling guilty about putting your kid in a stroller when they could be exploring. Does your bub still nap? Maybe you could walk during a nap time once or twice a week at least? I also found a stroller walk was good for helping my daughter settle down when she was over tired or we were just having a particularly rough afternoon. Even if we just walked around the block, it helped us both chill out and reset. I hope you find some good windows for yourself!

  2. pascal September 9, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    Great post, Nice to read things similar to me, I find it hard relating/talking to other parents when picking my lil one from school.

    • Doña September 10, 2015 at 10:32 am #

      Thank you! I really struggle with this! I’ve graduated to saying “Hi,” at least!

  3. Dacy August 1, 2015 at 4:27 am #

    I’m exploring Santa Cruz for a possible move and just discovered your blog. These are amazing tips which I am sorely in need of as my 15 month old gets more active and less sleepy!
    Dacy recently posted…why mindful closet?My Profile

  4. Juniper April 11, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    I’m coming to realize writing is definitely self-care. I was thinking of it as a ramp-up back into career productivity, but it’s so freeing to go to a coffeeshop WITH NO KIDS to get some writing done. The writing itself is definitely a great way to process motherhood and anything else on my mind. The scones don’t hurt, either 🙂

    • Doña April 14, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      I agree – writing and processing (either words or paint for me) are great self care. I read about a mom recent who has a standing solo coffee date on Sunday afternoons and I was so inspired to hold a little more room for myself on weekends, too!

  5. Stephanie December 19, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    I can also completely relate to your post! It is incredibly comforting to know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by being constantly clung to and talked to all day long. I have two boys (4 and 8) and I homeschool, so trying to schedule mommy’s sanity breaks can really be a challenge. I appreciate your “insist on daily quiet time” approach and it is a helpful reminder to carve out that time to recharge after a hectic morning. Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Melody August 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have just stumbled in to the introvert world of discovery after years of not knowing what was, “wrong,” with me. Reading this, I burst into tears at how dead on you are, and about the shame and pain that come along with it all. I am just so glad to know that I am not alone.

    • Doña August 24, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      Melody, I’m so glad you found the words you needed to hear here. Nothing is wrong with you!

  7. KendraKay May 12, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Wow! I’ve struggled a lot with being an introverted mother and its such a comfort to hear someone else say it. Sometimes I feel like a weenie because talking seems so easy for other moms but for me it can be almost painful. Thank you for saying it. 🙂

    • Doña May 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Kendra, you are so not a weenie! But I’ve felt that way, too. I’m glad this helped you.

  8. Indigo Felle May 3, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    I know this feeling well. I often had trouble just dealing with college roommates, but having kids leaves me feeling like there is no escape! Even now at 6 and 3, with them in school some of the day, I am sometimes left in a panic at the knowledge that, once they come home, it will be non-stop “Mommy” until bedtime. Still, now that they are in school, I’m not as desperate by bedtime as I used to be, so that’s progress (and hope for others, I hope!).
    Indigo Felle recently posted…Grateful Art — when Mommy goes out of townMy Profile

  9. helen May 2, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    Thank you for this. It really resonated with me. I think I’m getting gradually better at taking even the tiniest bits of time to recover myself. Nursing him down for bed used to be a time sink but now I consciously withdraw and take that time for reflecting and restoring before getting busy for the evening.
    helen recently posted…I have doubtsMy Profile

    • Doña May 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Bedtime is still the roughest time of day for me. I’m just so done by then. That’s a great way to look at it, though. Sometimes, if the light doesn’t bother her, I’ll read a book on my iPhone while my daughter is nursing to sleep. I feel like I’m stealing time. :

  10. Veronica May 1, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    I struggle with this a lot. I very rarely get alone time and often stay up too late. Not sleeping is the one thing that makes me completely unable to handle like…anything. When I’m exhausted ohmygod everything is a crisis. These tips are great. I know I am definitely taking them to heart. Shared on twitter too xo
    Veronica recently posted…black and white blog circle: she lit up the roomMy Profile

    • Doña May 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      I know – not enough sleep is my Achilles tendon. Everything is more manageable when I’m rested. Something I never seem to remember at 11pm…

  11. Columba Lisa Smith May 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I can so relate to this. Now that my kids are teenagers, I sometimes escape to the library to write. All three of my kids are introverts, and we homeschool, so our need for space couldn’t be more obvious at times! At least we understand one another! 🙂
    Columba Lisa Smith recently posted…When a Teenage Daughter Is PregnantMy Profile

    • Doña May 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

      Wow, that’s a lot of introverts under one roof! My partner and I both are introverted, but it is too soon to tell yet with our little one. I’ve always loved escaping to the library, though!

  12. Kim May 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    I am definitely an introvert…but you know, I have never connected my feelings of ‘crawling up the wall’ because my children aren’t giving me enough space to the fact that I am. However, it makes perfect sense now! Your tips are wonderful…and I have found through trial and error over the years that most times they do indeed work!
    Kim recently posted…Magic MudMy Profile

    • Doña May 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

      I’m so glad to hear these methods work over the long haul! With just a toddler I sometimes feel all wise – until I get to the next phase and I have no idea what I’m doing again.

  13. Doña May 1, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Sarah, I’m so glad these were helpful to you. My girl is 27 months old now, and yes, her need for my attention is quite overwhelming most days. Even when I know I’ll miss this much interaction time when she’s a teenager. 🙂

  14. erica @ expatria, baby April 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    Huh. I never really connected my feeling of overwhelm to the fact that I’m kinda totally introverted. And now I kinda feel a little more justified in carving out my quiet time.
    erica @ expatria, baby recently posted…Hi. Welcome to a nonsense blog post.My Profile

    • Doña May 1, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      You should totally feel justified!

  15. Sarah April 30, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Yes! Everything about this post resonates with me. I’m guessing our kids are close to the same age, and balancing an introverted personality with the neediness of a toddler (as well as acting pleasant to my husband instead of my default grump mode!) is quite a challenge some days. Your tips — get outside, schedule “me” time, “lean in” to the neediness — are excellent.
    Sarah recently posted…Foodie Pen Pals: April 2013My Profile

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