Tuesday, March 13, 2012

a question for those of you who are parents and introverts

A friend of mine with young children commented on Facebook, "Today it is hard to be a parent & an introvert."

I responded, "Oh, yes, if walls could tell!!" (I meant "talk", of course, but I'm always getting my sayings mixed up.)

She asked, "What do you do to cope, Jean?"

Here's my (edited) response about my years at home with young children,

What didn't I do, do you mean? What I should have done - and didn't - was to take Carolyn Mahaney's excellent advice and my husband's offer and go away on my own for a day or two a few times a year (once my babies were old enough). What I did do, that helped, was to get up early to spend some time with God (not possible with babies when you're exhausted) and/or went for a walk to pray a little later while my husband minded the kids, had a nanny nap in the early afternoon while the kids slept or watched a DVD, and spent a morning on my own once a week (when I could) at a local park to sip a chai latte, write in my journal, go for a walk and pray.
Do you have any other suggestions for my friend - and for me?

Please share them here.


simone r said...

I'm not an introvert, but I go crazy without time to myself. Here's what I did/do.
- When the kids were little, I did as much as possible of my housework during kid waking hours, so that when they were down, the time was mine.
- I was a rest time nazi - the kids had two hours locked in their rooms each day until they went to school. Time out for us all.
- I spend at least 3 hours a week sitting in a coffee shop by myself, reading, reflecting, pretending to write, and praying. I started this when my youngest had his first day at preschool.

I don't know how people stay sane if they haven't got time to themselves. And I'm an extrovert (apparently.)

Bec said...

I'm a parent of 7 (10 and under), homeschool and an introvert - so time on one's own is a precious commodity! Some things I do for myself are:
- Thursday nights it's a given that I will be going out for late-night shopping on my own (though sometimes I will take a child for some one-on-one time).
- After a bad day I have been known to leave my husband with the dinner/bed routine, jump in the car and go for a drive just to get some head space. Sometimes I'll take a book and park somewhere and read for a bit.
- Very occasionally I will go out for a quiet breakfast on a Saturday morning.

After having an extra toddler in the house this past week, who is rather demanding of adult attention, I've realised I have done other things with my kids that help ME (as well as them):
- Train them to sleep well at night, and stay in their beds/rooms until a respectable time, which is 7am in our house.
- Train their sleeping patterns so that I have all afternoon sleeps at the same time in the afternoon. Older ones can have a quiet read/play at this time so I can get a good hour relatively uninterrupted if I need it before embarking on afternoon school work.
- Training my children from a young age to focus on one activity for an extended period. Our guest toddler has an attention span of 1-2 minutes, ours anywhere between 15-90 minutes depending on activity and sibling involvement. I have been so drained this week because I am constantly needed by this child and constantly directing his activities, with no space to think about or do anything else (goodbye much of the school/housework!)
- We don't have TV, so putting on a DVD is a treat and means they are captivated by the screen allowing me to 'escape' to the study or bedroom for a breather, or get some other stuff done.
- Set up a buddy system where the older kids look after and play with a younger one. They actually look forward to buddy time, and when out and about it frees up a bit of head space knowing that you have an extra pair of eyes/hands on the littlie (once they are well trained/pratcised!)

Another key point is to know your limitations and to drop your standards! I will not have a completely organised and clean house during this season unless I spend several hours every evening cleaning - I will not do this, and I am content with only having sections of the house spotless at any given time (and I have chosen not to let this stop me from showing hospitality to others). I have also chosen not to buy into the 'me time' mantra that is espoused by the world. I don't think we need as much as we are told - sure, Jesus retreated to spend some time on his own and with the Father, but he was soon back to work serving! Don't get me wrong, we all need to refresh ourselves mentally and emotionally, but I think we need to evaluate how much we need, how we get it, and what we do with that time. This busy season is relatively short, and as our children grow we will get more time to ourselves! Mums of littlies just need to be creative, and make the most of the time we get! (I just spent an overnight in hospital with one kiddo and it was so nice to be there with just the 2 of us - we were able to really enjoy each other, as she wasn't in for anything serious. It was also nice and quiet! Silver linings!)

Bec :-)

Jean said...

From Ali via Facebook...

"Wish I did! I remember having this conversation with an extrovert mum who was surprised to learn it was hard as she felt cooped up and wanted more social interaction. But being the one on demand all day every day is very taxing for an intr...overt. I think having multiple children helps, so that sometimes they'll play and interact together and you might get some breathing space. I try and recharge a bit after the kids are in bed at night, but then it eats into husband/wife time. Thanks for initiating the discussion!"

Jean said...

From Rach via Facebook:

"Jean, have you checked out motherstyles.com? They have this cool energy plan. It comes up with a list of ways you can be energised according to each of your 4 myers briggs letters. I love it!"

(I did check it out, and I do love it! You've got to have a look...)

Alison K said...

Thankyou for that post. It is right on time for me; I'm just realising that doing something else while juggling my child isn't the same as really-alone time. And that I actually do need really-alone time... but how?? So thankyou for the ideas. :)