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Hiding at the Playground: Learning to Thrive as an Introverted Parent

I’m gonna be frank with ya’ll. I am an introvert. The thought of large, boisterous gatherings overwhelms me. The promise of spending a quiet night in, undisturbed with a book in hand, could probably bribe me into some sort of trouble. So if I awkwardly avoid you at the playground, while my kids scramble along the monkey bars, let me just apologize in advance. I’m sorry because I probably don’t want to talk to you. It’s not you. It’s me (really!) and it’s how I’ve learned to thrive as an introverted mom.

How do introverted tendencies affect parents?

Just because I identify as an introvert doesn’t mean that I dislike people. I love making new acquaintances and spontaneously chatting it up! Being an introvert is less about social situations and much more about brain stimulation. If you’re feeling particularly nerdy, check out this article on how the brain, Dopamine, and Acetylcholine dictate the introvert/extrovert personality spectrum. Being an introvert in an extrovert world is literally exhausting. So it should be no surprise that being an introvert tends to add another five pounds to the mental load of motherhood. If you’re a highly-sensitive introvert (yes, there is a difference), tack on another twenty.

Why?

Parenthood instinctively evokes hyper-vigilance, anxiety, and yes, a more consistent onslaught of exciting chemicals to the brain. For stay-at-home parents, or primary caregivers, this experience may be even more intense. Introverts can become worn down, faster than our extroverted counterparts. Without intentional steps toward self-care, parenthood can send anyone spiraling into a vortex of emotional depletion. But this is especially true for introverts.

Ways I push my introverted mom self towards self-care (and why its essential)

I was well into parenthood with two kids and a third on the way when I had a self-help epiphany. I needed more quiet time. Not just “me time”, but an actual reduction in the amount of stimulation I was exposing myself to on a daily basis. As a SAHM I cannot hire a nanny or just pause my chatty and needy toddlers. However, as a mental health therapist, I have a whole toolbox of coping strategies to fall back on. When I finally took a moment to assess my utter exhaustion, I was surprised to find that I was frequently neglecting essential opportunities for self-care.

It all started with an intentional shift towards disconnecting. First, I stopped expecting myself to entertain my children and started to model better boundaries. Then, I put the phone down more. Next, I took more mini mental vacations. I absorbed the quiet corners of playgrounds and libraries while my kids played. I practiced mindfulness while doing the dishes. And yes, I stopped feeling guilty about letting my kids watch a movie or educational television show now and again so that I could soak up the silence. It has, hands down, made me a better mom and more patient spouse.

Need strategies for recharging the mom batteries? Take some of mine!

  1. Tap out and swap out. Devise a plan with your partner or another adult to get a parenting hiatus when you have hit your threshold. Be honest and clear about what you need and when you need it. Use the break to engage in activities that are non-stimulating for you and replenish your natural energy.
  2. Foster family “quiet time”. When I can’t tap out, I orchestrate mandatory family quiet time. This may be driving in the car with soothing music, playing audio books and setting up a coloring corner. Or, my favorite, encouraging the kids towards independent play. I try my best to make sure its a predictable activity and a whole-family commitment.
  3. Get your sleep. While this is not always possible with children, make the precious sleep that we do get, count. Studies advocate for turning off electronics and technology at night. Find ways to introduce a sleep routine into your family’s schedule and stick to it. 
  4. Indulge in the wee hours. Depending on whether you’re a night owl or an early riser, capitalize on those ‘edge hours’ when everyone else is slumbering. Use this time to do what feeds your soul and brings you joy.
  5. Schedule a monthly self-care date. Set aside one day periodically that is dedicated to doing something that rejuvenates and recharges you. Maybe it’s a long walk followed by a quiet lunch out, or maybe it’s an afternoon with your favorite pal. Whatever it is, make time for you!

Are you an introverted parent? How do you stay sane? Share your secrets in the comments below!

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