At first glance, it seems like an impossible predicament: someone who prefers solitude to big, boisterous events mates with a social butterfly. If this were a dating scenario, you would have the right to break up in the face of irreconcilable differences. But if it’s your child who lives for the limelight and you’re someone who takes tremendous strength to bring an anecdote to a dinner party, breaking up just isn’t an option.
Luckily it doesn’t have to be. Research shows that introverts are naturally suited to parenting because being more introspective makes them more empathetic and quicker to grasp a child’s feelings. And yes, that still holds true when the emotion you identify is something as alien as I enjoy being around people and I crave non-stop stimulation. While this doesn’t mean that every aspect of parenting will be inherently easy for quiet-loving, solitude-seeking, thoughtful introverts, it does provide a strong foundation.
Of course, part of that is for an extrovert to know as an introvert what they need—which is probably very different from what they need she used as a child. Still, you can probably imagine what some of those demands might be: lots of interaction with their peers, lots of exposure to new faces and experiences, constant stimulation, and outlets for their higher propensity for risk and adventure. How might the fulfillment of these requirements look like in practice? You might stumble onto the big kid’s playground with the insanely tall slide sooner than you think… and your kid might find new BFFs awfully fast once they arrive.
In the meantime, the difficult parts of raising an extrovert as an introvert (like making silly small talk with the parents of these new friends) can be accomplished with a little patience and practice—and by being vigilant about your own needs. Here’s how to pull it off.
1. Make alone time non-negotiable (and steal it whenever you can).
This tops the list for a reason. This is the ethos that will save you. Yes, duh, we know that loneliness is a parent’s most valuable — read: scarce — resource. But it’s what every introvert needs to be functional, and almost everyone can spend a few moments alone. The trick is to steal time shards rather than big chunks, as the latter is obviously much harder to come by.
Where could you find these tiny timeouts? First, wake up before your kids do, even if it means sacrificing a little sleep. It’s worth it for those few minutes of silence before your preschooler bursts in and asks for a morning juice box. Is your child still sleeping? Even if it goes against every fiber of your being, Not Use that extra hour for life management, e.g. B. for cleaning up or planning a well visit. Instead, do something that will help you feel like a human again. Is your child no longer sleeping? Allow us to introduce the concept of “quiet time,” a time when a child is chilling in their bed or bedroom so you can do the same in yours.
Spend those times staring at the ceiling playing the most mindless game your phone can support learning Esperanto – it doesn’t matter. The point is, this time is yours.
2. Embrace the wonder of parallel activity.
In short, you do one thing and your child does another, but you stay close to each other. Think of it as separate togetherness or sittervising. They are sitting in the stroller and reading a book; you lead her down the street with your headphones on. You’re digging deep in a stack of home decor magazines. Yes, extroverted kids may be less inclined to engage in a solo activity—but if you use it strategically and don’t overdo it, it will reap huge dividends.
Additionally, once your child is old enough to be sensible, you can just be open with them. If you’re used to putting your needs aside and saying to your child, “Sometimes I really need some time to be quiet and just think, so can we take five minutes and then hang out again?” can feel like a shocking transgression. But by doing so, you are doing them a great favor. In some future capacity (such as going to school or having a job), your child will need to know how to do things on their own.
3. Be explicit with your partner.
No, not in a sexy way – in a “This is what I need and you have to help me get it or I’ll lose my mind.” In other words, there is great power in saying out loud what you think is obvious but may not have been acknowledged: “Hey honey? I’m an introvert, our child is an extrovert, so there may be times when I need to go to the other room and not look at either of you.”
It might be worth introducing a code word if the noise and whining and questions and fuss get too much and you need to get off. It might also be wise to schedule more dates, as introverts do best with intimate forms of socializing (and before you shy away from the money, said “date” can be as simple as dropping off the kids at their mother’s and driving the car to her corner to park eat fast food).
The point is that speaking out about your needs goes a long way in getting them met — so tell your partner what would help and let them support you.
4. Make sure you don’t overlook any easy fixes.
So often as parents, we do things because we feel we have to do them—even things that make us want to pluck our eyeballs out with kitchen tongs. Here’s an exercise: Think of everything on your parenting responsibilities list, paying special attention to things that really make your teeth itch. A few potential culprits: Your preschoolers’ birthday party list. (Do they all have to take place in a deafening indoor playground?) Your child’s affinity for places that draw chaotic crowds — zoos, children’s museums, kid’s train lines at the park. The hyper talkative day care manager who longs to give you a twenty minute rundown of your child’s day. Are there ways to strategically bypass these energy vampires, reduce their impact, or eliminate them?
For example, instead of attending every birthday rehearsal, can you skip a few and have that child come in for a personal play date? Can you take the afternoon off to take your child to the zoo if it is deserted? Can you arrange for your partner to pick you up from daycare a few days a week so he can record the chitchat? Or you could just show up with earbuds and scurry past the admin with a waving apology. After all, you gotta do what you gotta do, man.
In fact, you might as well make that your new mantra, because you really do have to Make room in your parenting life for your introverted tendencies. Yes, you have big obligations to your extroverted child. Yes, you must help them engage with the world in a way that feels good and right for them. But do you have to do it in a way that drives you crazy? no There’s always a middle ground—and there’s always time to step back, take a break, and recharge your batteries. Even if it’s only five minutes at a time.