Confessions of An Introvert Mama

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You watch as she enters the room, engaging with each guest she meets. You see her listening, telling stories, laughing, and connecting with people in the room. Chances are you might mistake this woman for an extrovert. You see, people often equate extroverts with being outgoing and think an introvert is shy, quiet, and well, ‘sit in the corner with their nose in a book’ kind of people. But really, introversion and extroversion have more to do with how we fill our emotional gas tank than it does with our affinity for people and relationships.

Extroverts refill their tanks by turning outward and being with people. Introverts, on the other hand, refill by turning inward and being alone, seeking out time away from people.

Confessions of an Introvert Mom

Most people who know me are surprised to learn that I am an introvert. I enjoy socializing and I love connecting with people, but confession time – those things totally drain me. I could have a fabulous time at a party, enjoying every moment and leave feeling far more tired than when I arrived. This can be confusing for extroverts, after all, how could you love something AND feel drained by that very thing?

Well, I liken it to embarking on an exciting road trip through the mountains. You take in awe-inspiring views and visit fascinating sites, but the drive still uses up gas in your car as you go, so you’ve got to take the time to stop and fill up the tank from time to time. In the same way, we introverts fill up our tanks by being alone, and if we don’t, we become grumpy, irritable, and disengaged – or at least that’s what happens to this introvert.

Prior to having kids, it wasn’t terribly difficult for me to find time to be alone and recharge. Then, in less than 17 months, I welcomed two little beings into my life and found myself {and my introverted husband} responsible for meeting their every need 24-7. Now, at ages 3 and 4, my two littles follow me around everywhere I go, recounting tall tales of Colossal Squid, informing me of their need to use the toilet, and begging for yet another snack. Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly aware that I will miss this someday – their sweet voices, their cute mannerisms, their need for me – it’s the ultimate parental paradox.

But I’ll be honest with you, while I love my children to the ends of the earth, I sometimes feel like their incessant chatter might just cause me to lose my mind.

I mean, you moms out there know, you can’t even go to the bathroom alone. It’s frustrating even if one isn’t an introvert. Just last week, I had shaved 3/4 of one leg when my kids barged into my bathroom, “Mommmmmmy, he’s hitting me!” “Mom, he called me names and threw my bowl on the floor!” And that was the end of my shower, the one that I now refer to as “the 3/4 leg shower.”

Despite frequently getting up to exercise before my kids wake up, I have often stay up until close to midnight. My husband, who is so good about going to bed early and wakes up ever so cheerful, often meets me in the kitchen as I’m frantically reaching for the coffee pot and remarks, “You were up late last night. What were you doing?” I shrug and respond, “Oh, I don’t even know. Let’s see, I was researching soccer camps, perusing Pinterest for the best natural flu remedies, belly laughing to clips of Jimmy Fallon on YouTube and lending some additional financial support to that pesky but enticing solicitor named Amazon Prime. That’s what I was doing.”

He usually throws me a confused look as if to say, “Ok babe, whatever floats your boat.” But you see, those late-night hours are the only time in my day that I am alone. They are the only time no one is demanding anything of me and I can be alone with my thoughts.

Not only do I stay up late to steal time alone, but as an introvert, I may also:

  • Purposefully park in a spot far, far away from the cart return area at the grocery store. I do this so that after I have loaded the groceries and strapped the boys into their seats, I canIMG_0001_2 buy myself 2-3 minutes alone with my own thoughts as I contemplate making a run for it push the cart back to the return aisle.
  • Repeatedly offer to be the “hider” when playing Hide and Seek with my kids. I always choose to hide in “hard places” like the master bath shower. That way, it takes longer for them to find me. (Apparently, they only look in the shower when I’m actually trying to shower or shave my legs.)
  • Be hesitant to organize play dates for my kids. While I like people, it feels exhausting to attempt to make conversation AND parent at the same time.
  • Put a 20-minute show on for my kids downstairs, simply so I can walk upstairs, pour a cup of coffee, retreat to my kitchen table and drink it all in one sitting – alone and in silence.

But if I’m honest, all of these things only add a gallon or two, at best, to my emotional tank. And what mom out there doesn’t crave a momentary break from her kids, regardless of her introvert or extrovert leanings. The difference is, an extrovert might feel the need to seek out other adult conversations, whereas an introverted mom, like myself, might crave a walk through her neighborhood. Activities like trail-running or hiking alone, gardening or cooking by myself, writing . . . even just sitting on a bench, staring off into space are the things that really fill up my tank. Solitary activities replenish the energy I need to be present and engaged with my family and friends. I still learning to better balance life’s moving parts while taking the alone time I need.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What do you do to refill your emotional gas tank?

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Melissa is an adventurer at heart, seeking to embrace the beauty and wildness of this life with her co-adventurer and husband of 8 years, Tom. When she’s not splashing in a mud puddle with her boys, ages 4 and 5, or cleaning the remains of a diaper gone awry from the hallway walls, Melissa works part-time as a Licensed Professional Counselor, striving to empower women through her practice, Rise and Shine Counseling. Give her a mountain and some free time and she’ll find a way to play, embracing every opportunity to run the trails, ski the slopes, and bike or hike the hills. A great day for Melissa would include a pre-dawn trail run, a cup (or maybe 3) of coffee, brushed teeth, some belly laughing with her boys, a little uninterrupted (what’s that?) time to read and write, and sharing in some good conversation over a glass of bold red wine with her hubby. Her faith, her people, and her sense of humor, carry her through the peaks and valleys of this life. She attempts to chronicle the journey over at her blog, www.expectantlife.com.

16 COMMENTS

  1. So, I keep reading all these posts about introverts being drained from being with people. I’m a definite extrovert, and I am energized when I am around people. However, I crash when I get home, and I also need alone time. I’ve seen a lot of negative comments about extroverts, that we drain the energy from introverts. But, I have to tell you, I feel the opposite. Nothing drains me more than the introverts in my life. Nothing. I had to get a king-sized bed so I could get far enough away from my husband to actually rest. So, I question this whole idea that certain types of people drain other types. I believe that interaction between anyone takes energy. Introvert or extrovert. I believe that some people need more alone-time than others. I only need about 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes in the evening, alone. As an extrovert, I gain energy by being with people, but the energy gained isn’t by taking the energy from introverts. Frankly, I’m really tired of hearing how us extroverts drain you introverts. You, and only you, are in control of what energy you choose to expend.

  2. My wife is clearly an introvert and sent your article to me. I love it and as a stay at home parent of 4yr old boy girl twins and a soon to be 7yr old daughter there is allot I relate to in your words. I have always felt like and been known as an extrovert and yet in the last 3-4 months I have never wanted more alone time. Partly because being a full rime parent of three is so taxing and partly because I am so focused on work “online” either way this article resonated with me and leaves me with this question. Can someone become introverted? Please shoot me an e-mail id love to chat.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kurt. I think our introvert/extrovert leanings can shift depending on our work roles. Because you are spending so much time engaged with your kids, it makes sense that you’re craving more time alone. In other words, your needs changed as the “people demands” placed upon you shift. I think that recognizing your need for time alone is the first step and identifying activities/spaces that really recharge you is the second step. The third step is, of course, making time in your life for those re-charging activities, which as I’m sure you know, can be tricky.

  3. YES, YES, and YES again! I knew I was an introvert and how I was with friends, but I do find myself just needing some alone time from the kids as well and I always felt guilty and wondered “why?!” Now I know .. to recharge! I don’t know why I hadn’t put 2 and 2 together. 🙂 I’m so glad you wrote about this!

  4. I second the recommendation for the book “Quiet.” It made me feel so much better about myself after a lifetime of tension for being an introvert. My extroverted husband read it and it really helped him understand and relate to me better.

  5. I am a combination – 60/40. I love throwing parties, the louder, noisier, and more fun my guests have, the beter. I always want people over, want to do things, but at the same time, I crave quiet. I, too, stay up far too late to enjoy doing nothing, being needed by no one. I avoid waking up my last home schooled child in order to have a little more quiet before he gets up. My husband doesn’t necessarily understand, nor do my sons, but my daughter gets it, as she is a true introvert.

  6. It’s really crazy all the ways you have pilfer the time alone. I can relate.
    I just transitioned out of a position at my job because it’s in an open office environment with lots of noise and interruptions. I swear everyone else in that office is an extravert. I’ve actually left the office, gotten in my car and just started crying because I’m so over stimulated. I don’t know why I thought I could handle that.
    I get off work and go right to being with both my kids by myself. My partner works in the evenings. It’s not ideal. I get pretty cranky with the kids. I still work a little for the same employer, but come this September, I’ll need something else. So I’m on the hunt for a job that would be a good fit for an introvert. I just want to enjoy my work environment and enjoy my home life too. Accepting my introverted nature has definitely helped my narrow my job search.

  7. I can relate to you! Having a child is what actually showed me how much of an introvert I am. I always thought that my love of being social meant I was extroverted, but after caring for a baby 24/7, I started to remember how I’d close my door at home or sneak out of a party for a few minutes to recharge. My husband is very introverted as well, and our son has taken introvert to a whole new level. We’ve learned a few things to help us all to find our recharge times: Sundays are sacred — We don’t usually attend gatherings or have people over on Sunday (this is our family recharge day to set us up for work and school). We try to give each other breaks when we’re having any kind of extended gathering (doing a chore that takes us away for a little while, letting our son go to his room for a bit or play on his computer, etc.). Lastly, we try to let each of us have a space in our home for breaks from each other. It’s still strange for me to identify us as introverts — we love hanging out with our friends and family. Still, like you said, intro vs. extro is all about the recharge. It’s good to know what you need to stay healthy, functioning, and productive!

    • Audra, it sounds like you’ve really got it down as far as guarding certain times and spaces for you and your family to recharge! Having children has definitely brought to light how much of an introvert I am too. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    • Oh my goodness, I felt like I was reading a page of my book of life! I can easily interact with people in general & many of times give the impression of being a very outgoing person but in reality I can seem like the life of a party if I want to but in reality before attending any social gathering Im completely dreading it through the process until I arrive & Would do anything to get out of it because it leaves me so drained afterwards. I also have 4 kids(9-3yrs of age) I have to be ‘ON’ 24/7 which takes a toll on me in general too. There at times in the evening when my husband come home that I just make an excuse of going to get groceries & find myself in the parking lot of my favorite coffee shop in my car, staring at a bush in silence because im in desperate needs of a recharge. I find it that I’m so misunderstood by many in why I don’t really care to step out & hang out but its truly that I rather spent my limited spare time by myself so I can return back refreshed to be better to my children & husband. Thanks for posting this, It made me feel a bit better about who I am rather than feeling misunderstood or guilty for doing what works for me.

  8. Well said! This “innie” can relate 100%! I’m guilty of going to bed early so I can carve out me time in the middle of the glorious, tranquil, peaceful night!

  9. You so nailed this. I could have written this post. I love socializing, but I just need time by myself. And a lot of it. I think it’s hard for people to understand sometimes. Thanks for writing about this!

    • I agree, Jeni, I think it’s so hard for people to understand and I often feel such a tension because of it. I’m glad there are other people with whom this resonates.

  10. Love this! I tow the line between introvert and extrovert, but since becoming a mom, I have found I have definitely seen my more introvert side come out, especially since I’m never alone 🙂

    Have you read the book Quiet?

    • Thanks, Allie. You are the second person who has mentioned the book, Quiet, to me recently. I think I definitely need to check it out. Thank you.

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