Babies need to be close to us, physically and emotionally attached to us. As a mother, their care becomes our primary objective. The connection between mother and child develops at a fierce rate as soon as they are born. As our children grow, we may (or may not) notice how our time, bodies, and space are no longer our own. And this is ok (to a degree) because it is our motherly instincts at work. But what if the constant touching, babbling conversations, and inability to escape from being needed become too much, too overwhelming, mentally exhausting?
Well then, it's likely you are an introvert, like me!
We may not know to what extent kids will take over our lives, but we know it will happen in one form or another. So we accept chaos and the busyness of life and mother in a way our children need. However, what we may forget is just how difficult being "constantly on" for our children really is; how mentally and physically exhausting it is to be needed, touched, bombarded by noise and the need to pay attention.
If you are triggered by this incessant parental need to be attached and find you are crying out for time alone, to be away from the kids, your partner, the phone ringing, the front door swinging, then welcome to the introvert club!
For a long time, it was believed that being an introvert and a parent, with a little one (or two or three) permanently attached to your waist, didn’t mix very well. But that's not the case. Recognising that you are an introvert can level up your parenting game in many ways.
Over the next few weeks, we will look at this idea of being an introvert and making
it work with our motherhood. But first, in this opening instalment of the Mama Moments Introvert Series, let’s first look at what an introvert is and whether you are one.
What Is An Introvert?
There is a common misconception that introverts are shy, book worms, quiet, socially awkward, and reserved. The reality of being an introvert is far more complex than that and includes the necessary ability to limit our exposure to other people. An introvert by nature is someone who needs to recharge by being alone and digest the onslaught of information and stimuli bombarding them at any one time.
An introvert tends to take in more information than others but will need quiet and solitude to process that information. It's one reason family gatherings can be utterly overwhelming! If we can't find the time and space to be alone, the overpowering nature of all that we have consumed becomes too much for us to handle.
Being a parent and an introvert means we may find it more challenging to escape situations we ordinarily avoid. Soft play, playdates, conversations with other parents at the school gates, parent-teacher meetings, shopping with toddlers, and so many other places and events can make our already complicated lives more challenging.
Am I An Introvert?
Knowing whether you are an introvert can be a significant step forward in caring for your mind in parenthood. We can blame ourselves for many things and feel guilty if we are not "measuring up" to society's standards. But we can often forget to forgive ourselves and struggle to understand our personality traits that make up the person we are. Being an introvert is one of those prominent characteristics which make us wonderfully unique and individual.
As an introvert we are more likely to feel more comfortable when given the time and space to focus on our thoughts. We are more likely to enjoy and partake in small gatherings of one or two friends rather than a large wedding or event with a big crowd. We may find small talk tricky and avoid people we know in the supermarket because we are not ready to stop and chat. And we may be more comfortable in our own homes. Signs you may be an introvert include:
Needing time and space to be quiet to concentrate
Enjoying being self-reflective and introspective
Happy to daydream to solve a problem
Be more self-aware
Feel more comfortable and at ease being alone
Prefer texting over phone calls
Feel worn out or tired after being with friends or colleagues or in a large crowd
Prefer to work alone and take time making decisions
Have a few close friendships rather than multiple acquaintances and friends.
While there are characteristics of introversion, you will fall along a line that does not match the stereotyped image of introverts. There are, in fact, varying types of introverts, including:
Social introverts – a preference for small groups over large gatherings.
Anxious introverts – a preference for quiet and solitude due to the overwhelming nature of feeling awkward around people.
Thinking introverts – the daydreamers.
However, being an introvert is not a tick box exercise but a way to recognise when you may need space, time, and quiet to recharge your energies.
What Does Being An Introvert Mean for a Mother?
We are overburdened in motherhood which is why I am a keen advocate for self-care. We spend so much time with other people, caring for them, loving them, corralling them into the car!
Conversations consume us, things to do, places to be, and the constant moving nature of connecting with so much around us. When all of this goes against how we feel and what we would rather be doing, it's then that we can act and tailor our self-care uniquely to us as a mother.
Knowing we are introverts, that we naturally recharge by being alone, gives us this key information we need to adapt and honour our self-care.
Some of my favourite ways to recharge my energy include walking to the coast by myself while parental duties are graciously handed over to my husband. I meditate alone when the house is empty and quiet. I take a hot shower and step up the self-care by playing music and using my favourite products. And one of my favourite things to do is to take a few minutes to read alone in bed while the kids watch a cartoon. Recharging my energy in ways I choose, taking a break from connecting with people and reconnecting with myself fills my cup. If I didn't do this, I know I would be heading for complete depletion, leading to burnout and poor health.
Next week we will look at how being an introvert affects our parenting and vice versa, how motherhood affects our introverted nature and how to balance being an introvert in such a load world!