Before I had my own babies, I taught 32 first graders how to read, write, and add. As a teacher, I woke up at 5 AM, dreading the dark and dreary commute to the school building. I mentally prepped myself—coffee in hand, of course—for the onslaught of hugs, kisses, and sticky fingers.
After a few weeks teaching, I had a check-in with my teacher mentor. I cried and told her I was completely burnt out.
“I don’t think I’m cut out for this,” I said. “I’m an introvert.”
And just as teaching revealed the impact my introversion has on my career choices, becoming a mom has shown me how much being an introvert affects my parenting too. In fact, teaching is a whole lot like being a mom in terms of the amount of extroverted energy required—and I quickly discovered that parenting babies and toddlers sets off similar “red-alerts” for me like teaching did. I struggled with the same aspects in both roles: I loved my kids dearly. I loved their darling, pursed lips and the smell of their baby hair, but I also needed so much time alone to be the best mama I could be.
Eventually, I learned to love teaching, but I still chalk it up to the self-care methods I used to keep me going. Those same methods apply to parenting as an introverted mama, so if you’re anything like me, here are some strategies I rely on to cope:
Take Time to Decompress
Everyone needs time alone, and this is something you can reinforce with your kids as a life-skill to learn how to be content in your own space.
Both kids and adults often need structure to decompress, so teach your kids by setting an example. My mother used to set an alarm for one hour every single day (use an age-appropriate time period) during which we all retreated to separate rooms—and yes, even babies and toddlers can contentedly play in a safe space, like their crib. Us kids spent our “alone time” doing whatever we pleased, such as listening to audio books or playing with our teddy bears. My mom used this precious time to regain her strength. I remember this time as the beautiful space when my imagination took flight. And the best part of this strategy? It benefits both you and your kids.
Know Your Limits (and Don’t Fight Them)
Here’s a helpful hint for this one: as an introvert, your limits are not the same as other mamas.
You know that mom who runs a church study out of her basement, throws massive Kentucky derby parties, and teaches Sunday school on the weekends? If this doesn’t sound like you, that’s okay. Not everyone can be a party planner or the best hostess in town.
One way I use to conserve my energy (and time) is to plan out events on a brand-new calendar each year of my choosing. I look forward to buying a calendar full of “artwork” or adorned with national parks. The key is to choose one you love to make it more fun. If looking at a calendar full of social events makes me cringe, I know I have to take a step back and schedule in some re-charge-my-battery-time at home with a book.
Use Your Personality to Your Advantage
You may not be queen of the neighborhood social committee, but that doesn’t mean you don’t bring a lot to the table. One part of recognizing yourself as an introverted mama is learning where you “shine” as a mom.
Early in my motherhood journey, I recognized that my favorite times with my kids involved those one-on-one moments where I learned their secret thoughts. Under the covers, we’d snuggle before bedtime, read, and talk about their days. Kids love to be listened to, and introverted mamas make great listeners and confidantes. Don’t sell yourself short!
Recognize that Self-Care is Critical
As an introverted mama, self-care is even more crucial to your own well-being, so that means that you may need to carve out regular, intentional time to meet you own needs.
For instance, my own mother, also an introvert, established a weekly “date with herself” on Saturdays. She used these Saturday mornings to read, reflect, and journal at a coffee shop. As a kid, I rarely noticed that my mom stepped out every Saturday morning because I spent that time rough-housing and enjoying much-needed time with my dad. Those special moments with my dad helped my mom re-balance her heart, and formed the basis of a special relationship I had with my father (If you’re in a situation where you don’t have childcare, perhaps someone in your support structure or the childcare at your local gym can assist—every little bit helps!)
Truly Mama Takeaway
Take this to heart, as one introverted mama to another: your gifts as an introvert are uniquely designed to be used in mothering. Your thoughtfulness, willingness to take a step back, listening skills, and lived experience are great “teachers” for your kids, no matter how much alone time you may need as a mom.