Let me begin this post by telling you a story.
Once upon a time, an introvert became a mother. She had two children: one kind, calm little boy and one bold, passionate little girl. Three and a half years went by. She worried, because she was told it would get easier as the years passed, but as the years began to pass, it didn’t get easier. It got harder. She began to get more and more overwhelmed – more and more desperate for escape – more and more exhausted by the smallest things. Housework? No. Meal planning? Hardly. Time for hobbies? Of course not. And alone time? She didn’t know what that looked like anymore. She only knew that she longed for it with all her heart and soul and a deep desperation that spread through every nerve in her body – every extremity – every cell. Silence called her. And she couldn’t answer. And even if she could, would she? Wouldn’t that disrupt the one second of the precious quiet she sought?
My friends, this introvert was me. She is me.
You know that time when the nursery is littered with toys and mischief-making after “quiet time?” … I’ve been there. That time when the post-bedtime wine relaxes muscles in your body you didn’t even know you had? … I’ve been there. That time when that last noise sets your nerves on fire and you let out the scream that’s been simmering inside? … I’ve been there. That time when bedtime comes and goes and you walk out the door of your children’s room and sink to your knees and sob with exhaustion? … I’ve been there. I’m still there sometimes. But let me finish the story…
One day, this introvert mama found a book. She didn’t know anything about the author and found the book by chance. The title read ‘Introverted Mom.’ She was so desperate for help she clicked “order” on Amazon before she could stop herself. About a week later, the book arrived. Hungry for help, she looked at it as if her hands cradled an orange spark of precious hope. She hugged it to herself. And when evening came, and the kids were in bed, she sat on the couch and read. And read. And read.
Over the next week, she flew through the book like she used to fly through fiction books as a child. Waves of relief, release, and freedom washed over her as she devoured precious page after precious page.
The book was more than a breath of fresh air – it was a lifeline. Why had it taken her so long to figure out that being an introvert spilled into all areas of her life, especially motherhood? She already knew that self-care for introverts meant time alone, silence, solitude, delving into a story other than one’s own, and breaks from all things except one’s own meandering thoughts. And the need for those little pieces of self-care were magnified ten-fold as a mother. As she mulled over this concept for the next few days, the guilt that had consumed her for not being ‘enough’ - for feeling too overwhelmed, for wanting to escape rather than engage her children, slowly started to erode. And then a thought struck her: all her role models for motherhood were extroverts, which meant they engaged their children and structured their days very differently than she had. So while she was striving to be the kind of mother her role models exemplified, she was actually hindering her own strengths and exacerbating her own weaknesses. Introverted mothers were different. And not only was that ok, she realized, but it was good. How? The small things began to dawn on her…
1. Her escape to the bedroom for 5 minutes of alone time taught her children self-sufficiency – how to survive even a few minutes without ‘mom.’
2. Her need to quiet all noise around her taught her children that taking time for one’s thoughts and feelings was inherently a good thing. It taught them how to value silence.
3. Her quiet spirit – that need to process things inwardly and to “pause” the craziness in order to answer a question or offer advice taught them strength and patience.
4. Her need to think before speaking taught her children self-control.
5. Her introspection in tough moments taught her children that being self-aware was healthy and good not only for their own sakes, but for the sake of the people around them.
As she mulled over these things in her head, she began to understand that not every mother is lucky enough to have these strengths to offer her children so effortlessly; that her introversion was actually a built-in way to shape her children’s character and nurture their well-being.
If the woman in the story wasn’t me, I would have read about her with such empathy and pity. But for better or for worse, I am that woman. And I didn’t. I didn’t give myself the grace I needed, or the permission to be who I am. But I am so grateful for that moment when my computer cursor out-maneuvered my self-control: it gave me a clearer picture of who I was meant to be and how, who I am, is good.
My friends, I hope my story assured you that you are not alone; that you are seen, that you are held close to my heart through the comradery of mothering your children. I hope you give yourself grace, pardon, and allow yourself to be less than your ideals, taking away all expectations of being your perfect self. I hope you reevaluate your standards for yourself in the light of your introversion and give yourself a new standard: to be yourself and let your struggles become your strengths.
So here’s to you. You are not alone. And you are good.