5 TIPS FOR THE INTROVERT MOTHER
Are you an introvert who needs your own space, and time to recharge your batteries? Are you also a Mum with small kids who keep you constantly busy and on the go? Do you find it difficult to balance it all? Read on to discover my top five tips for the introvert Mum…
BEING AN INTROVERT
It took me a while to realise why I felt so drained after being in social situations or when I spent lots of time around other people.
I would dread going to parties or out with friends because I would get worn out really quickly and just end up wishing I’d made my excuses to not go in the first place. It’s not that I didn’t like spending time with my friends but I prefer to do it in a different way, maybe just with one person at a time or with a small circle of close friends. I used to think I was weird, then I just realised I was an introvert.
Extroverts feel energised by spending time with others, but introverts like me can just end up feeling drained and need to recharge before we’re ready for more! We feel energised by silence and solitude.
THE CHALLENGES OF MOTHERHOOD
I have two little girls of my own and every other weekend I also have my step-kids to stay.
We have a small house that fits the four of us fine, but filled with my step kids (fast-growing boys), it suddenly feels very busy and crowded. There’s not a lot of space for us all to do the things we want to do, whether it’s games of make-believe and Lego, or xBox and computers.
Each room seems occupied, whether it’s the living room, the bedrooms, the office (where we have all the computers), the kitchen (somebody is always in there raiding the fridge or getting a drink) or the bathrooms.
I love all the kids but I’ll admit that sometimes I don’t handle the weekends very well. There’s too much noise, movement, mess and not enough space.
In comparison, our weekdays follow their own steady routine and, with school, work, after school activities and homework, there’s not a lot of free time to make loads of mess or noise. And there’s less of us so there is inevitably less movement and noise etc. You get the picture.
But, the weekends tend to go by in a blur of activity which to the introvert me, feels like an assault on all my senses and I can be totally drained by Sunday evening, only to have Monday morning come around again with a vengeance.
BALANCING ALL OUR NEEDS
Being an introvert is so much easier when you don’t have children.
You can create your own space and time and focus on your needs whenever you want.
You can be as selfish and as choosy as you need to be to preserve your sanity and your senses from overload. You can lock yourself away or seek silent solitude for however long you need to feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the world again! Not so, when you’re a parent!
Over the years I have adapted to and embraced my needs as an introvert and a mother and here I share my five top tips to help you find space amidst the chaos.
5 TIPS FOR THE INTROVERT MUM
#1 Develop rhythms and routines to help create free time during the day
Carve out some extra free time for yourself during the day which you can then use to spend time for yourself or by yourself, whichever way helps you recharge your batteries. Creating this extra time means that you won’t be feeling guilty or selfish for having time for you when you should be spending time with the kids, your other half, working or looking after the home. You’ll already have done these things as part of your normal day so the extra time you’ve created is purely yours.
Rhythms and routines which you do on a regular basis help you keep on top of things by doing just a little bit each time, rather than having to spend hours catching up. Here are some examples:
- Laundry – do this once a day (or whatever suits your household) so that there’s not a massive pile up which you have to spend one whole day sorting out. Put a wash on each morning and make sure it’s folded and put away by the end of the day and it’s no big deal.
- Dishes – wash your dishes after every meal or put them straight in the dishwasher. Wipe the table and floor down, clean and tidy your worktops after every meal preparation. It takes five minutes or so, rather than a massive clean up operation at the end of the day.
- Get up earlier – make it a habit to set your alarm early so you can get up before the rest of the house and spend time doing what you want before you have to make breakfasts, supervise teeth-cleaning and pack school bags. Check out my blog post on setting yourself up for the day with a great morning routine.
#2 Teach your children to be as independent and self sufficient as their age allows
Why spend time helping your children get dressed in the morning or showering in the evening if they are old enough and capable of doing it for themselves? It may take practice and perseverance but it can create some extra minutes of space for you.
Of course, this is different for every family and depends very much on your own individual children and what you feel is appropriate for them.
You may also feel that the bathtime routine is a special bonding time for you and your child so maybe try something else instead. For example, teach your children to tidy up the toys and their bedroom before bedtime so you don’t have to spend time picking things up off the floor and putting everything away. It’s a life skill that will help your kids as they grow up and it will soon become second nature (with a reminder every now and then, of course!).
#3 Don’t be afraid to take up offers of help
How many times have you declined an offer of help because you think you should be able to do it on your own, you thought it was a sign of weakness or not being a good mum? Think again.
If you run yourself ragged, give yourself no space or time when you desperately need it and end up being irritable or shouty with your kids, is that being a good Mum?
It’s better to take up an offer of help from someone you trust, even if it’s ten minutes, just time for a cup of tea sitting on the sofa, than nothing at all. Ten minutes might be all you need to regroup, enjoy the silence and finally drink a cup of tea without having reheated it three times!
You’re only human and you’re not designed to do everything yourself. Be kind to yourself.
#4 Make self care important
After I’ve finally got my children into bed after dinner, bath, reading a book and general quiet time, it’s normally about 8/8.30pm.
After many weeks, if not months, of habit-forming perseverance they now understand that the time after that is my time. Unless they are ill, or the world is about to end, they know that they need to stay in bed and go to sleep.
Yes, of course, it sounds too good to be true and they do still try it on with an endless list of excuses – needing a drink, the toilet, forgotten homework, monsters under the bed etc.
But, invariably, they get sent back to bed with a kiss, an ‘I love you’ and a reminder that this is my time. I’ve explained to them that I’m on the go the rest of the day at work, at their beck and call at home and that I’m happy to deal with anything, but in the morning.
After the kids are in bed, everyone is fed, the house is tidy, the dog has been in the garden, then that is Mummy time when I can read, have a bath or dance around my bedroom. Whatever it is that makes me happy and brings me joy.
I’ve explained to them that everyone needs time for themselves and now they even turn the tables on me. When I ask them to do something they have once or twice told me that it will have to wait as they are having ‘me time’ themselves. I guess at least they’ve taken the concept on board!
#5 Set your home up to enable you to get some space
When my small house is full of children it’s very difficult to find a space for me. In the past I’ve resorted to locking myself in the bathroom or sitting in the car on my driveway!
However, I soon realised that I am the adult, the glue that holds my home and my family together, so why on Earth do I deserve to shut myself away in such ridiculous and uncomfortable places?
So, I made my bedroom my safe haven. The decor is calming, peaceful and I have everything in there that brings me happiness – my music, books, yoga mat, for example.
If I need quiet time, then I go into my room, push the door slightly closed and read a book, listen to music or do some yoga. I know the kids will knock before they come in and usually they don’t interrupt until I open the door wider.
I don’t spend a long time in there, unless the kids are still happy and occupied, but just enough for silence and calm to gather myself again. The children know that my room is out of bounds when they have friends over so my space doesn’t get invaded like the rest of the house.
BALANCING THE NEEDS OF MY KIDS VS MY NEEDS AS AN INTROVERT
Motherhood is a constant juggle. On top of that, being an introverted mother is a delicate balancing act and one that’s very easily tipped off balance.
Don’t be hard on yourself, recognise when you need time and space and allow yourself to get it. You’ll be a better parent for it and you’ll be teaching your children how to care for themselves alongside caring for others.