Quiet, please. Introvert recharging . . .
A grueling, meeting-filled work day has finally ended. My girl Isabella and I are in the car on the way to an after-school activity, and an awesome song has just come on Pandora. I turn it up, sigh, and enter a much-needed decompression state. Suddenly, a voice from the backseat pierces the no-talk-zone. What to me is the perfect time for quiet togetherness is to her the ideal time for chit chat. Today’s topic: rehashing the antics of the mean girl at school. I turn down the radio, and tap into my emergency reserves. Her needs come first.
That’s right. What seems like ‘dead air space’ to an extrovert, a void longing to be filled with the sound of your voice just for the heck of it, is precious processing time for an introvert. But if we understand and honor our respective basic needs – mine for quiet to analyze and recharge, hers to interact – we can all just get along.
Before you think I prefer to live in my own bubble, let’s debunk a few myths about what it means to be an introvert:
- We’re standoffish and rude.
- We’re anti-social.
- We don’t value interaction.
Regarding number one, we may seem aloof because we aren’t good at small talk and don’t find it particularly useful. In some cases, we’re shy around people we don’t know. In familiar company, we can be very out-going and may actually be mistaken for an extrovert. 2) We like being included; we just need time to recharge in-between social situations. In fact, we may decline an invitation because our batteries are drained and we need to recharge. Please understand this and don’t take it personally. 3) Not at all. We enjoy talking to you, especially one-on-on discussions about feelings and ideas. In the case of trivial conversations, see the previous reference to small talk.
So, how does this introverted parent balance her need for restorative downtime and her daughter’s need for stimulating people time? I have a good friend who dedicates the first 45 minutes after she arrives home from work to decompression. She says that if she gets that time in right as she enters the door, she’s recharged for the rest of the evening. If only.
As a working mother, the moment I cross the threshold marks the beginning of perhaps the most demanding period of my day. I’ve not quite left work behind, usually needing to respond to a few emails or even dial into a conference call; it’s homework time for Isabella, so I’ve got to provide occasional guidance on fractions or sentence structure; I likely still need to fit in a workout; and dinner won’t cook itself, although that would be amazing in a Jetsons-inspired sort of way.
I adore spending time with my family, especially couple time with my husband Jeff and open discussions with Isabella when she’s in the mood to share her deepest thoughts. I just know that I’m a better wife and parent when I take time to charge my batteries.
Here are a few of my coping strategies that may help other introverted moms out there . . .
I interact with Isabella to the point of getting her going on homework and then on to an activity that she can do independently, such as reading, a chore, dance/sports practice or artwork. I let her know that Mommy needs some time to focus on making dinner, and she’s usually fine giving me some space. I might pour a glass of wine. Other times, I just turn on some music, assemble ingredients and envelop myself in the solitary task of preparing a meal. I truly enjoy cooking, so being able to escape this way does the trick!
It’s probably no surprise that my go-to exercise routines involve hours riding solo on a bike and runs in the dark, pre-dawn hours. To me, there’s nothing better than an open country road and only the sound of my pedals and thoughts spinning. Several times a week, I trade off with my husband or capitalize on Isabella’s long dance classes to log some miles. Other days, I get up before everyone else and run the quiet streets of our neighborhood, and come back recharged and ready to start the day. Isabella has noticed me doing this, and on a stressful day awhile back she commented, “Mommy, you should go ride your bike. You always come back so happy.” Roger that!
The first time I tried this tactic, it backfired on me. My husband had been out of town for the better part of a week and solo parenthood was taking its toll. I desperately needed some time in my own head. I rounded up all the laundry that needed folding, plopped it on my bed, turned up music Isabella loves and invited her to join me for some tactile therapy. We settled into the task at hand and I congratulated myself for my brilliance. But after a few minutes, Isabella said, “Okay, so what should we talk about?” (What?!? There has to be talking?) Oh no, I hadn’t anticipated this. Thinking quickly, I suggested that we sing to the music to pass the time. She was game, and singing became our common ground. Whew!
You know those nights when you realize that all you have in the fridge are some wilted greens and a half-empty jar of pasta sauce, and the only protein in the house is lonely can of tuna? I typically get major grocery shopping done on the weekend, but sometimes need to make a quick dash to the store for essentials during the week. These trips can be painful with a kiddo who doesn’t want to go and begs and pleads her way through the store, asking for things we don’t need. Instead, I’ve started calling on neighbors for impromptu playdates. Isabella loves to hang out with other kids and gets a welcome dose of social time. This affords me the ability to find refuge exploring the produce section for a half hour and then come back home reenergized. Everybody wins!