I’m an introvert to the core. I crave time in my head…I need it like I need air. I’m not shy; I can handle group activities just fine, and I’m quite assertive when I need to be. Most people don’t think of me as an introvert, because I learned to mask it when I was working in the corporate world. But there were times when my boss would interrupt me while I was writing, and I was surprised the whole building couldn’t hear the giant sucking sound my brain made as it tried to disengage from what I was working on. That’s still true today. Despite loving my children fiercely, it takes a herculean effort to switch from “in my head” thinking to social thinking. As a SAHM, that presents some challenges wrapped in a big, bulky package of guilt.
I’ve already written about the irony of somebody like me getting loud, rambunctious kids. Somewhere out there, there’s an extroverted mom thinking, “Would you please just get your nose out of a book and talk to me, for crying out loud?” I wouldn’t trade who my kids are for anything, but it has taken – and still takes – a lot of adaptation on my part. And I still worry that my kids will think I don’t love them because I can’t interact with them every second without my head exploding.
What doesn’t work
- Bedtime stories: I’m happy to cuddle up and read to my kids in the afternoon, but, by bedtime, I’m done. You can’t give what you don’t have, and I don’t have that much social energy left in me by the end of the day. I have to make myself not rush through the tuck-in routine.
- Pretend play: I can’t do it. I don’t know how. I’m great with board games, cards, etc., something where there are rules and structure. I can color all afternoon. But the open-endedness of pretend play defeats me. Fortunately, with my younger two being only 11 months apart, they have each other. And some of the conversations I’ve overheard while they’re pretending rank right up there with the best entertainment I’ve ever had.
- Neediness: When one of my kids is feeling especially needy just when I’m ready to be alone in my head, it’s really hard. But I manage. It’s one of those “fake it until you make it” things. Switching gears like that doesn’t come naturally, but I do it.
- Not being afraid to say, “Give me a few minutes.” I know that I’ll meet their needs much better if I have a minute to disengage from whatever it is I’m doing. I do try to be specific about how long I need, and, believe me, they watch the clock!
- School: Now that all three of my kids are in school, I have about 7 hours to myself each day. That doesn’t mean I’m sitting around watching soaps; I’m usually writing. But I’m in my head in complete silence, which recharges my batteries for the afternoon ahead.
- Keeping the last hour before pickup open. I find that if I’m rushing right until I have to pick up the kids, their cacophony hits me like Krakatoa blowing her top. I try to take that last hour to mentally transition; otherwise, I feel like I have whiplash going from silence to the chaos that is my afternoon carpool.
Introverts are good moms, too. Some things are just harder for us. But some things are easier. Like being stuck at home with a newborn or a sick child. Or weeks of maternity leave. While motherhood often requires enough intense, chaotic interaction to make an extrovert sneak off to the bathroom, there are also times when introverts’ ability to live happily in our own heads can be a lifesaver.