INSIDE: Parenting can be hard at the best of times. But parenting when you’re an introvert mum? That can be really tough! Especially when your child is an extrovert. Today I’m sharing what it’s like for me as an introverted parent, how I manage and how you can too.
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The joys of parenting…
Being a parent is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world. We wait nine months for our little bundles of joy to enter our lives, but when they do we have absolutely no idea how to take care of them. And so, we spend the next eighteen years-plus winging it, hoping for the best.
With no manual to help us out and no rule book to follow, we hope and pray that we get it right. We beat ourselves up over what we think we could and should have done better, and we go to bed hoping that tomorrow will be a better day. Whenever we finally start to feel like we have this whole parenting thing figured out, everything changes. Our kids enter a whole new phase with a brand-new set of rules and we have to start all over again.
Questioning our abilities…
When it comes to teething, weaning, sleepless nights and potty training we’re happy to share our worries and struggles. We think nothing of telling our friends about how we haven’t slept for days and the toilet habits of our kids – complete with all the gory details. We compare and swap notes on bottles, nappies, switching to solids and encouraging them to walk and talk.
But there’s another side of parenting we don’t talk about as often as we should. The parenting struggle that can leave us feeling isolated and like there’s something wrong with our ability to parent.
What is it? Parenting when you’re an introvert.
You see, who wants to admit they find being a mum tough? That being a parent isn’t quite the breeze in the park they thought it was going to be. That being a mum doesn’t come as naturally to them as they thought it would.
Who wants to admit that as much as they love their kids, they don’t want to be around them all the time? That their non-stop chatter and need for constant attention drives them crazy. That sometimes, us mums need our own time out too.
Worried that we’re the only ones who feel this way, we stay quiet. With a fear of being judged, we keep our thoughts and feelings to ourselves. Worried they mean we’re a bad parent, we bottle them up, too afraid to share them with anyone else, just in case.
But when you’re a mum, especially an introvert mum, these feelings are perfectly normal and have nothing to do with your ability to parent.
The struggle of being an introvert mum…
My youngest son Harrison and I are total opposites. I’m as introverted as they come, and he, well he’s as extroverted as you can get. At his happiest surrounded by others, he gets his energy from being around lots of people. I, on the other hand, recharge best when I’m by myself. Social situations and the thought of making small talk with someone I don’t know, totally freak me out. But Harrison thinks nothing of striking up a conversation with a complete stranger and always has something to say.
Outgoing and adventurous, he loves trying new things and exploring new places whereas I’m much more anxious and reserved and prefer the comfort of my own home. And constantly on the go, he never stops talking whilst I love my peace and quiet.
Feeding off those around him, he basks in their company and would happily spend every waking minute surrounded by others. But if I socialise for too long, I have to retreat and shut myself away somewhere quiet to regroup. And if I don’t get that much needed ‘me-time’ to recharge, I start to feel overwhelmed and become cranky with those around me because I feel drained and exhausted.
Related: How to Take Better Care of Yourself
The struggle is real…
Being an introvert mum to an extrovert son isn’t easy. Especially on the weekends and during the holidays. Some days it can be really hard to spend every waking moment with Harrison.
It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with him, of course I do. I LOVE doing things with him and I miss him when he’s at school. BUT, I can’t be constantly on the go and in the company of others all the time like he can. It exhausts me.
In the early days, this really frustrated me. Feeling like a terrible mother, I would wonder what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I spend all day with my son without needing to retreat and hide after? What was I doing wrong? But it turns out that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Harrison and I simply have two very different personalities and we function in two very different ways. I might have given birth to him but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be the same as me. And that’s OK!
When you’re different personalities…
Once I realised this, I began to beat myself up over my apparent lack of parenting skills less. I accepted that I was an introvert mum to an extrovert child. And instead of thinking I wasn’t cut out to be a parent, I began looking for ways to better manage the fact we were polar opposites.
Now, each day, I try to mix up time with Harrison with time by myself. Sometimes it’s just five minutes curled up in my chair in my bedroom with a coffee and my book whilst Harrison watches TV. Other times I get up before he does so I can journal and enjoy my much-needed peace and quiet.
It’s got easier as he’s got older, but sometimes it can still be a challenge. Because he loves company ALL.THE.TIME. he doesn’t understand why I want – and need – to be on my own sometimes. And because he loves being around others and has so much to share, he doesn’t stop talking. He wants to tell me everything about everything and whilst I love that about him, he doesn’t always understand why Mummy needs quiet time so she can think.
As long as I have a few minutes to myself each day to regroup and recharge I’m able to cope with the parts of his personality that are so different from mine. And now, although I still have the occasional tough day (who doesn’t, right?), life as an introvert mum to an extrovert son has become much easier to manage.
There are some advantages too…
Over the years I’ve learned that whilst sometimes it can be hard, there are also a few advantages to having an extrovert child when you’re an introvert mum. Harrison has forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone in ways I’d never have thought possible.
Because of his ability to just go up and talk to anyone, he’s a great icebreaker too. There have been so many times where I’ve wanted to talk to someone but been too shy to get the conversation started and Harrison has taken care of the hard work for me. And I’ve made some wonderful friends as a result.
He’s helped me to get to know the other mums in the playground and to strike up conversations with strangers in the park. When I don’t know what to say, he’ll happily fill in the blanks. And when I’m struggling to come up with something for us to do, the outgoing, adventurous streak in him is full of ideas.
Our opposite personalities are as helpful as they are challenging, and they can be helpful for you too. If you’re an introvert mum with an extrovert child, ask yourself which of their traits have helped you. Feed off of those and use them to your advantage. I have and still do regularly and it really helps me accomplish things I’d have never tried otherwise.
The struggle of an introvert mum…
Parenting when you’re an introvert can be a real emotional rollercoaster. If you’re an introvert mum like me…or a mum who sometimes finds it tough, know that you’re not alone. Having days where you struggle to make it through to bedtime doesn’t make you a bad parent. Nor does being an introvert mum needing five minutes to herself. Us mums work hard and when our personalities are opposite to our child’s, the days can feel incredibly challenging and exhausting.
But it’s OK for you both to be different. To function in very different ways. And introvert mum or not, it’s OK to need time away from your kids. We all have times where we feel like we’re failing as a parent, times where being an introvert makes this whole parenting thing feel impossible. But know that you’re doing so much better than you give yourself credit for. Tell yourself that you’re doing awesome and your babies love you more than you can possibly imagine.
And so, next time you’re struggling, try and take some time for you. Ask yourself what makes you feel rested and recharged and incorporate it into your day. Whether it’s reading, journaling, listening to music, creating in the kitchen or having a long, hot, undisturbed bath, I promise you’ll feel so much better for doing it!
And don’t be afraid to share your struggles with a fellow mum friend. You never know, they may be secretly struggling with being an introvert mum too.
Until next time…
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