Whether you are a parent or not, if you openly declare yourself to be an introvert, you are likely to come across extroverts who will tell you that you are not an introvert. They tell you that the things you feel are the same as everyone else feels. They don’t really get it. Sorry extroverts, but you don’t. Nobody is 100% introverted or extroverted of course, it’s a scale. We can all exhibit traits of both at different times, but almost all of us will be predominantly more one way than the other.
One of the key differences is that introverts get their energy from being alone, and extroverts get their’s from being around people. That doesn’t mean that introverts never enjoy being with others, or that extroverts never want to be alone, it’s just about what we need in order to recharge. The manifestation is that introverts are more likely to feel awkward and uncomfortable in social situations than extroverts.
When we understand the differences, it becomes clear that there are certain struggles which are going to be more pronounced for introverted parents.
Before having kids, we naturally had regular alone time. It was way easier to factor it in, but from the moment baby arrives, our alone time is gone, and that can be hard. It has nothing to do with love. We love our kids more than we thought possible, but remember that as an introvert, we NEED alone time to recharge. Suddenly, that becomes much more difficult to arrange, and we feel guilty for craving it.
We see them clustered around the school gates, or at activity drop-off and pick-up times, chatting animatedly together, and it makes us nervous. We want to join in, but we don’t know how.
Prior to becoming parents, we might have avoided hosting parties, or taking part in lots of social events, but once the kids arrive we have to step up. We’re happy to do it for them because we love seeing them enjoy it. We know that socializing is an important part of their development, but that doesn’t stop us from experiencing varying levels of anxiety as the event day approaches.
This applies less and less the older they get, but when kids are smaller, it is mainly the parents that decide who to invite to play-dates and parties. Understandably, those early invitations will often go to the kids of parents they have interacted with. Therefore, we worry that our lack of ability to actively engage with other parents will mean our kids miss out.
People mistake our awkwardness and lack of engagement for aloofness. They think we’re looking down on them. This obviously applies to non-parent introverts too, but it somehow becomes more pronounced once we are parents – particularly if our children are interacting with the other children and we are not really doing so with the parents. It can give the impression that we don’t approve of our child interacting with their children. Sometimes we try to just smile a lot, hoping that gives out a signal that we are friendly, but an awkward forced smile just makes it worse.
Whether introversion is genetic, learned, or random, we worry that we may in some way be responsible for our child’s introversion, knowing the struggles they will have to deal with.
Yep, there’s guilt here too. While we’re delighted for them that they are confident and outgoing, we feel guilty that we can’t always be the way they want us to be. They want us to be much more social, outgoing, and assertive like they are. They can also feel frustrated at times by our more withdrawn avoidance approach to life.
From the moment we have a small baby in tow (or for the moms, from the moment our tummy bump appears), we apparently send out an open invitation for anyone and everyone to talk to us. A short friendly exchange with a stranger can be pleasant (even for an introvert), but the full-on unexpected grilling and life story exchange in the supermarket checkout line can be overwhelming for an introvert.
If you are an introverted parent, can you relate to these? At least take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Rather than looking enviously at those animated extroverted parents, look around for the more withdrawn ones like yourself. Seek them out. Now you’ll both have someone to stand next to while you smile around awkwardly.
Featured photo credit: Little Girl in Amusement Park/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com
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