Life hacks for the introverted mom with a full house
(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.
INTJ here too! One thing that is SUPER helpful, but which I never related to surviving as an introvert until just now, is trying to enable my 4-year-old (my oldest) to be as independent as possible. So we have a water dispenser and paper towels within her reach, labels (with pictures) on the hamper and toy bins so she knows where things go, we’ve taught her how to pour her own cereal, etc. All this adds up to her (and through her, the 2-year-old) being able to LEAVE ME ALONE every now and then. Not that I’m not happy to help them if they need something, but the ability to have actual (if brief) stretches of time where I can be relatively uninterrupted, without constantly being summoned to fetch/wipe/pour/etc, is huge.
I love when I can sneak out to the library by myself for a chance to browse and read in quiet. I’m also debating taking up running just so nobody can touch me for a little while.
Ohhhh how I can relate. I’m reading this post nodding in agreement with each and every paragraph! I’m also an INTJ, introvert, choleric/melancholic. I have to second your suggestion to limit social stuff. We moved to our current city a year ago and I jumped in full force with a moms group. I’m super thankful because I’ve made lots of friends, but frankly I HATE IT. For awhile I was going to every event and activity and I started to find myself growing bitter and resenting my friends who wanted to hang out all. the. time. I still think it’s completely crazy, but realize it probably has more to do with personality type than anything. I also think I really needed to come to a place where I could say “no” without guilt or shame. I limit social activities to once a week. I run errands once a week. I don’t clean during nap time. Thursday is our cleaning day and my son helps (“helps”) me with everything. It takes all day and keeps him busy and sometimes even quiet (!!!). Friday I usually take him somewhere fun. The pool, the zoo, the library. And then we do something social on the weekends, and SOMETIMES during the week if I’m feeling up to it. Otherwise, aside from walks, we stay home the rest of the week. Sounds extreme, but this is really what I’ve found that I need to maintain my sanity. He’s only 2 so I don’t know how long this routine will work but for now we’re all happy. Anyway. Loved this post! You are so not alone! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried to my husband in the evenings because dammit I just want to be ALONE. Sooo much solidarity!!
My children have left the nest, but I know exactly how you feel and I too have friends who want to be around people 24/7. Doesn’t work for me.
S0, as a complicated introvert- every word “yes”! I especially like the one or two social outings a week! I also extend drive time now (as long as it’s not nap time- I think napping kids in cars is a huge waste of my reality tv catch up time) because my kids are generally quiet in the car- so taking the “long LONG way home” offers much needed silence
ha! thought of you yesterday when 66% of my crew passed out on the drive home from grandma’s and the resulting Friday traffic stretched our drive from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. It was better than the nap they wouldn’t have taken otherwise!
Yes!!! It’s only 7am here, and I’ve already been on baby duty for an hour and a half….and what’s keeping me going is knowing that when my husband gets up (Fridays are his day to sleep in) I can go sit in my bedroom…alone! Haha. And ditto Mary’s comment about taking the long way home for the sake of silence!!!
This was so helpful! As a fellow introvert mama, I agreed with so much of what you said. Thank you for writing this! 🙂
Yesssssss to all of this. INFJ, melancholic/choleric, here. I love this list so much. The permission to just pray/rest and relish the quiet when the children are contained has been revolutionary to me. Maybe the housework suffers a bit, but that’s better than me losing my mind.
My latest sanity-saver has been booting the kids outside to play with the neighbor kids every afternoon with the admonition not to come back in until called unless someone is bleeding. I wish everyone could I’ve on a street like mine: lots of big kids who are happy to help keep the littles out of the road, virtually no traffic, and no one interested in calling CPS on each other.
that’s AWESOME. Our street is pretty kid friendly too, but there’s a little bit of through traffic that makes it just slightly less than ideal. I can tell in a year or two it will be golden though, when my boys are better about looking both ways. God bless good tempered older neighbor kids!
INTJ over here, too 🙂 So is Kendra at Catholicallyear – world domination, here we come, lol!
I could have written this post myself! Yes, yes and yes.
Thank you so much for this. It reaffirms what I was just trying to talk to my husband about last night. At the end of it all I came to the conclusion that only other moms in the same boat can fully understand! Looking into a mother’s helper soon and have been trying hard to do the no housework during nap time. Gearing up for the 5 hour work dinner for my husband tomorrow night and breakfast the following morning. I’m going to be exhausted! Thanks again for the solidarity!
INFJ over here. I agree with this whole heartedly. I’ve only recently discovered that I need to go out (alone) a few nights a week,typically to work out and then swing by the adoration chapel.
The one thing that my husband struggles with is that when he walks in the door I’m ready to throw the kids at him but he needs a few minutes to decompress from work. Anyone have tips on smoothing that transition?
oooh, great question. I married a fellow introvert so I get it. I find a cold beer or a glass of wine smoothes the handoff more often than not 😉 plus since he has a bit of a drive home he listens to talk radio or prays on his way home so he feels a bit more refreshed.
Just a offering… Friends of mine made a deal for their marital survival…. Just before he reaches home from work he takes a quick walk to decompress from work and switch to family mode in his mindset…then he is more able to take on the hussle and bussle & free widely a little… Works some days!
We don’t have children yet, but my husband still needs to “decompress” as he calls it (he’s an introvert too). He walks home from work for this reason.
I’m an INFJ meloncholic-phlegmatic, too. And I married a ENTJ choleric. I feel the same way. I want to throw the kids at him and hide in the bedroom and my husband wants constant interaction at the end of the day- to talk about the news, sports, and to just talk. I would be perfectly happy to stop talking at 2pm each day. The struggle is real. I would love tips as well!!!!
hi, another fellow intj here! I have a whole range of kids now…19, 16, 14 (today!), 11, 8, and 1. It is so much easier in some ways having big kids, because they actually are awesome to talk to, they watch good tv shows, and they can be really helpful. But, dang it all, they never want to go to bed at night, so I’ve lost my quiet after bedtime chill time. Oh, I miss that quiet time with my husband when they were all in bed and we could just relax….
Oh, I am so dreading those days! I’m planning on a “stay upstairs after 9 pm” rule. But, who am I kidding?
INFJs, unite! (In your own respective private corners, of course.). I don’t have a large selection of Mother’s Helpers, so it’s off to Mother’s Day Out we go. I can only budget one day a week at this point, but I would tutor all week long to earn the money for the monthly tuition. SO worth it. (Really only breaks down to about $7 or $8 an hour.) Also, I adopted the rule of thumb of saying yes to every third play date invitation so as to not totally isolate myself and my child from the community. Great post, Jenny.
So maybe I’m the oddball here. On paper I’m an extrovert. Hubby and I did compatibility testing once engaged to learn more about each other. I came out extrovert. I got a stern warning as he is introvert. HOWEVER, I believe in many ways I was raised with the pressure to be an extrovert. My mom thinks introverts have no personality when really the issue is hers. If people aren’t dying to engage in conversation with her, there is something wrong with them. Very unaffirming. Anyway, I also was an only child as my parents divorced when I was a baby so I was lonely and longed to be with more kids. But part of that is because I wasn’t meant to be sibling-less. So in a way I felt conditioned/forced to take on extrovert qualities. Because even though I enjoy a Christmas party with Catholics I love being with, a moms group event, and a chat or FaceTime with my bestie back in California, I definitely enjoy time to myself. I get very touched out and talked out and listened out with my 3 small kiddos (3.5, 2.5, 3mo). Hubby and I are feeling super overwhelmed since bedtime is a battle and then it’s toddler musical beds all. Night. Long. (We only have 2 beds in the house.) Then I get the special gift of kids not napping unless my mom comes to give them undivided nap time rituals that may or may not result in napping. If not, by 2pm my boys turn into carnivorous dinosaurs, stomping feet and threatening me with their furrowed brows and sharp incisors. I wouldn’t mind a play date once a week or slightly less to take the edge off of cooped up toddlers and their need to be entertained. But I live far from my friends and play dates are not super convenient. Plus many other kids my kids’ age are in preschool and activities but we are home. All. Day. I (loosely) homeschool preschool so there are no breaks here. Not even kids in the kids club at a gym. Occasionally when my husband gets home, I can run an errand with baby girl but it’s rare. It’s usually all about moving laundry, making dinner, and scraping together energy to collaborate for bedtime… Another wicked battle. My point… Sorry to ramble… Is I am not good at determining what I need. But I also feel like it doesn’t matter much because we can’t afford mothers helpers, I can’t ask more of my husband, and at the moment we don’t have a kid friendly neighborhood. So I can admit I’m kind of a grouchy mama these days but hopeful that when we move our family of 5 from a 2 bedroom condo to a 4 bedroom house (in 8 days), the extra space may give me a little personal space back. And we can incorporate more outside time. Because I do need to get outside everyday and yet I’ve been inside this week since a Monday afternoon errand. I’m terrible with self care. Thanks, Jenny for making me think about putting more emphasis on my needs and considering my temperament.
Oh, how embarrassing! That came out so long! I promise I’m not trying to out-blog you, Jenny! Just a cooped up, overwhelmed mama over-venting! My apologies!
I love this post! I still a young single person but can relate to these things from babysitting. I’m curious, Jenny-what is Dave’s temperament? I’m also choleric/melancholic (though a bit more melancholic) and an introvert and always feel like it’d be nice to marry a more phlegmatic person to calm everything down.
He’s a melancholic choleric, about 80/20, so literally the mirror image of me. God is funny 🙂 Dave’s much, much holier than I am though, and I’ve seen in him the proof that growth in virtue refines and smoothes out the rougher edges of a temperament. I like that we “get” each other on a fundamental level though, and a perfectly good date night involves splitting a bottle of wine and then sitting in complete silence side by side with our respective books/laptops open. Not every date night, of course, but at least half of them are along those lines, ha.
I would love to spend some date nights like that! Sounds heavenly! But hubby prefers TV… Old Star Trek episodes on Netflix are his fave. And reading can be a little tricky while nursing. It’s great until I need to turn a page.
That’s what Kindles and IPhones are for!
Living the dream. 🙂 I love when melancholics marry melancholics. Loyal to a fault!
Amy @ Consecrated Housewife
I’m also introverted and have 5 kids. One of the harder adjustments to homeschooling was being around everyone all.the.time. I’m a morning person, so it’s not too difficult to get up before everyone else, when I get to spend time in my quiet house with a good book and coffee or doing a devotion, the best! Now that I have older kids it is nice to be able to run a quick errand solo. One of the best recharges I have found (for me) is music. Singing helps me recharge, and I cantor at our church which is great for me because it keeps me singing on a schedule and we practice once a month. I can’t serve in the choir all the time because my life is too full right now for weekly practice, but I can do monthly. Even though I practice with other people, the singing fully recharges my tank and I come home a much happier mother with energy to spare. The last two years I have volunteered to sing with the choir for Christmas mass. This requires weekly practices at a time of year which is really, really busy. BUT, I have found the weekly hour sacrifice pays back dividends in helping me maintain my energy and peace levels during the month of December which as every mother knows can be a very social and hectic time, especially for us introverts.
We are the saaame person! No wonder I fell in love with your blog at first sight last month. Except I have almost-5 kids, 80 animals, and a husband who is home all day, too. So.Many.Needs. Sometimes I want to run for the hills. Seriously, just like 5 minutes in the hills would be great.
And lol about the “reading with” the kids. Been there, done that!
Introvert here too, can’t remember the other 3 letters but I am a full melancholic as well. I have 6 kids 11-1 ( and I remember thinking 3.75 was overwhelming when I was at that point) homeschooling 4 of them. It truly is a daily battle to keep my sanity, and also not feel like the worst mom in the world because I constantly lose my cool with the never-ending neediness of my children.
I DO have a LIVE-IN nanny and it’s still so much for me with the homeschooling, my me-time is spent sleeping, or staying up too late enjoying the silence.
Sarah @ Two Os Plus More
I need to listen to this list SO badly. I flex in between an INTJ and an INFP with those last two letters being nearly 50/50, but definitely an introvert and a bit melancholic and choleric, too. I always forget to give myself any sanity time, and it rarely works in my favor. I probably should just print out this piece and glue it above my head so when I awake I remember to focus on making sure my silent time happens at least a little.
Also, it’s delightful to see all you INTJs coming out and saying hey. =)
Jenny! Yesssss. I can talk/read about temperaments and personality types all damn day. As a melancholic/choleric, IN/SFJ, I am super obsessive and had to take those 2 other tests that Anne wrote about on her blog, (Enneagram and The Big 5). Have you taken those? What did you get??
I was just listing to Tsh Oxenrieder’s podcast on the enneagram yesterday, and I really want to take it now! I’ll report back.
Love this… Not cleaning is hard while they nap, as I feel so much more relaxed when things are in order (standard keep lowering..). For now, youngest is 7mo, I’ve limited it to filling the dishwasher and starting it. Since our 2nd took foreverrrrrr (in my exhausted opinion) to do his nights, I know run to my bed to relax if/when naps line up. As for the witching hour ..I will make dinner while everyone else watches tractor videos on youtube for howeverlongittakes.
I really have nothing to add to the list.. I thrive on routine, so I aim for mommy play time, mommy read with you time, and then mommy just has to run upstairs for a second, ok? And then I stay up there for as long as I can;)
Have you read this “definition of hell for each myers-briggs personality type”? Mine was spot on, couldn’t laugh any louder! I’m an ISFJ.
Umm … How did you get in my head? Your post is quite literally my “rules for myself” that are keeping me sane right now. Thanks for writing it down for me. I’d been meaning to get to that. Right after my I-refuse-to-do-anything-productive time during afternoon naps.
So funny. Introverts must unite on your blog, lol! ISFJ melancholic here. In the early baby days a daily shower was huge for me. Time to organize my thoughts, pray, and feel clean. Also mowing the lawn or snow blowing are excellent chores. The machines drown out any kid noise and it is actually not safe for them to come near you.
Oh my gosh, I LOVE mowing the lawn and shoveling the driveway. I recently explained to a friend why I sometimes like to do those things instead of leaving them for Dave and she was like ohhhhhhh, I get it, it’s alone time. Haha!
Ya, I excitedly told my in-laws this and now they probably think I am a terrible mother. Oh well… 😀
Ok, I just looked up INFJs and it says they make up 1% of the population and are the most rare personality type. You should totally pole your readership because it would seem you have a high percentage of INFJs.
Oh my gosh, I really should. I didn’t realize that!
Oh my goodness gracious. This is me spot on. I want to hide and feel completely talked out/touched out by 130-2pm. Then I just want to hide once my husband comes home. Ahhh!
Lea Z. Singh
INFJ fellow blogger here. As far as self-care for an introvert mom, one thing that comes to mind is the elephant in the room: blogging! I have to say that blogging has brought about an incredible rejuvenation for me. It is one of the best ways that I can think of to have that alone time which brings me back to sanity and inner peace. Highly recommended for all introvert moms! And it comes with tons of advantages: can be done anytime you have a free minute, costs nothing, don’t have to leave the house, don’t even need a babysitter, and you get to unload your mind in a very introvert-friendly way (and even get some feedback, again in a very introvert-friendly way!).
Ha! INTJs have all the fun. It’s especially hard as an introvert because kids just need mommy time. Lap time. Physically on top of you time. We do a Quiet Alone Time every afternoon for at least 30 minutes, longer if things are about to go south. I sit down and read a real book if possible. Sometimes if there’s a kid issue, I tell him he can lie down next to me with *his* book and read next to me, but he has to be quiet. Add a blankie and it keeps the peace.
For a while I had to get up at 4:30am to write for 3 hours before the babies and toddlers woke up. It was hard, but the quiet focus really fed me inside. I’m getting up super early this week and it’s been a nice throwback to those super quiet times, and I do get time to pray and read my Bible and drink a cup of tea in the quiet. It’s like gold in my pocket for the rest of the day!
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