I’m an introvert. Always have been. It’s a fundamental part of my being, a trait as hard-wired as my love of caffeine or my ability to memorize random pop culture trivia.
At 33 years old, not only have I accepted my introvert tendencies, I’ve come to genuinely love them. It’s because of my shyness that I’m a writer. I credit my insight and my ability to mine life for its tiny nuances to the fact that as an introvert. I observe and listen. I see life around me in vivid, wild, beautiful detail because I’m quiet. And thus, I draw the world inward, rather than project myself out into it.
I so appreciate all of the positives that come with shyness. However, I have also realized that this trait poses its fair share of challenges when it comes to parenting. Whether it’s forced small talk at preschool drop offs or the complete and total breakdown of any concept of personal space, here are six ways it can be really hard to parent as an introvert:
1. The implosion of privacy
There was a point in my life where I spent large chunks of time alone; lazy afternoons to read or walk or daydream. Those activities are essential for introverts, because it’s how we recharge. Now, I literally can’t remember the last time I went to the bathroom by myself. There is no recharging. There is only holding a baby on the toilet while you try to prevent a toddler from eating your deodorant.
2. The absence of personal space
In a similar vein, when you become a parent, you totally forsake any trace of personal space. There is never someone not touching you. There is, at almost all times, a child on your lap or attached to your leg or literally shoving his or her fingers into your mouth. At one point in my life, I had physical boundaries. Now, my children climb me, use my toothbrush to brush their hair, hang off my neck like I’m a tree, and basically treat me like a human jungle gym.
3. Preschool drop off
Three days a week, I walk my daughter into her preschool and hand her off to her sweet, lovely teachers. She loves it. The second she gets in the room, she takes off to play with her little friends. I, on the other hand, mumble awkward hellos to the other parents and typically leave feeling like a total spaz. Despite the fact that I am a confident, intelligent 33 year old woman, this daily drop off ritual instantly makes me feel like a gawky, braces-wearing preteen wondering where to sit in the school cafeteria.
4. Birthday parties
It’s hard enough to be an introvert at an adult party. At the very least, there are usually drinks of some kind to smooth the social edges. But to be an introvert at a child’s party means forced socialization with a group of unfamiliar adults while sugar-crazed toddlers careen between your legs. It’s bright and loud and chaotic, and I struggle to make small talk while a clown or magician terrorizes my children in the background. It’s always an enormous relief when the cake is wheeled out and it’s socially acceptable to make my Irish exit with my frosting covered toddlers in tow.
5. Making parent friends
I am one of those social introverts who genuinely loves to be around people. However, I am horrible at making new friends, which is problematic because as a mother you are expected to immediately bond with any other woman who has procreated. Unfortunately, I have zero mom-friend game. I watch other moms or dads instantly connect by the slide or monkey bars, and yet when I have the chance to do the same, I fumble and mumble like a misfit at a single’s mixer. I have friends who collect mom pals effortlessly: at the zoo, at the science museum, in the waiting room of their gynecologist. I, however, like misunderstood shy people the world over, have the curse of giving off a certain “resting Mom face” that scares off would-be friends.
6. The scarcity of silence
Introverts depend on silence. We need it to think and unwind and refocus. However, as any parent knows, the moment you welcome a child into your life, silence becomes a relic of your old life. In its place, there are near constant cries, babbles and shouts of “snack” and “no” and “why?”, all against a backdrop of Baby Shark or Sesame Street or weird YouTube nursery rhyme videos designed specifically to make any adult within a five-mile radius lose his or her mind. In order for me to get a moment of silence, I have to walk outside to check my mail. Needless to say, I check my mail about ten times a day.
Obviously, it can be really hard to be an introvert and a mother. There are definite disadvantages that shyness brings to the parenting game, and ones with which I will always struggle. However, my quiet tendencies can also be unexpectedly rewarding. Every day, I am aware of hundreds of tiny, unimportant but beautiful little moments with my children that I might not see otherwise. And if my kids grow up to be introverts, I will always teach them that while the trait can have its challenges, ultimately, it’s far more of a gift.
For more articles from our Parent Life series, click here.