(3.75 offspring is considered “numerous,” isn’t it? It feels numerous. But ask me again at 5.5.)
Sitting pretty at 30 weeks here with Quattro Bing and feeling every day of it, plus maybe another 6 weeks, just for good measure.
The kids just let out of school for the summer, and by “kids” I mean Joey, the 4 year old and by “school” I mean the 3 afternoons per week (minus approximately 100 teacher inservice days. I’m not bitter.) he spent crafting construction paper liners for our kitchen trash can. And yet for some reason life feels a lot more chaotic than it did last Thursday.
As an introvert, which is on par for buzzword popularity with “hipster,” “millennial,” and “entrepreneurial lifestyle blogger,” from what I understand, I have often found parenthood to be particularly overwhelming on an emotional level.
I don’t want to confuse the reader with the impression that I don’t love being a mom and that I don’t adore my kids, but parenting has brought with it a particularly steep learning curve in the “loss of personal space” category that never fails to confound me.
In some ways I really was made for stay at home motherhood, because as long as the sun is shining and the backyard is beckoning (and we have enough milk and La Croix in the fridge) I’m actually pretty fine staying home for days at a time, or venturing no further than our neighborhood gym for a blessed hour of treadmill strolling and some toddler death match wrestling in the nursery.
And in fact, in a lot of instances I’d rather stay home than attend a mom’s group, (I’ve failed out of at least 3 at this point. I’m terrible.) host a playdate, or take the kids to any sort of extracurricular activity involving my interaction with other adults toting small children. So a simple trip to the library to play and grab a new stack of books: gold. Library interactive preschooler story time? Not so much.
My favorite activity to do with my kids, by far, is to read with them. And by this I mean that we all sit quietly and read our respective books in the same room, basking in the togetherness and the silence of it all. Since my two oldest are boys, this happens approximately on an annual basis. But I’ve loved all 4 instances of it.
I also relish solo trips to Costco with all three kids, (I’m not kidding, I actually love doing this, because they’re entertained and contained, and at the end, everyone gets a hot dog.) walking the 1.5 mile roundtrip to our neighborhood Starbucks and letting the boys split a kids coconut hot chocolate, (at $1.50 it’s cheaper than a pair of Slurpees, snob watchers) or making a quick visit to the creek down the hill from our house where they will spend 25 happy minutes throwing sticks over the bridge and not really even trying to fall it.
So it’s not that I don’t enjoy motherhood. It’s just that it hasn’t always come naturally for me, at least not the teaching and constant togetherness aspect of it.
On any given work day I generally crawl into the 5 o’clock hour feeling extremely touched out and like I have maaaaaybe 90 minutes of fuel left in the tank. So not quite enough to get to bedtime, but perhaps enough to throw some dinner together?
It was actually a tremendous relief to me once I discovered that much of this could be attributed to temperament (Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy talks a lot about temperaments and personality types) and that not all if it (some, mind you, but not all) was due to my crappy, limited capacity to give of myself.
I’m an INTJ, an introvert, and a choleric/melancholic. All those traits line up nicely for world domination and productivity. Not so much for teamwork, constant socialization, and corralling toddlers.
What works for other more extroverted moms, like my little sister and some of my best friends, doesn’t actually revitalize me. And just as I need to be sensitive to the fact that my sister dearest could literally interact with another human being endlessly, for all 24 hour in a day, and nearly die of happiness for it, I also need to acknowledge that I need a good 1-2 hours of silence every night after bedtime just to feel like I’m no longer suffocating.
Some moms feel like they’re climbing the walls of crazy hemmed in by the deafening silence of their own homes, and some moms lock themselves in the car in the garage to sit in solitude.
So, first things first, it’s important to know thyself. Know what feeds you, know what stresses you out, know what extracts a price too high from your limited tank of fuel for the day. I have friends who crave human contact so intensely that they schedule a social event every day of the week. And some days I’m their gal. But never more than one day in a row.
Generally I try to keep social obligations to 1-2 times per week. I’m often failing to count the little things like a quick trip to a sister’s house or an impromptu coffee date as “social,” and then I find myself overwhelmed and exhausted and I look back at the past few days and count them up and, oops…I went way over budget.
It sounds crazy and obsessively self aware, but I can’t emphasize enough how good it has been for my motherhood and for our family to recognize my own strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly. When a thing is operating in accord with its nature, it runs so much better.
Some other introvert life hacks?
- The mother’s helper. So huge. We had a 7 week period at the end of the spring where I lost one to college and was too stubborn to fill the end of semester gap before my next lovely lady came home from school, and I promptly found myself going crazy. The balance of work + home + babies – another set of helpful hands for several hours a week was completely overwhelming, and I took a mental snapshot of how insane life felt and committed it to eternal memory. Never again. not, at least, until I have a 10 year old to call my very own.
(Our MH mostly babysits, but she also washes dishes, makes lunch, does crafts, and takes the kids to the park. Essentially it’s like a cool older sibling who is getting paid.)
- Not cleaning or working during their quiet time/naps. Okay, I break this one almost every day. But I realized that when I was busting my ass to get the house up to par or hit a deadline whilst they slumbered (or destroyed the basement), I was failing to recharge my batteries with a little prayer time/sparkling water chugging/reading. And so maybe the house looked great by the time everybody was up and at em again, but mommy wasn’t getting any chance for restoration. And it never failed to make the 4-6 pm spread hellishly worse.
- Don’t ask too much from the witching hour. Seriously, at that point? I’m barely hanging on. I’ve learned to save up any screen time for the end of the day and on goes the Fox and the Hound and out to the back deck go baby and I for some good old fashioned porch sitting. In silence.
- Go out alone at night. Have a glass of wine. Go shopping for something you need but don’t need a team of advisors to select. Go to Panera and read the paper and drink a cup of tea in utter solitude. Spend 30 minutes in Adoration. Sometimes even a hardcore introvert like me wants a good girl’s night out, so I’m often tempted to phone a friend. But consider the cost of continued social engagement when you’re making the decision to forfeit this precious solo time.
What am I missing, hermit mothers? And you extroverts out there, what are some of your failsafe methods for retaining sanity in the tunnel of parenthood? I’m guessing there are only so many cocktail party invitations in your life these days.