“Thanks for hanging out with me today,” I whispered to my 4-year-old, tucking him into bed at the end of long day of mother/son bonding. “I really enjoyed spending time with you.”
“Of course, Mama. I love you. I could never live without someone like you to keep me company.”
It was a sweet response, and a simple one, yet those few short words revealed so much of his personality. He’s my extroverted social butterfly who has never met a stranger, and I fully believe him when he says he couldn’t survive a day without somebody (or preferably many somebodies) to provide him with companionship.
As someone who has long identified as a hard-core introvert, I sometimes struggle to understand his need for other people.
In fact, I dedicated a fair amount of my pre-parenthood worrying to the question of how I would balance motherhood with my own intense need for silence and alone time. When I became pregnant with my firstborn, I actually prayed that God would give me a quiet, introverted child who would value time spent noiselessly playing in his room and would happily honor my need for extended periods of solitude and silence.
God obviously had different plans for my son’s personality, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I love Charleston’s boisterous spirit, his predilection for singing songs at the top of his lungs, and his ability to develop instantaneous friendships with other kids on the playground. He reminds me quite a bit of myself at his age (my introverted tendencies didn’t set in until adolescence), and though it isn’t always easy to parent a child whose temperament is so different from mine, many of my premature concerns have proven unwarranted. And isn’t that often the case? So much of what we worry about before becoming parents ends up working out, while the true challenges are issues that were never on our radar!
I’ve been amazed by—and incredibly thankful for—the ways that God has shifted my priorities and adjusted my own energy needs to accommodate my son’s extroversion.
Amazingly, time with my child doesn’t exhaust me in the way that time with adults tends to do. I’ve also found that I don’t mind spending more time out of the house surrounded by—gasp!—OTHER PEOPLE because I understand how important it is for Charleston to get plenty of social time. Most shocking of all, being a full-time SAHM has kindled a desire to form my own friendships, something that previously hadn’t been a high priority for me.
That’s not to say that I’ve done a full pendulum swing into Camp Extrovert. I still need plenty of quiet and solitude, and thankfully I have been able to work these into my daily routines. I make excellent use of our gym’s childcare, where Charleston gets to play with friends while I hang out on the treadmill with headphones, a good book, and zero need to talk to anyone for an entire hour. When Charleston still napped, I reserved nap time for solitary endeavors (like cleaning the house without interruption) that replenished my energy tank enough to get me to the end of the day. Now that Charleston has dropped his daily naps, he goes to bed earlier, giving me plenty of alone time in the evenings.
My husband, who works from home, is himself an introvert and understands how much I value my personal time. Since he is able to refuel through quiet time spent at his computer, he is wonderful about giving me short breaks in the middle of the weekday when I can sneak away to my bedroom to catch my breath while he entertains our son. And most Saturdays find me at home by myself while my boys spend time at my in-laws’ house or on some other father/son adventure.
These solo days are an introvert’s dream: I write, read, take myself out to lunch, and go for a walk without having to interact with a single person all day. By the time my house is full again, my energy has been restored and I’m ready for another week of gloriously loud mom-ing.
With twins entering our family in just a few short weeks, I have no idea how our rhythms will change or how they will affect my desire for (and access to) alone time. I expect there will be some growing pains involved as my heart and hands and temperament expand to meet my family’s needs. However, I am trusting that God will give me the energy and fortitude to face what’s ahead. . . even if His plans for us involve THREE tiny extroverts filling my home with laughter, loudness, and exuberant love.
If you are an introvert who is struggling to stay afloat in a home of boisterous little ones, hang in there mama!
Solicit help from a spouse, parent, or friend to give yourself a break. Make the most of small pockets of quiet (even if it’s just ten minutes in the shower) to replenish your soul. Most importantly, take comfort in the knowledge that being an introvert doesn’t make you any less of a mom: your personality is not an accident, and you have every quality you need to uniquely parent your children. You can do this!