I don’t normally blog a lot about my day-to-day life.
It’s partly because it’s not always so interesting being a stay at home mom of 5, but mostly it is because I am so busy living my life that I never get a chance to sit down and mold it into a blog post. But I am having one of those weeks where I am feeling really overwhelmed and under-achieving and like I can’t get on top of anything, so I thought this would be a good time to talk about what its like to parent when you are an introvert with anxiety.
I am proud of being a person who has her anxiety under control but at the same time I don’t want to give the impression that I am “so together” every day of my life. I have bad days and bad “cycles” with anxiety and stress. I have days where I just want to be left alone but it seems as though a kid is coming at me from every corner. I get those pangs of feeling “bad” and “selfish” for craving time to myself and not wanting to spend every second playing games and interacting with my kids. I know a lot of you parents feel the exact same way so I’m just here to let you know you aren’t alone.
My husband has been working twice as much as usual lately and I have been home alone with my kids all day long for several days the past few week, with really not much of a break in between.
His shifts are 24 hours long so when I say “all day”, I mean literally all day.
I adore my amazing kids, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always easy being around them for hours and hours and days on end. This past week it has been non-stop chatter, non-stop bickering and a million times having this conversation:
“Can I have a snack?”
“You just had lunch an hour ago.”
“But I am so huuuungry. I am staaaarving. See my ribs sticking out?” (Child lifts shirt and sucks stomach in.)
“No you aren’t getting anything to eat right now.”
“Can I have some water? I really need a drink.”
“Where is your cup?”
“In the basement.”
“Well go get it.”
“I am too thiiiiiiiirsty to go get it. (Body slumps and tears start coming.)
“Fine, here is some water. But this is your cup for the REST of the night. I am not dirtying another one.”
Repeat that about 14 times and that is my day, and I will be honest…it’s tough for a person like me who just wants to be in my dark cave in the back of mind pondering the mysteries of life or mentally putting together my budget for next month.
I don’t want it to come across as I am complaining because again, I love my kids.
(I always have to make that clear because I don’t want the universe to punish me and take them from me because it thinks I am un-grateful. #OverthinkerProblems)
They make my life a thousand times better simply by being in it. But it is a challenge for somebody like me, who isn’t much of a talker and who gets overstimulated easily, to lose the one thing that helps keeps me feeling together and like “myself” – my alone time.
I can’t speak for other introverts, but before I had children, I never really put much thought into the fact that I, as a person who valued my alone time more than anything in the world, was now seeking to bring somebody into my life who would be ensuring that I no longer get that alone time. I don’t regret having kids at all, but I just think that the loss of our freedom to introvert is something that we don’t expect or anticipate or really plan for before the kids come. It’s not that we don’t love our babies. Of course we do. But the baby gets here and it’s:
“Wait a minute. I just realized that they aren’t living in my world. I am living in THEIR world. It’s literally all about them now.”
It can be quite the realization.
Introverts are very self-centered people.
Not in the selfish sense, but in the sense that our lives revolve around our internal world….our thoughts, our feelings, our daydreams and perceptions. Then the baby comes and we are plucked out of our homeland and plopped into somebody else’s. And we get homesick. We can no longer spend as much time in our comfort zone…our safe place….and I think that this “homesickness” can really contribute to feelings of post partum anxiety and depression and feelings of being overwhelmed.
It certainly did for me.
I am one of the world’s biggest introverts who basically lives in what feels like an elementary school.
I have my 14-year-old nephew who came to live with me when he was 3 within a week of my giving birth to my first child – my daughter who is now 10. I also have my 8-year-old son, and also my 6-year-old twins whose story is pretty remarkable and who are clearly meant to be here. They were all meant to be here. They were all meant to be part of my life. And even though weeks like this make it so hard and I just want to go sit in a corner and cry my eyes out half the time, as their mother it is up to me to pull it together and adjust to the challenges of parenting them. That is my job. I have to sort out what I am going through – somehow.
I tend to stay up very late because that is the only time I get alone time – after the kids go to bed. It would be so much harder if I forced myself to stick to a “normal” routine and sleep when they sleep and stay awake when they are awake. I know myself well enough to know that I would be in a horrible mood every second of my life and my anxiety would be through the roof without my time to decompress and just have silence .
One thing I do try to do with my kids is schedule time to engage with them and read them books and do activities with them every single day.
It doesn’t always work but I do my very best. My kids are great about understanding that I need my alone time, but childhood goes by so quickly and I think it would be very easy for me to keep saying “We will do that tomorrow, I promise.” and then before I know it, they are 18 and I am living a life filled with regret while they feel like they were neglected their entire life.
Introverts are some of the greatest parents in the world I believe. A lot of us, especially those with all the personality traits that contribute to anxiety, are sensitive and loving and we feel things very much…including love. But what good is that to our kids if we don’t make it a priority to show them that love? We can’t just go through life trusting that they “know” we love them. It’s not enough for them to “know” it. They deserve to feel it. They need to feel it.
It may seem like the last thing you have energy for – to go sit and play Candyland with your kids for half an hour. But I promise you that when it’s over you will not be saying to yourself “I really wish I hadn’t done that.” Quite the opposite. You will be SO glad you did.
I think it’s about finding the right balance of staying true to who you are while giving your all to your kids.
It feels impossible at times, especially in the early days of parenting, but just remember that it’s about giving what you personally have available to give. It’s not about trying to turn yourself into Mary or Gary Poppins to be the perfect mom or dad and feeling like a failure if you don’t get there every day. Believe me, I have been down that road and it leads to resentment and frustration and bitterness…..it just doesn’t work.
Keep things real and be honest with yourself and your family about what you need. That is the best way to stay in control of your life, in my opinion. Everybody has their limits – every person on this planet – and you cannot be the very best version of yourself if you are not respecting those limits and incorporating them into your life.
I used to feel guilty about needing my alone time but over the years I have learned that it’s okay.
Alone time is something that I have to have in order to be able to function. Everything I take in during my day tends to stay floating around my brain and only when I am alone and in quiet does it all slowly start to evaporate away. My brain needs this “emptying out” time otherwise it just gets full of noise and brain junk and can’t take anything else in. I fall apart, get anxiety symptoms, end up yelling or crying, or having some kind of breakdown in a corner somewhere.
I also don’t allow myself to feel bad or “weird” for my night owl lifestyle. This is who I am and I do what I have to do to make my crazy life work and keep my anxiety at bay. Yes I stay up till 4 am and do my writing and have silent time to myself while the rest of the world sleeps. And yes, I sleep like a sloth all day after my kids are on the school bus. But so far, its working out okay for me. I figure if anybody else in my situation wants to come along and show me how to do it better, while allowing me to keep my sanity, my door is always open. Until then, this is how it’s getting done.
If you are an introvert as well, don’t feel bad about anything you choose to do to work your life around you and your needs.
Those of us with anxiety are not average people. Our minds are complex and never shut off; a million thoughts run through them a day. I can say without hesitation that our alone time is a necessity. Our brains and minds need this break and we are overall better moms, dads, wives and husbands when we are “selfish” and take the time we need to decompress and “reset”.
Just do the best you can readers…that is all you owe yourself or anybody else.
Take care, and no worries.
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