Two Introverts And A Baby
When my husband and I were expecting our baby, we talked a lot about how our lives were going to change. We were prepared to sleep less. We also knew we wouldn’t be able to be as spontaneous as a couple—no more going out for margaritas on a whim at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday. And we knew it would be more challenging to keep up with friends, but we’re both introverts, so we figured that fewer social obligations wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
It turns out that the hardest change for us, the introverts, has been the sharp decrease in our individual alone time.
We didn’t realize how much of that we had, and how much of it we needed, until we had a baby who now takes up almost all of it. It hasn’t been an easy transition.
Sometimes people mistakenly think all introverts are shy or don’t like people, but that’s not the case. Being an introvert means, among other things, that you get your energy from your inner world and need time by yourself to recharge. Time that we’re sorely lacking now that we have a toddler who only stops moving when he crashes into something or is asking (yelling) to be picked up.
We love spending time as a family, of course, and taking our son on adventures to new places. Ironically, we are probably more active and social now than we were pre-kid because, to be honest, staying inside all day with a toddler makes us go stir crazy. Especially for me, since I stay home, it’s important for my son and I to stay busy with activities and playdates, both for my sanity and to give him some social interaction. (My definition of “busy” though, is probably different than an extrovert’s.)
The challenging part is that after all these outings we can’t come home and immediately recharge. Before we had our son we could have some quiet time on the couch, work on an individual hobby, or (gasp) even take a nap after a social activity. Now we come home and still need to be “on” with our son, and some days it’s hard to keep the energy up.
We live for naptime.
Again, not because we don’t love spending time with our child, but because that time is essential for us to regroup and have a fun afternoon with him. When he doesn’t nap as long as we expect him to, we curse under our breath and silently will him to go back to sleep, which he does about 1 in 20 times.
When my son was still learning how to nap in his crib, those days were some of the hardest for me because I got zero time to recharge. My husband would come in the door at 6 p.m. and I would throw the baby at him, grab my keys and run to Sonic for a Diet Coke. I would take the “scenic route” home, adding about 2 minutes to a trip that only takes about 1 minute, then sit in the driveway listening to a podcast and basking in the alone-ness. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get me to bedtime.
These days, most of our alone time happens after our son goes to bed at 7:30 p.m. But once we’ve cleaned up the house, tackled some of our to-do list, and spent some individual alone time, there’s not much time left to reconnect as a couple. When we do finally sit down to spend time together, one of us (me) usually ends up falling asleep. Which explains why Westworld premiered a month ago and we’re still only on episode 2.
We have figured out some strategies that help us find balance. On the weekends, we plan out our day in the morning and figure out when we’ll spend time as a family and when we’ll each have alone time while the other one watches our son. But we’ve learned to be flexible too, and pick up the slack when one person needs more time. We’ve also learned to manage our expectations about how much alone time we’ll get and what we can accomplish in that time.
We also try to have regular date nights so that we get couple time in addition to alone time. When that’s not possible, we try to be more intentional about the time we spend together after bedtime. We’ll play a board game or make a special meal instead of just collapsing on the couch. And some nights we just say “screw it” and stay up way too late, sacrificing sleep in order to do everything we want to do.
Being an introvert and a parent has taught me a lot about myself.
I’ve learned how to take care of myself so that I can be a better mom, and to not feel guilty if that means taking some alone time. I’ve realized I have more flexibility and resilience than I thought I did. And even though it can be challenging, I know that someday I will truly miss this phase with my son. Before I know it he’ll be more independent, and I’ll be longing for the days when all he needed and wanted was time with his mama.