The basic definition of an introvert is someone who needs to be alone to recharge their internal batteries. Of course, being a parent rarely gives one a chance to be alone. Many hilarious posts have been written about escaping from children in the bathroom, and of course, all parents can identify. But for the introvert parent, the struggle is even more real!
So how on earth can one be a good parent when your very temperament demands space, both mentally and physically and family itself demands closeness, both emotionally and physically?
The following are some of the things that have worked to bring sanity and joy into our own family…without needing to run away!
1) Expect that I will be stretched.
Parenthood changes me, refines me. Yes, it is hard when my kids want desperately to do something while I’m in the middle of putting together theological thoughts. Sometimes they have to repeat something several times before I can even be pulled out of my internal world! But it’s worth turning around, bending down, and talking to my child. This is, after all, why I became a parent. I may not have realized how much parenthood would stretch me, but if I’d truly wanted to remain alone, I did have that choice!
2) Find daily time to be by myself.
For an introvert, this is not a luxury, but a necessity. In college I went on a 3-week choir tour of Eastern Canada. Everywhere we stopped I made sure to pull out my rollerblades or hiking shoes and go for a walk. I have explored many cities on foot, by myself, and found rejuvenation through it.
Even in the close quarters of parenting little ones, quiet time is not only possible, but extremely necessary for the introverted parent. I have a lovely friend that always wants to draw out playdates, and I’ve had to explain that I *need* that time alone in the afternoons for prayer and, frankly, sanity. We laugh about it now, but it was a source of confusion early on in our relationship!
So how does a parent find uninterrupted time when kids are no longer napping? Habit. Every day at 1 pm, my youngest goes for a nap and the other two go downstairs. I turn on the tv (the only time of day we watch tv) and they get to watch for about an hour. Then I usually make them play together quietly for another hour or so.
Developing a consistent quiet time is not easy, but it’s a worthwhile habit to develop! There have been many days where they come upstairs with a whine, but they are efficiently sent back down. I have also explained to them why this is such an important habit for our family, and that seems to help.
3) Seek time alone with individual children.
I think most parents find it easier to connect with kids when one-on-one, even more so the introverted parent. Make “parent-kid” dates a priority. Maybe it’s going for a walk, reading aloud to the eldest when the others have gone to bed, or putting together a puzzle.
4) Find activities to do together that bring us both life.
Introverts tend to gravitate strongly toward certain interests that they then go into very deeply. I find that I connect best with my boys when we are doing science-related things. It’s fun for all of us, and brings everyone life.
What are the interests that you share with your children? Woodworking? Baking?
Find things that you are both interested in and do them together.
There’s no need to be constantly playing with your young children because in my opinion, unstructured play is done best by children without adult interference. But learning the art of parallel play can be life-changing. I can be sweeping the floor while my kids play at the table. We’re still communicating and being together without it taking so much energy on my part.
5) Give my kids a consistently early bedtime.
In our family we have found it helpful to both parents and children to keep a consistent bedtime of about 7 pm. Even our 7 year old goes to bed at 7, and reads for an hour or more. There are many health and mental benefits of an early bedtime for children, and it gives us time to clean/exercise/veg in private.
It is possible to be an introvert and truly enjoy parenting. With a little extra thought (which most introverts are pretty good at), a few helpful changes can be implemented!
Did you find these ideas helpful? Please share with your introverted friends! Also, if you have older children, please share what you’ve done to fill up your own tank! Naps won’t last forever…