Overwhelmed and outnumbered can, at times, be a perfect way to describe motherhood. As introverts, those feelings can be amplified a hundredfold as we move from room to room in a loud, chaotic, busy and perplexing household. Last week we uncovered what an introvert is and whether you are an introvert or not. This week, we will look at how being an introvert and a parent can be a shock to the system.
Our minds can find the adjustment to parenting a complete surprise, especially when we find ourselves unable to escape momentarily to regroup. Luckily, this week we are also talking about how to overcome this shock and happily parent as an introvert.
Shock To The System
Why does being a parent and an introvert feel like losing a game of tug of war? Probably because that's exactly how it feels! We're not ready for the pull and are dragged along the mud while clutching the rope! In this scenario, every inch of our body will hurt. As an introvert, being pulled along by our family can feel like every ounce of our energy is being drained. No wonder it's a shock to our system! It's not exactly easy to prepare for parenthood as an introvert.
So what is happening to our introvert selves when our kids' demands tug and tug and tug?
Our Attention Is Divided
As our kids' demands increase and those of our partner, the house, and ourselves, our attention is heavily divided throughout the day. With more than one voice needing to be heard, we are inherently stretched as our concentration levels become strained, we lose focus, and no doubt fights may break out with constant complaints of "Mum, you're not listening to me."
And with everyday fights coming from every corner of the house, our energy levels are questioned. As an introvert, you may prefer harmony and quiet and aim to ensure everyone gets along. But we can not control everyone in our home, so it is inevitable we may become drained by sibling squabbles as we try to balance not only our own emotions but also those around us.
The Withdrawal Effect
Unable to pause or override conflict can lead to an introvert withdrawing or escaping. It's exhausting, demanding, and depleting to feel the need to monitor and manage everyone's emotions and needs. When we lose control, we become overwhelmed and may find it easier to run away so that we protect our energy and mental wellbeing.
We show up. We do all the things. But we struggle to connect because our energy is never given a chance to recharge.
A Vicious Cycle
And, of course, without recognising that we are an introvert and appreciating who we are, we continue parenting out of line with our natural tendencies as an introvert which becomes a vicious circle.
Balancing the Shock
To balance this shock to the system, we aim to become emotionally recharged and connected with our family, friends, and colleagues throughout the day without draining our energy. In this way, we can feel emotionally secure in our day-to-day lives without risking depleting ourselves. As an introvert, we must lean into the implications of being an introvert. This means giving ourselves the space to step back, regroup, recharge, and enthusiastically reduce our exposure to anything that negatively impacts our wellbeing. There are three simple ways we can begin doing this:
Accept Who You Are
Motherhood comes with perplexing and mixed feelings about being "good enough", parenting the "right way", and those perpetual feelings of guilt. It can be challenging to recognise that we are doing our best and the only way we know-how. As an introvert, the best place to begin our parenting journey is to accept who we are. Knowing that we need time to ourselves, to set boundaries, and refuel is perfectly ok and not a reason to allow guilt to fly. Stop trying to change yourself to suit a particular parenting "style," but rather make parenting work for you and your keen characteristic of being an introvert.
Install Quiet Time
A few words to describe the very nature of parenthood are loud, busy and constant.
As an introvert, we lean towards quiet, slow, and minimal. Looking for that pause in our day with kids is nearly impossible because our kids will almost always fill the gap with demands, needs, and challenges. Instead of waiting for a five-minute break from mothering, install quiet time within your day so that you know there will be a time on the horizon for you to recharge. If you don't actively make quiet time a priority in your life, it simply won't happen. Lock it in!
Shift Your Day To Limit Interaction
This one can be tricky, but it may also be a necessity. Depending on your job, you may have the opportunity to manoeuvre your workday so you have fewer face-to-face interactions, which can add to the overwhelming and draining nature of being constantly connected and "on." Make certain days email days only. Book phone calls, zoom meetings, or face-to-face gatherings for early mornings so that you have the opportunity to recharge afterwards. And limit how much interaction you have in a day with neighbours, friends, and, if possible, even your kids. Think about how you can limit your interactions throughout the day, including avoiding school gate chats or meeting with a friend on a less busy or hectic day for you.
There are, of course, many benefits to being an introvert and a parent too!
Next week, we will look at some of these benefits in closer detail and how parenting as an introvert can affect our kids.