Every week on Friday I feature a post from a fellow mom sharing her story about motherhood. This week I have June from This Simple Balance discussing what it’s like to be a introverted mom. She shares the benefits, the challenges, and must-have survival tips for stay-at-home moms.
I wake up to a little voice beside me asking for breakfast. I grunt and reluctantly roll out of bed, stumbling downstairs after my two-year-old, eager for a fresh and hot cup of coffee from the Keurig.
The older kids (all three of them) are awake already and downstairs playing. I send the two-year-old downstairs with a granola bar with instructions to start their usual morning screen-time: one show for the two-year-old, one educational show – Wild Kratts, Magic School Bus, Odd Squad, etc. – for the rest.
I curl up on the couch with my cup of coffee and wake up in relative silence. I can think my own thoughts, read a book, or scan my e-mail, none of which requires human interaction.
Welcome to most of my mornings as an introvert stay-at-home mom.
Did I mention that not only do I have four kids, ages 9 and under, but I also have one on the way? Oh yeah, and I homeschool and work from home, too.
Now you think I’m crazy.
And some days, I wholeheartedly agree with you.
An Introvert Stay-at-Home Mom with a Big Family
Did you know that the world is made up of roughly 50-74% extroverts (source)? That means that introverts are the minority, and especially in the western world, where our culture favors extroverts, that means being misunderstood a lot of the time.
The biggest misunderstanding about introverts is that we don’t like people. While a small percentage of introverts might feel that way, most of us don’t.
We like people; we just don’t get our energy from people. We get our energy from being alone.
Another huge part of being an introvert is that we’d rather invest in a select few friendships/relationships, going deep with those few. In contrast, extroverts seem to have a super-sized capacity for relationships of all kinds, from the superficial to the intimate.
When I tell people that my husband and I are both introverts, and they find out how many kids we have, I get a wide range of reactions, none of which are super positive. I prefer the head-scratching, “better you than me” looks, as opposed to the downright rude, “If you’re an introvert, why on earth did you have kids at all?” questions.
In reality, a big family can be a very positive thing for introverted parents.
Because we prefer deep relationships with a select few (cut the superficial crap I don’t have energy for, please), having a committed spouse and more than a few kids can be a natural best fit for introverts.
My husband and I genuinely love our kids. We love their personalities, knowing what makes them tick. We love spending time with them, though of course, as introverts, we enjoy one-on-one time most.
Also, the more kids you have, the more they rely on each other for relational connection, interaction and entertainment. They play together and talk with each other a ton!
I remember what it was like to have one extroverted child completely dependent on me for interaction, entertainment and everything else, and I think that season of my life had just as many challenges are this one.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of challenges to being an introverted stay-at-home mom, however. Here are a few of the most difficult ones.
The Biggest Challenges of An Introverted Mom
Lack of Alone Time
I’ll start with the obvious, big homeschool family, introverted mom challenge: I am very rarely alone. Even when I’m *technically* alone in my bedroom with the door shut, I can never fully relax because I’m waiting for the door to open with an interruption of some kind.
And with this many kids, interruptions are a given. It’s only a matter of time.
The temptation to stay up way too late after the kids are in bed is oh, so real. I give in about half the time these days, savoring my precious couple hours of quiet house and guaranteed uninterrupted alone time.
Why not get up early, you’re thinking?
Well for one, this season is one filled with interrupted sleep, if not from the two-year-old who is a very bad sleeper, then from the aches and pains of pregnancy. I gave up getting up early a long time ago.
Second, my morning alone time always felt rushed: I never knew when a child would get up and break the blessed silence.
Instead, I use screen-time completely guilt-free to get 45 minutes of relatively peaceful time to myself in the mornings. Perhaps one day, I’ll return to an early morning routine, but for now, this routine is working for us.
After reading this book about Myers Briggs’ personality types for moms and this one about introversion in general, I finally connected the dots between my introversion and interruptions. Interruptions drive me absolutely insane because I’m an introvert.
When several kids try to talk to me at the same time, I feel like my head is going to explode.
When I get interrupted while reading aloud for the fifth time and need to find my place all over again, I feel completely drained and exhausted.
When I realize at the end of the day that I forget to press “start” on the dryer because I got pulled away to tend to yet another boo-boo, and that the entire load now smells of mildew and needs to be done AGAIN, I am SO frustrated.
Introverts love to finish things, to focus on one thing at a time and carry it to completion.
Is that going to happen in a big family with lots of little kids? Nope!
I’m hoping this one improves as the kids get older.
Did I mention I love quiet?
The only time our 1200 square foot house is quiet is when the kids are asleep, or when their dad takes them out to the park to give me much-needed alone time at home.
When the toddler is screaming my name, trying to outdo his older brother who struggles with speech and gets extremely frustrated trying to communicate his thoughts as quickly as the rest can, I want to scream. (In the background is usually one of the older two asking me how to spell a word or can I please make them a sandwich).
Sometimes, I do scream because it literally is like fingernails on a chalkboard to my soul.
In our world of mom blogs and social media, we are constantly being told how to be good moms. Unfortunately, a “good mom” is from one mom’s point of view, with one specific personality type, in one unique set of life circumstances.
When you’re an introvert and a people-pleaser/perfectionist/achiever type, guilt is a constant, unwelcome guest.
I often believe the lie that as a mom, I need to be all things to all of my kids. I need to be their everything.
But it’s just not possible to do it all, to be it all.
I need to take care of myself, for one, and I literally am not capable of giving them everything they ask of me, all the time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, or emotional and physical capacity in my metaphorical cup.
Having to accept my own limitations as an introvert mom (we come with strengths, too, by the way, which I’ll get to), and trusting that my kids will get their needs met in other healthy ways through friends, their dad, and siblings is the ultimate challenge.
How to Survive as a Stay-At-Home Introverted Mom
I’ve read several articles on how to survive as an introvert stay-at-home mom, and to be honest, most of them weren’t very helpful. I had to do a lot of reading and thinking to come up with these tips that are working for me right now.
I hope these tips give you unique ideas that will either work for you right away, OR get your wheels turning for creative solutions to your own introvert mom challenges.
Get Alone Time in Your Own Home
For a long time, my husband would ask me what I needed. He would give me time to myself, and I would be at a loss.
I would go out to Starbucks and try to read or journal, but I never felt fully refreshed or recharged. And the second I walked in the door to noise and needy little people, it felt like the past hour had been a complete waste.
Naturally, that left both my husband and I frustrated. Time to myself was supposed to help, not make things worse.
After reading this book that I mentioned earlier, I realized the problem: what most introverts prefer is time to be by themselves in their own home.
When I stopped leaving the house for alone time, and instead, asked my husband to take the kids out to the park, I noticed such a huge difference. I finally felt rested and filled back up, ready to greet them when they walked in the door.
That alone time at home also gives me a chance to complete a few tasks from start to finish, with complete focus. I can’t even tell you how amazing that is.
Alone time in your own home can seriously change your introvert mom life.
Get Enough Sleep
I know, I know, I said that sometimes I stay up way too late, and the sleep I do get is interrupted. I’m working on it.
Recently, I’ve noticed that when I do get enough sleep, I am much more capable of dealing with the interruptions and the noise that come with my big, happy family.
Alone time and sleep will always be fighting for priority status, but try to strike a balance. You need both as an introvert, stay-at-home mom.
Maybe you can take a nap when everyone is napping or having quiet time? Maybe you can get some alone time at night, but give yourself a hard curfew, at which time you will head to bed, knowing you’ll be thankful tomorrow?
Get creative, find a balance, but whatever you do, make sure to get enough sleep.
Spend Kid-Free Time Wisely
Back when I only had a 2-3 kids, I still had friends who lived close by. When I had kid-free time, I often chose to spend it with adults – close friends, or even acquaintances (because as much as I love these little people, I occasionally need adult interaction).
About 50% of the time, I left those hang-outs feeling drained. I knew I had overexerted myself and used up any relationship energy I had on my friends. I had nothing left for my kids or my husband.
The introvert burn-out could last a day or more.
Since that time, I’ve learned to carefully consider every social outing. I decline most offers.
As much as I dislike feeling like a hermit, I know that I’m using my time wisely. I save my relational energy for very good friends, or moms I see during playdates or outings with my kids.
With time, you will figure out what to say, “yes” to. It takes practice.
Use Screen-Time without Guilt
Every time I see an article written by another mom about limiting screen-time, I wonder if she’s an extrovert. She must be. Oh, and she only has two kids. And they go to preschool three mornings a week, too.
Here’s the deal: unless you have unlimited babysitting funds and children with quiet temperaments like you who are willing to spend lots of time in independent play or quiet time in their rooms, screen-time gives you a much-needed break you wouldn’t otherwise have. We need to stop guilt tripping other moms about screen-time.
The ones who really need to use less screen-time probably aren’t reading those posts, anyways. The ones reading them? They’re the ones who don’t need another helping of guilt.
Don’t put your kids in front of the T.V. all day, but if the only way you’re going to get time to recharge is screen-time, use it.
Remember Your Strengths
It’s tempting to look at your extrovert mom friends and get discouraged. They are the ones heading up every committee, hosting the parties and leading group outings.
They seem to have a huge capacity that you can never compete with.
But introvert moms have strengths, too.
- Introvert moms are great listeners.
- Introvert moms know how to prioritize.
- Introvert moms have a calming, quiet presence.
Instead of beating yourself up for what you’re not, lean into what you do have to offer your kids. Because you do have a lot going for you.
The Introvert Stay-at-Home Mom: Epilogue
I kiss the last forehead and close the last bedroom door, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.
The day is done. Every child is put to bed.
I finally have my much-needed quiet alone time.
But even when I’m at my worst, when I’m the most spent and think that I’m really not cut out for this stay-at-home mom job because I’m an introvert, I remind myself that one day they’ll all be grown up and gone.
Being an introvert, stay-at-home mom has its challenges, but it has so many joys, too. I wouldn’t trade my big, noisy family for anything.
One day not too far from now, I’ll have all the quiet and alone time in the world.