If you’re an introverted person like I am, you’ve probably known for quite some time that you’re a little different. When you were younger, grownups likely called you shy. Perhaps you noticed the difference between outgoing girls and yourself many years ago on the playground or in other social settings. I used to think it meant there was something wrong with me-a bad quality you could say.
As a young adult I heard the terms extrovert and introvert. I had learned that extroverted people craved being around others, in fact, being around others is how they re-energize. Introverted people are quite the opposite, becoming quickly drained being around others and needing and craving alone time to feel whole and energized again. I immediately knew which one I was. Knowing that possibly half the population was like me, made me ok with it. I started to embrace this quality of mine and enjoyed relating to others like me.
What I wasn’t expecting, was how being introverted would affect my motherhood. I also wasn’t expecting to have an extroverted child, but getting to observe this quality of her’s over the years has been quite fascinating to say the least. It’s also made it hard for her to understand mommy sometimes.
If you’re anything like me, over the years you will have come to a firm realization that you must have time away, alone, in the quiet, to be the very best mother you can be, if even for a few short minutes. A break from being hung on, listening to never ending stories of video game characters and answering questions that 3 year olds love to ask.
Or maybe you’re newly in it. A new mom unable to get a break from her newborn. That haze of love and doting on your precious baby and neither you or baby are sleeping too much. You’re exhausted. You’re happy. You’re hormonal. You cry at soup commercials. You can’t even begin to understand this new life, you’re too overwhelmed. Once baby starts sleeping through the night, you at least get a little free time, until you too fall asleep.
Add baby number 2 and life just got real. You are never alone. Suddenly there’s an audience in the bathroom and if you aren’t nursing, you’re changing diapers, potty training, reading stories, entertaining littles, rocking them to sleep, controlling tantrums. You are tired, make that E X T R E M E L Y tired. You’re needing alone time more than ever but not sure it will ever happen, especially now that one of your children has taken up residency in your bed. You swore to never be THAT mom but you gave in because you all just need to sleep. Welcome to the trenches.
If your kids are anything like mine, they will take your need to momentarily lock yourself in the bathroom or bedroom or hide in a closet as some form of rejection. They will bang and cry and try to pull open the door not understanding that you just NEED that moment to come back to earth, gain control, to re-energize and emerge refreshed. It’s not a need to get away from the kids. It’s a need to just get a minute ALONE.
They won’t understand that being up with the sun, preparing their breakfast, getting them dressed, overseeing their chores, breaking up fights, caring for the dog, cleaning up after breakfast, loading the dishwasher, running a load of laundry, playing games, reading books, pretending to be their favorite superhero, singing songs, and kissing boo boos, all before lunch, will take every bit of might and tolerance from an introverted mom. That battery starts to run on low and it takes everything to not be short and cranky while instead remaining calm.
And when you are pushed too far and haven’t gotten alone time to build up your strength a little more, they may think you aren’t enjoying this motherhood thing at all. They may see your face turn red and your eyes get crazy and hear your huffing and by the tone of your voice they may think it’s all their doing-their fault that’s put mom in such a wound up state.
They won’t understand that it’s not them. It’s you. You may not even understand that it’s not you, it’s your introversion.
They won’t understand that even deep within your eruption, in the midst of your temper tantrum, that you love being their mom. That you love motherhood. That you are grateful for their kisses, their hugs, the noise and the mess.
You’re more grateful the wiser you get as the years pass you all by. Before you know it their faces have changed so much you hardly recognize those babies and the lack of sleep written all over your body starts showing in eye bags and wrinkles and silver hair. Their clothes become outgrown and you envision how quiet your home will someday be. How clean it will stay. How much you will miss the questions and the stories and the hugs. You know that someday in the near future there will be no more morning cuddles. No more races to cuddle mommy first. No more super hero’s. No more running through the kitchen as you flip the pancakes. No more princess dresses. No more petty arguments about toys and which chair or plate or cup belongs to whom. The house will be clean and the bedrooms will remain untouched. You wonder what you’ll do with yourself in those still and quiet years. The stillness and quiet you long for daily, suddenly don’t seem like a victory.
In all the mess, amongst all the noise and the losing of your mind, you are grateful and understand the blessing you are receiving now. The blessings in disguise.
Your frustration and their frustration with you will make you feel guilty to no end. Their tears as they cry outside the bathroom, sticking their little hands under the door, their constant need for you; will cause you to stare back at your own red, tear streaked face and feel like a terrible, no good, undeserving mom.
But I’m getting better at realizing the blessings in the mess of it all. They’re easier to see on the good days, in the good moments but it’s also beginning to be easier to spot them in the hard moments too.
I’m also getting better at not feeling guilty about time alone. If even for a few minutes in the laundry room on days when I can’t get out without the kids. It’s a small victory to be in tune enough to know it’s what I need. And us introverted moms should not feel guilty for giving ourselves what we need when we need it, because when we crumble, the children will fall.
Take the time to step away. You’ll be glad you did and your kids will be too.
When I can’t step away and get overwhelmed, I pray. I hope that my 10 second prayers scattered throughout the day are enough some days to receive the grace I so desperately need. I hope my kids never stop forgiving me. In those moments standing at the kitchen sink, wishing and praying for a moment of silence or when nothing is going right and I’m just finding myself counting down til bedtime or I’m feeling drained and tired, I silently tap in- asking him to give me rest in Him. Asking him to forgive my outburst, my foul mouth, my cranky tone and all of my shortcomings. To give me the peace that I can’t find on my own. The patience that is unnatural to me. The courage to keep going and the humility to ask my kids to forgive me when I mess up.
I’m grateful for them. For this life I’ve been given with them and for a Savior who died for me; a God who shows grace and gives me rest. A God that makes new beginnings and new days possible. Because, if I had to rely on myself to do this whole motherhood thing, I’d fail. Thankfully, I get to rely on Him.
Hang in there mamas. Tomorrow is a new day and bedtime is never too far away.