How to Survive Parenthood When You’re an Introvert
Congrats, you’re a parent. In other words, you now have to be “on” and available and ready to troubleshoot the logistics 24/7 for the rest of your life. Cool cool.
But if you consider yourself an introvert—i.e., someone who focuses internally and needs alone time to recharge after being around other people—parenthood can feel extra daunting, and the range of kid-related social scenarios can leave you stressed, anxious and drained.
So, how do you navigate, protecting your own emotional needs while also addressing those of your child? First step: Deep breaths. Second: Read on.
1. Meet Parent Friends 1 on 1
The mom group pressure is real. In fact, often it seems like the parents in close proximity—at the playground, at happy hour—only travel in packs. And while you may have to subject yourself to a group outing here and there, make it your mission to find one cool mom whose child gets along with your child, get her number, then meet up again just the two of you with or without the kids. Not only can you expect a higher quality hang (ever try to ask seven women what they think of the new principal?), you’ll also conserve your own precious social energy. (That said, lurking virtually in Facebook mom groups doesn’t waste social energy either.)
2. Build Alone Time Into Your Schedule
As an introvert, you require daily solitude to process your experiences and center yourself. That’s why you should treat alone time like others treat the gym: Put it into your calendar and hold yourself accountable for making it happen. The intervals don’t have to be long—20 minutes or half an hour will do—but committing in advance to a solo walk or pre-bed meditation session will help you feel more in control of your life. And the more it’s ritualized (“mom always does the evening dog-walk by herself,”) the more others will respect it.
3. Sign Up for Quiet-But-Crucial Parenting Jobs
For the introverted parent, there are ways to participate where you can be less vocal and out there, but still make a positive, productive impact on the lives of your kids. For example, maybe you’re not up for being PTA president. (Leading all those meetings? No way.) But treasurer is a behind-the-scenes job that’s more up your alley. Or maybe the thought of chaperoning 18 four-year-olds on a trip to the zoo makes you want to curl up in a ball. If so, volunteer to design and print out fliers for the school play instead.
4. Watch and Appreciate Your Children Instead of Trying to Match Their Energy
All hail the extroverted parent: When their child squeals, they do, too. But if that feels exhausting, fear not, since it’s really just your presence that counts most when it comes to quality time. So, while we’re not suggesting that you putz around on your phone instead of actually engaging with your children, it is fine for you to let them play on their own nearby while you hang back and observe. (It also teaches them to explore at their own pace and become self-reliant, says Claire Lerner, a child development expert, in an interview in Parents.)
5. Stop the Instagram Scrolling…and Comparing
Just because you don’t make it to every single birthday party or play space doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom…but good luck telling that to an introvert. Indeed, introverts have a tendency to lean into the mom guilt more than the average bear, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychology, which is why it may be helpful for you to opt to log off or block anyone who sets you into a shame spiral.
And remember: She may have taken her daughter to Disney on Ice with 19 of her closest girlfriends. But you spent every night for the past six months reading your daughter the Harry Potter Series. Both have their merits.
6. Put on a Movie
Yes, it’s allowed—and, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, that kind of screen time is A-OK, as long as you’re nearby to answer any questions that might arise. Want a recommendation? Here are 34 family movies we love.