Parenting as an introvert can feel a bit like a torture chamber. Introverts typically re-charge their batteries with quiet, peaceful alone time and can be easily overwhelmed or exhausted by crowded or loud environments (ie any kid-friendly activity!)
As an introvert myself, I was unprepared for the challenges my innate personality would lend to parenting. Being with my babies all day was exhausting. I came home from play-dates wanting to pull my hair out from frustration and overwhelm. I waited - not so patiently - for naptime so that I could be ALONE. And then I realized why... It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being with my children, it was that their constant presence literally wore me out.
Even though I’ve realized my limitations and try harder now to put better boundaries in place for myself, I am still learning how to keep up with the energetic (and constantly noisy!) household my kids create each day. But here are a few strategies I’ve learned along the way:
Accept who you are
This is the MOST important aspect of enjoying motherhood. It is far too easy to let the guilt consume you, but it’s far more important that you acknowledge and accept who YOU are in this whole puzzle. If you feel at your best when you’re at work, you need to figure out how to be a working mom (I get it - this one was hard for me because the childcare costs just made it nearly prohibitive to keep working!). If you feel at peace being at home with your children, be a stay at home mom. If you need to work out to feel good about yourself, acknowledge it and make that space in your schedule or sign up for a gym with a childcare. If you’re introverted and need to have time alone in order to be happy, then make time to be alone. Acknowledging and embracing your needs will make your entire family happier in the long run.
Make time to be alone
Which leads me to this one. Ok, so it isn’t always that easy – especially if you have a new baby, spend long hours at work or commuting or have a partner who travels a lot. But, try to take advantage of the early mornings or late evenings and just carve out space for yourself. It can feel absolutely glorious to wake up 20 minutes earlier than everyone else and enjoy your coffee in peace. Or, if you have an early riser, then try to carve out the time in the evening after everyone has gone to bed. You don't need to stay up late - even 20-30 minutes of quiet is enough to reset the mind of an introvert. If you can't find time at the beginning or end of the day, then try to hire a babysitter, work together with your partner or family members, trade off shifts with your mom friends....anything. Do something- anything - so that you can be alone – even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day.
Schedule dates with friends and partners
Yes, introverts need to be alone to recharge and it’s likely you’re exhausted at even the thought of being social after being with your baby or kids all day. As a fellow introvert, I know I sure am! But you also need time to socialize and be yourself – with adults. It's hard for us introverts to make this effort when we'd rather just curl up and enjoy a book or the latest Netflix show. I struggled with this a lot when my kiddos were younger. I was lucky enough to have a small community of really amazing moms who lived close by - and we had a standing moms night out date each month. But when I was stuck at home with a baby all day, the last thing I wanted to do was leave the house and be around more people. Thankfully, my husband and girlfriends always encouraged me to JUST GO - and I'm so glad. The laughter, community and connection that comes from spending time with your close friends - and your partner - fills a different bucket that is just as important as time alone.
Schedule quiet time
Ok, so trust me on this one. No matter the age, your kids are never too old for quiet time. When they're little and just transitioning out of nap time, it is absolutely crucial to hold onto the quiet time ritual. My favorite phrase is "You don't have to nap, but you have to stay in your bed for 1 hour". I learned that one from my mom - who told me I stopped napping way too early for her. :) Now that mine are older and in school, I still take advantage of this down time. In the summer, I institute quiet time every afternoon. Typically, I am exhausted by 2pm - and the kids are too. We’ve been at the pool or the kids have been running around the house for hours and I've been working - and I just can’t even think straight anymore. Setting time aside for everyone to be quiet keeps my sanity in check and breaks up the day a bit for everyone.
Something about the fresh air makes everything feel better. If you have a small baby, put them in the stroller and go for a walk. If your kids are older, take them on a hike or a bike ride. You’re outside and having fun together so you can bond at the same time, but being outside changes the energy for everyone - breaks up the day - and gives your mind some clarity and peace.
I know, it’s not ideal - and I'm sure I'll get some eye rolls here. But I’ve given up feeling guilty about using technology for some down time. Put on a movie, let them play video games or on their tablets for a little while…it will be ok! Whatever it takes so that you can recharge and be more present for them will make a far bigger difference than an hour or two of screen time.
Use Bedtime Routines
Be strict about this. If you’re already a fan of my blog, then you know I’m a huge proponent of bedtime routines. They’re super helpful in keeping the kiddos from becoming overtired and melting down. But they are even more important for an introverted parent. The more regimented you are about a bedtime routine, the more comfortable the kids become with it over time. This is important because it helps bedtime (the time of day when you’re already SO DONE) go more smoothly and protects that precious alone time before you go to bed yourself.
Ask for help
Do it! Ask your partner to take over the bedtime routine on days when you’re spent. Ask for your mom friends or family members to take the kids for a few hours. Hire a housekeeper so you can spend the baby’s nap-time really recharging instead of on chore duty. In whatever way you can, ask for help so that you get the chance to recharge. Everyone will be better off for it!
Consider out of home childcare
In the same vein, if you stay at home or work from home (like me), hiring out of home childcare allows you to be at home, in your comfortable quiet place, without the children. This can be a game changer for getting things done and feeling like YOU. You can get your work done, clean in peace, sit down and catch up on Netflix, read a good book on your back porch....or gasp...take a nap! There is something about being in your house alone that is extra special - and hard to achieve once you have a partner and kids!
Recharge on the Go
Chances are, your kids are in some sort of activity. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media while you sit in Karate class for an hour, keep a book/magazine/podcast with you at all times. This gives you “me time” and allows you to recharge while you’re out and about. This one has really been a recent go-to for me as my kids get older and want to do more after school activities. We're busy and having something with me helps me really maximize my time. Trust me mama, take it where you can get it!
These small shifts have helped me be a more present and involved parent and I hope that some of them resonate with you enough to give them a try. Was this helpful? Leave me a comment below and let me know!
Take care mama!
Jennifer Howard is a Licensed Therapist, Certified Life Coach and Infant Sleep Expert. Having experienced sleep deprivation and postpartum depression herself, she became passionate about helping new moms and their partners find their footing and thrive in motherhood. When not working with clients, blogging or chatting with moms in the Mommy-SOS Sisterhood, she can be found painting, doing yoga and chasing her two crazy kiddos around.
As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
Have you checked out the podcast?