Time with children is a precious commodity to parents: caring for, talking with, and playing with their children are the most enjoyable activities. Parents who are introverts – someone who gains energy from spending time alone – often feel they aren’t up to the task.
About 16% to 50% of the American population share the same temperament, as they have an inherent conflict between the need for solo time and social demands of parenting that could prove problematic. Being an introverted parent raising a kid doesn’t have to be confusing or painful. It is all about finding a balance that works for both you and your child.
Carla Naumburg, Ph.D., a Massachusetts-based clinical social worker and author of the forthcoming book How To Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids, notes that parents lose so much of the alone time they had before they had children, which is why parenting can be particularly challenging for introverts.
Introverts are not necessarily socially awkward, shy, or clever bookworms as you might think. Scientists are of the opinion that introverts take in more information from their surroundings and require solitude to process it. If introverts cannot find the necessary peaceful surroundings to digest the influx of information, they often respond with negative emotions – not great for parents.
Survival tips for an introverted parent
Thankfully, parenting experts and therapists suggest a number of coping tips. Here’s how introverts can lovingly raise their kids without becoming depleted and, possibly, resentful.
1. Deal with the chaos.
When you are an introvert parent, you get recharged by being alone. Ongoing chaos and noise can quickly deplete an introvert’s battery supply. Even constantly playing and interacting with your children can be exhausting and depleting. Don’t beat yourself up about being an introvert parent. It does not mean you are a horrible parent or that you do not love your kids. It is just that you have a finite amount of energy for interaction. Some of us are just wired that way.
For times you need to keep an eye on your kids, put noise-cancelling headphones on. When you prepare dinner, doing the laundry or cleaning, you can wear your headphones. This helps relax and recharge your mind while doing necessary tasks around the house.
2. Create a balance.
As an introvert, you might often feel like you aren’t socialize enough, especially with your kids. You naturally may have several questions: Am I isolating my child? Is my child missing out on opportunities? Am I holding my child back socially?
You don’t need to change to raise your child. Finding balance is key. You don’t have to go on a million play dates for your child to be social. If your child demands more interaction, there are many structured ways this can be achieved.
Signing your children up for activities gives you more structure and more alone time – while giving kids the interaction they so desperately crave. This is also a way to socialize your child without having to regularly arrange for play dates which can be draining for introverts. The time limit and predictability of structured activities can be a lifesaver for an introverted parent.
3. Know yourself and skip the guilt.
It is normal for an introverted parent to be filled with guilt. You might feel guilty that you don’t have the desire to play endlessly with your children. Recognize you do not have to be your child’s playmate. It is okay if you don’t enjoy playing with your child for hours. You might find yourself saying no more often than you say yes. Many introverts need more downtime.
Erica Layne, California-based founder of “The Life On Purpose Movement” believes that the most important thing any introverted parents can do is to recognize and accept her nature. When you agree that your introversion is not a character flaw only then will things begin to change.
Merriam Sarcia Saunders, a licensed marriage and family therapist, reminds us that parenting is not a sprint, it is a marathon. So it is equally important to attend the parent’s needs as well as the child’s needs. You need to find quiet time for yourself, otherwise, you could face long-term physical and mental health consequences from chronic stress.
Kayce Hodos, a North Carolina-based licensed professional counselor specializing in maternal mental health, emphasizes that you need to identify your tolerance level for each activity and identify what you need to do to refuel.
4. Carve out alone time.
Erica Layne suggests that you should take a good look at your daily schedule and weekly/monthly calendar and analyzing them for places where you can carve out free moments for yourself. Maybe you can read for an hour while the kids watch a show.
Do you find it hard to carve out enough alone time? Today’s society is not set up with introverts in mind, so finding alone time and finding ways to recharge our batteries can be tough. And when you become a parent, it’s pretty near impossible. It is only that your brain just needs more time by itself – that’s all. You need to recharge your batteries.
When under stress try listening to music that is relaxing or soothing. Be alone in a crowd. Be alone wherever you can be. Your love for your kids may be deep, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their company is always pleasant. It can be stressful at times, especially if you are dealing with multiple little kids. So volunteer to do routine household tasks in exchange for your spouse taking the kids. When you take alone time, your spouse or partner can care for the kids, which could be a good option. Instead of joining an exercise class or going to an over-crowded gym, choose a solitary sport like swimming or running.
5. Set social limits.
Parenthood indeed requires socializing with other caregivers, other children, as well as with your kids. Naumburg says, especially if you are an introvert for whom endless social events can be seriously taxing, you don’t have to attend every single social event. In order to reduce the social burden while ensuring your kid has access to exciting experiences, ask a friend to accompany your child to a social gathering. As your children get older, let them take the reins on their own social life as much as possible, which will also make them more independent. This will help them grow to be outgoing and connecting with others, while helping you to cut back on your social engagements.
It is time for introverted parents to stop shaming themselves into being something they are not, and accept themselves for who they are – thoughtful, insightful, caring people who have a finite amount of energy to put into authentic, real friendships. Parenting is about stretching yourself but not too much. Get out of your comfort zone, and you set an excellent example for your kids while also growing as a person.