Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The One Thing I Wish I Had Known Before I Became a Parent

I've been a mom now for over four years, which in the grand scheme of things is not really that long. It's only recently that I've been getting serious about self-care, so it's only recently that I realized something really important about myself.

I am an introvert.

Susan Cain's book Quiet only came out in 2012, a year after I became a parent for the first time. Finding time to read in the first few years of parenting was hard, so it was a while before I actually got around to reading it. I had known before I had read it that I was an introvert, so part of me even resisted reading it, but I'm really glad I did. It was so validating to know that introversion is not a defective personality trait.

Introversion (and its opposite, extroversion) is a way of understanding one's personality. "Extroversion tends to be manifested in outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior, whereas introversion is manifested in more reserved and solitary behavior," says Wikipedia. However, there are a lot of myths about introverts, which I think stems from a misunderstanding about their motivations for their behaviour. The reason extroverts are generally more outgoing is because that's how they recharge. The reason introverts are generally more reserved is because solitude and quiet are what they need to recharge.


Realizing that I require a great deal of solitude helps me to understand why nap time and bedtime are some of my favourite times. It helps me to understand why I never wanted to do playgroups, and why I hate going to kids' birthday parties. Finally I understand that if I want to take care of myself, I need to be careful not to fill up nap time and post-kids'-bedtime with too many activities so I can better appreciate the solitude.

Parenting as an introvert can be really tough, especially when your kids are really small and need you constantly. While having a partner can be helpful to get some alone time (hello, Daddy who takes the kids to the park!) it can also mean that when you finally get some time to yourself, you have to share it with someone else. There's also a lot of pressure to do things with your kids, like playdates, playgroups and other sports, lessons or group activities.

Knowing what you need to recharge is half the battle. It helps you to lessen the guilt you have about not doing all the things you think you need to be doing to be the perfect parent. It will also help you plan your time better. For instance, if you have a birthday party to attend on Sunday, you know that planning a play date on Saturday is probably a bad idea. Unless you get to drop your kid off and have some alone time, in which case it is an awesome idea.

Knowing what works for you will also affect your parenting style. I love my kids, and I love spending time with them, but the strong emphasis on that attachment part of attachment parenting means that it is not for me. Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks so. It's not to say that you can't be an introvert and be an attachment parent, but that it's worth considering where the overlap might cause friction.

There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, but in a world where the majority are extroverted it means we have to work a little harder to understand ourselves and our needs. This is just as important to do when we become parents, especially when there are young introverts watching.

For Further Thought:

1) Are you an introvert or an extrovert? (Here's a quiz to help you!)

2) What does self-care look like for you as an introvert or extrovert?

3) In what way does your orientation impact your parenting, both in your philosophy of parenting and in how you parent?

For Further Reading:

Space2Live: There's nothing wrong with you, you're an introvert

Good: 10 Illustrations that Nail What it Means to be an Introvert

TED: Susan Cain's Ted Talk "The Power of Introverts"

HuffPo: Why Parenting is Hard for Introverts

I Gave Up By Noon: For the Introverted Mother

Missguided Mama: Your Introvert Mom Survival Guide: 10 tricks to save your sanity

Scary Mommy: 4 Tips for Surviving Parenthood as an Introverted Mom

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