Introversion has been a hot topic for quite some time now. Countless cartoons, memes, and television plots depict introverts as being socially fickle – often agreeing to attend an event, before eventually cancelling plans to stay home with Netflix. However, the popular understanding of introversion has drifted somewhat from the original meaning. The trait refers to someone who gains more energy from alone time than from social interaction, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that introverts are shy loners; many appear rather talkative and social – they just need time alone to recharge now and then.
If you’re an introverted parent, your craving for alone time is probably especially strong – and of course, much harder to come by. Plans and duties with your children can’t often be postponed the way you might do with friends. However, there are some strategies that you can incorporate into daily life to help you get the small doses of peace necessary to keep you energized.
Instill daily quiet/nap time. If your children are too old to nap, ask them to play quietly in their own rooms for an hour or so. Make sure you use this time for a true BREAK from stimulation! Turn off the TV, leave your phone in another room, and appreciate the peace. As a bonus, alone time for your kids will teach them how to play independently, taking pressure off you to be the source of entertainment!
Use nighttime to recharge. When your kids are in bed, use this time wisely. Catch up on Netflix if you’d like, BUT be mindful of whether screen time helps or hurts you – for many introverts, it’s just as stimulating as social interaction. Consider using the time to read, finish a crossword puzzle, or do another quiet activity. Time to recharge will leave you feeling better equipped to take on the next day.
Put alone time on your schedule. Set up a routine with your partner, a friend, or a sitter who can keep the kids entertained for a couple hours on a regular basis. It’s your choice whether you go out and do something, or simply take advantage of an empty house while the kids are gone. You’ll be nicer and more patient with your children (and your partner) if you carve out a little time for yourself.
Ask your children (gently) for space. At the end of a long day, after you’ve listened to your children play, argue, and chat for hours on end, you may feel yourself lagging in energy and patience. It’s okay to tell your kids that you need a little peace and quiet, and ask that they go outside (or leave you alone while YOU got outside). Make it clear that they’re not in trouble, and that once you’re feeling better, you’ll all do something together. In addition to giving you some quiet, your children will also learn how to advocate for their own need for alone time in a way that is kind and respectful.
Perhaps most importantly…
Don’t judge yourself for needing a break from the kids. Parents openly talk about needing a break from their children when they’re loud or misbehaving, but it’s okay to want space from them even when they’re being sweet and angelic. Be kind to yourself by taking the break you need and not beating yourself up for it. Remember that you’ll have more empathy for your children if you first have empathy for yourself.