Friday, March 28, 2014

The Introvert as Parent

(Credit in fine print in the margin)

My chores are done on hold for the evening and I'm sitting at my computer, my fingers poised over the keys and ready to type. Except that I know that any moment now I could hear the tell-tale sounds of a child needing to be rocked to sleep all over again.

In parenting circles online there is a concept referred to as being "touched-out." In general it is talking about physical touch, but I think of myself as getting mentally and emotionally touched-out. Overstimulated, per se.

Incidentally, David has not yet shown any signs of being introverted. And I'm happy for him, in a way. I can remember lots of challenges I faced as a child, that are pretty hard to prevent in the typical school situation. Meanwhile, his personality and mine combine to form an interesting child-parent relationship...

The Mystery

I know we're not supposed to compare, but I wonder in a curious sort of way about other mothers. One blogger I read gets up before her kids wake so she can go to the gym, and apparently gets blogging done during their long naptime (they did sleep training with their-gulp-4 kids under 4). But my question is: what about cooking and cleaning??? Because I seriously can't do any of that while David is awake.

Another mom (with two toddlers and another one on the way) is always doing creative projects, such as planning theme parties for her kids' birthdays and making all the invitations/decorations/etc. by hand. I just have to ask...when???

I am not resentful in any way, but I can certainly draw the conclusion that we (and our collective children) are all very different!

Our Family

I have to clarify, David is highly social but NOT hard to entertain or be around. I have always avoided the term "high-needs" because it reminds me of an instrument that is very hard to tune. In reality, any toy or activity will do as long as there is an audience. Lots of ooh-ing and ahh-ing and clapping are preferable. Maybe a little bit of feigned surprise. He is a very responsive child.

But I get tired of it. I just can't always be making high-pitched noises or running into the other room to clap over a block being placed in a certain place. I can sometimes, but then I run out of steam. I sort of wish I could, because it's so easy to make him happy, but I just need to go into my thought world and find quiet every once in a while. Lately one solution is to sneak a few pages of a book while he's in the bath (and I am right there). It's not that it's hard to go from room to room with him picking up and putting down different objects. It's the constant transitioning from place to place and activity to activity. I have just gotten the dish-washing temperature right and started to soap everything up when there is a little hand tugging on my pants. "SSSSSSSS" That means "cheese." Or "water." And we must get to the bottom of what it is he wants.

Andrei helps a lot in giving me breaks to help me stay sane. For example, he takes care of bedtime. When I've gotten David all changed, Andrei takes over and I know for at least the next 30 minutes or so I don't have to talk to a single soul. And of course the hope is that David will then sleep through the night, but we usually get at least one additional cuddle session. And I can't always ration those breaks the way I need to, because Andrei can't really control when he's going to be at work or a meeting or working on a deadline.

Unfortunately it's hard to tell a toddler "not now" or "just a minute," and because of that I sometimes feel like I'm going to lose my patience. Hopefully as David gets older he will learn about waiting 5 minutes for me to be able to focus on a new thing, and I will learn more about responding to his needs as well.

Also, David has lots of adults available to dote on him, including his grandparents. He is quite a blessed and happy child.

A Few Strengths and Weaknesses


-I hardly ever get bored being at home with David! We don't have transportation to travel very far and we don't go to things like play groups, and I am as content as can be. 
-I don't need any elaborate conditions for recharging; just the need to be "off duty" for a few minutes.
-I'm sensitive towards others' needs for quiet and concentration.


-I don't do well with interruptions or with performing certain tasks without being able to concentrate fully.
-I'm not always understanding of people with different social needs.

Tidbits From Elsewhere: 

(from Motherstyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths. Janet Penley, 2006, Kindle Edition) 

"When I was home all day with preschoolers, I would hire a babysitter once or twice a week so I could have a break. At first, I used that time to do errands, have lunch with my friends, and go shopping. But when I came home, I felt more impatient with my children than before I left. It was as if I hadn't had any break at all. When I discovered my preference for Introversion, I finally understood why. The next time I needed a break, I asked the babysitter to take the kids out, to lunch or the park, and I stayed in." 

(This reminds me of the post where I discuss the status of my social life. This is why going to "Women's Ministry" events and the like do not equal relaxation for me in the long run. Sometimes a "break" just means that I get to go to the bathroom by myself and Andrei rough-houses with David while I zone out on the couch with a book.)

"Noise, confusion, chaos, children's requests, multiple tasks, and intrusions can make [the introverted mom] feel like she's about to explode. Some Extraverted moms may identify with this difficulty; perhaps during the 'arsenic hour' right before dinnertime. But Introverted mothers say they can feel this way at 7 o'clock in the morning while packing sandwiches, listening to a child's problem, and answering an unexpected phone call. They need alone time to balance this outward focus. Unfortunately, they often regard "time alone" as a luxury, not a necessity, and they can spend much of the day feeling tense, tired, and ready to snap. 

(Just to illustrate that all moms can certainly feel overwhelmed, but these particular situations are especially challenging for introverted moms).


  1. You are not alone, Elizabeth! At this season of my life with a 3yo and a 9mo I don't get half as much accomplished at home as I'd like. I've had to set aside a lot of hobbies and my art/design projects for the sake of my sanity, but I think some moms view party-planning & working out as their sanity-giving happy place so it's easier for them to carve out time for it. That being said, I have NO idea how they do it. I don't even blog anymore after faithully updating for two years, fail! Even when I had just M I was only able to do the "minimum" haha. In many ways I think having one child was harder than having the two now because M demanded so much social attention from me, being the one at home with her day-in day-out. She's extremely extroverted and extremely busy and I would find myself immobilized by the relentlessness of it all at the end of the day (or middle of the fact it still happens a lot haha!). I think I am on the middle of the extrovert/introvert scale, leaning slightly more towards introversion the longer I am a mother. I often find play dates exhausting, not so much emotionally but just getting the kids out the door at 6am so we can drive my husband to work to borrow the car in the freezing cold, trying to transition them from house to the car again, to the play date, to home to picking up W with screaming kids in the car, trying to juggle meals and nursing in all of that ahhhhhh! For me, staying at home, keeping the kids alive and cooking one meal is all I can handle 95% of the time. Every mom is so, so different with different tasks God has given us. I personally struggle with comparing myself to other moms often. I had a mom friend I admire for her neat house & easy-temperament children tell me she admired me for my "bravery" in allowing my kids to paint, make necklaces out of cereal, play play-doh pretty much whenever--- messes are her biggest frustration! So I guess it's like every mom has different limits, needs, things they are energized by and things that suck the life out of them lol.
    Sorry for leaving such a rambling comment! I just wanted to let you know you're in good company, being a mommy to a toddler is crazytown (a blessed crazytown, but still crazy). Kudos to Andrei for doing bedtime and giving you book breaks, that's awesome!!

  2. That all makes so much sense. It is so hard to get out of the house! I guess I just want to have it all and I get the idea sometimes that certain moms DO get a lot done and I have to come to the conclusion that it must be a personality thing. I definitely like your goals of keeping your offspring alive and cooking one meal a day. That's pretty much what happens around here, too.

    Lately I've been posting around 1-2 a.m.and then napping (or trying to) with David in the afternoon, so I get very little housework done. I just seem to be more productive at night!

  3. People do not understand me either--I do not need vacation--in fact, vacation can be at home. Ministry events and even coffee out is not down time for me...alone time--that is down time.:)

    1. I didn't know that about you, but I understand completely! I like going "out" as long as when I come back I don't have to jump right back into everything. :)

  4. I can't fathom when they'd do housework either!! However, I DO remember that I NEVER felt this way with either Aidan or Lydia. I knew at the time that they were "placid" children and not "risk-takers" at all. I could plop them down (say on the kitchen floor) with a book and not worry that they'd be putting a coin in their mouth, unrolling the paper towels, drawing on the wall, tearing pages out of said book, or somehow grabbing a knife! (All in Miss Monnie's repertoire.) I really feel that when I'm with her I have to give her attention. And never in a million years could I do something like put her in a playpen. Yet, both the older ones would happily go into the playpen if I needed to do something tempting (like lay out quilt pieces) on the floor. Really - I can remember doing that, while Aidan cheerfully played with blocks in his playpen next to me. Monnie would have a fit if I "locked her up" while something "interesting" was going on. Yet' with the others it didn't even feel like that! We were just having a lovely time together!

    1. Yes, I can only assume it is partly related to David's personality, because I can't imagine intentionally ignoring him to get a project done. So it must not be that other parents ignore their children. David will gladly go into his playpen as long as someone is playing peekaboo with him or tossing back the toys he throws out! But I don't think he's an extreme adventurer; just social.


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