Too many mothers secretly feel ashamed when they look at their children and instead of feeling joy, they just feel smothered. Being an introverted parent can be tough, especially if you don’t take the time to recharge mentally because of the guilt you feel. Well, I’m here to tell you: it’s okay to want to be away from your children occasionally. There is nothing wrong with you, and you are not a bad mother for needing your own time.
A distinct childhood memory always comes to mind when I start to feel overwhelmed. My little brother and I were playing and having a blast, and yeah... we were probably terrorizing my mother. But then we couldn’t find her. I remember looking everywhere, my Dad telling us to leave her alone, until I finally found her huddled on her closet floor, crying. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she needed time alone to pray.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not sharing this to say anything against my Mom. She was and still is amazing, and there are few women who are as strong and wise. She was a strong mother who had a moment of overwhelming frustration, and did the only thing she could to deal with it at the time, she let our dad watch us and found the only peaceful spot in the house. As a child, I didn’t understand. Why was she crying? Why was she hiding?
Now that I am the mother and have my own rambunctious daughter, I often feel overwhelmed. My oldest child is an extrovert to the extreme, and the stress it causes this introverted mama can be staggering. There have been days where I want to do nothing more than hide in my own closet and have a good cry. I feel so conscious-stricken when I want to get away from my own child. I sometimes wonder, did my mom feel this way? Did she feel that she would be a bad mother if she wasn’t giving us her everything, at every moment?
I hope someone was there to tell her that it was okay. I hope someone let her know that taking time for yourself doesn’t mean you are taking away from your children. I hope someone hugged her and encouraged her the way she has comforted me when I felt like a failure over the last few years.
There are things that the introverted parent can do to help mold a more peaceful home, and hopefully relieve some of the stress that comes with having an extroverted child.
First, please realize that it’s perfectly fine to let your child play on their own, and once they’re old enough, be alone. Now, you shouldn’t expect them to stay silent during that time; singing, telling themselves a story, or just playing with toys are all things they can do alone or with siblings. These little breaks can give you a moment to breathe, fix a cup of tea (and maybe drink it), or just zone out for a few minutes.
Alternately, you can establish a “quiet time” routine at home. Too often we try to fill our children’s days with activities, games, and noisy toys. While all these things are good and can be enjoyable, they can become an almost physical atmosphere of noise. Having a short time each day where those toys are put away or turned off can be just the relief you need to get through the rest of the day. For my family, this time currently falls during the baby’s nap time, but just find any time that works in your home.
Next, look over your calendar and examine the commitments that you’ve made. As mothers, we can often find ourselves volunteering for everything. Angel costumes for the church pageant? No problem. PTA, playdates, homeschool group planning committee, women's meeting at church, block party organizer... we never stop! It may be time to cut back on your responsibilities. I’m not saying that you should take the ax to your whole schedule and lock yourself in the house. But decide what is a real priority to you and what someone else could do.
One thing I do when I need some time alone is ask my husband to take our oldest daughter to her Girl Scout meeting. I love being involved with her troop and sharing that experience with her, but I’ve found that using those few hours to recharge can make all the difference in my mood and attitude for the next few days.
One common mistake for introverts is when we try to change our little extroverts. I know I’ve heard myself say, “can’t you just sit quietly”, “you don’t have to tell me every detail”, “I saw it, I don’t need you to explain it to me”. Not my most shining of motherly moments. We need to understand that sitting quietly is unlikely to happen. Forcing a child to be completely silent or still will probably result in groaning, whining, and crying fits of frustration. That is about as far from the desired result as possible. So be careful not to stress silence and think of quiet time as just the time for calm.
Even now, while I write this during our “quiet time”, I’m being asked how disco balls make things shiny and why are they on a string and how strong is that string? I just keep reminding my daughter that it’s quiet time, and mommy is working, so she will have to ask me those questions later.
For mothers with infants, I want to make a special point. Babies are demanding to anyone, introvert or not. During the early months, where sleep is something we rarely participate in, finding time alone to refresh ourselves is almost impossible. This is a time when the guilt of wanting a break from your baby can really crash down on you. You have this helpless creature, and you are her main source of food, comfort, hygiene, and even gas relief, and you wonder if you’re strong enough for this. And some moments, you’re not. And that is okay.
Please, don’t be afraid to put your baby down, pass them off to a spouse, grandma, or trusted friend. When your mind feels like it is going to shatter, you won't be able to give your all to your little one. There is no shame is letting your little one cry in someone else’s arms for a while. Grab a shower, nap, read a chapter of that book you keep telling yourself you’ll get to, whatever will relax you. And when you come back, you will feel refreshed and your baby will be better off for it.
If you find that your anxiety doesn’t ease, and you think things should be getting better, talk to your doctor about your feelings. Your doctor may be able to offer advice or refer you to a counselor for postpartum anxiety.
Needing time away from your children does not make you a bad parent. You need that time to relax and gather yourself mentally. As mother’s, we are depended on so much. It’s our job to anticipate each person’s needs and wants. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to push through the day. But if each day ends with you fighting tears, desperately wishing for that closet floor, then it is for you and your family’s best interest that you take those moments to recharge.
So take that hour, let Dad do bath and bedtime with the children tonight. Heat up that tea for the 8th time or even splurge for a fresh cup and actually drink it! Recharge your mind so you will be ready to jump into whatever tomorrow has in store.
Leave a comment and let me know what recharges you when life is stressful. I would love to hear what works for you!