12 February 2016
The Plight of an Introverted Mom
Growing up as an introvert wasn't always easy. The world values the qualities put forth by extroverts. Introverts are subliminally and explicitly taught that you must be extroverted in order to succeed. I never felt the need to be in the spotlight or have tons of friends. In fact, I hated having any attention on me. (Maybe that's why I wish I had taken a valium to get through my wedding day?) I wasn't good at thinking on my feet, and required quiet time to gather my thoughts and form my opinions. I "faked it to make it" through many situations in my life, but it often left me feeling inauthentic and confused. Was I somehow wired incorrectly?
Just as I was learning to accept and really embrace my introverted personality (I found this post I wrote back in 2010!), I became a mom. Motherhood has changed my life in so many profound ways. However, I feel like I have been flung back into a world that requires a great deal of extroversion. My developing toddler requires social interaction and consistent engagement. I am her conduit to the outside world. She relies on me to teach her the skills to become a functioning member of society. If she doesn't have a group of play mates, it is because I did not put myself out there and find her a group. Her exposure to different forms of learning, language, religion, and culture are all my responsibility as her parent. Something as simple as getting on the phone and setting up various appointments or inquiring about school programs is a huge uphill battle for me. I detest making phone calls and want to get off the line as quickly as possible. Maybe that's not necessarily being introverted? Maybe that's being socially awkward? Whatever it is, it's challenging.
There are times when I just want to close my bedroom door and be left alone. I am no longer afforded that luxury, because K is basically attached to me at all times. I have had to make adjustments for my introverted needs based on K's schedule. My decompression time comes at the end of the day after K goes to sleep. My husband knows I usually need time after a hectic day to decompress and be by myself. He respects that boundary and allows me "my time". If I didn't have that time, I feel like I might go crazy and jump out of my skin.
Motherhood requires that you be firm. It requires that you set boundaries, step up, and be a leader. It requires that you think quickly, multitask like a pro, and engage in clear communication with your children. I am not good at confrontation. I am a "softie" when it comes to discipline. I do not prescribe to a strict, disciplined way of life. I can be passive aggressive. However, I am learning so much about leadership, communication, and being the voice for my daughter. As she enters school and beyond, my hope is that I will have really honed these skills. These are all things that go against my nature. But, I'll do it for my child.
One of the reasons that I gave myself a challenge to get outdoors every day and I have been so adamant about socializing and putting myself out there is because I don't want my introverted nature to inhibit my daughter. From what I have observed, she is more extroverted than I am. She is a "spirited" child (Read: opinionated and demanding) who enjoys socializing and seems to like being around other people. She also basks in the attention of others. (Is she really my kid? The jury is still out.) However, if we are indoors by ourselves too much, she gets whiney and agitated. Then when we go out, she'll cling to me until she finds her comfort zone again. She seems to crave consistent outside exposure. Her personality type might change or maybe it will remain the same as she grows up. Who knows? But, I don't want her to miss out on opportunities because my personality type dictates that I need more alone time or I'd rather hide inside than go out in the big, bad world.
So far, making the effort to get out of my own head has opened up my world as much as it has hers. It doesn't mean I haven't been met with challenges. There have been a lot of road blocks and awkward moments. But, I am trying to say "yes" to more social invitations offered to us (despite the fact that my automatic internal response will always and forever be NO). Saying "yes" doesn't come naturally to me, but I think that's okay. Like anything in life, it takes practice. In the same vein, there has to be balance. I try to remember that every opportunity to socialize does not need to be seized. I need to be true to myself and not push too hard or I will likely burn out.