In my post on nurturing friendships, I started to see a theme in the comments: a lot of blog readers call themselves introverts. I suppose this makes sense. Blog reading and commenting is a form of socializing that introverts would like, whereas extremely gregarious people may be out in the hallway talking when they get a free minute or two at work.
As we learned from Quiet, being an introvert isn’t about being shy. I’m not shy. I am perfectly fine with public speaking. But I tend to find being by myself (or sometimes in small, intimate groups) energizing, whereas a more extroverted sort gathers energy from lots of other people. I tend to need quiet time to recover from group time.
Several comments noted that one of the hard parts of parenting young kids is that you’re rarely by yourself. If you find constant interaction draining, this can be a tough thing to deal with. And yet you don’t read a lot about this. Much of the parenting-is-tough narrative is about feeling isolated, whereas some introverts would really love to feel a bit more isolated, darn it.
So how can introverts survive the years until their kids don’t want to be around them?
As I’ve thought about my life, I’ve realized this is one upside to working. I like my projects, of course, but I also love that work gives me a reason to be by myself for multiple hours a day. Choose your profession carefully if you’re aiming for this (politics, for instance, is probably a bad choice) but solitude can be a bonus of the right kind of work.
You can also enforce quiet time. Nap time is as much about the person taking care of the kid as it is about the kid. Once they outgrow the nap, transition it to quiet book reading time or screen time, and take the opportunity to recharge.
You can ask your partner for help. Especially if you’ve been home with the kids during the day, it is not unreasonable to ask your partner to take them for a bit in the evening so you can have alone time. If both partners are employed, you can arrange times for each of you to do what you want. An introvert might want to read; a more extraverted person might want to meet up with friends one night a week. You can do the same thing on weekends, too. Sometimes, just knowing that you’ll get a quiet 2-hour block of time on Sunday can make the weekend feel more doable. Just don’t assume your partner will get your hints. You have to have a conversation about this if it’s going to happen.
As a side note, a few single moms in the Mosaic Project hired a sitter for a few hours on the weekend for precisely this reason — it’s decompression time, and they could be by themselves.
If all else fails, learn to love the wee or late hours. I’ve been waking up early sometimes just for the additional quiet. We’ve moved “bedtime” (really, doors shut time — they don’t sleep) up to 8:30 from 9:00 for sheer sanity’s sake. It doesn’t work every night, but when it does, it’s another half hour of reading, writing…and silence.