The first time I understood the deeper meaning of the difference between an introvert and an extrovert, I got emotional because I wasn’t aware that there were other people just like me. I was reading a book on behavior management and thought it would be fun to take a quiz on whether I was an introvert or an extrovert, never knowing how those results would change my life. I have since learned to own my introvert nature and to even be grateful for how I handle the world in my own unique way.
The biggest surprise I had when learning about the qualities of introverts is realizing that I wasn’t a bad mother. Up until then I was concerned with things like not wanting to be attached to my kids 24/7 and staying behind to talk at PTA meetings making me uncomfortable. Learning that my introvert nature wasn’t a character defect was a major relief.
This week I’m going to discuss the qualities of an introvert, how those qualities have affected my role as a mother and tools that you can use if you are an introverted mother.
The difference between and introvert and an extrovert
Before the proliferation of books, articles and Ted Talks on what it means to be an introvert in an extroverted world, I simply thought extroverts were outgoing and introverts were shy.
What I since learned is that extroverts are outwardly motivated and get their energy from engaging with the outside world. On the other hand, introverts are more inwardly directed and can be drained by interactions with others. Introverts require alone time, prefer deep conversations over small talk and gravitate towards quality versus quantity in their relationships.
For most of my life I enjoyed time alone over social interactions, I had a few really close friends without desiring more, always made sure I took my car to places with others so that I could leave on my own accord, found going home right after work my favorite thing and was literally thrilled when plans were canceled on Thursday that I had said yes to on Monday.
My mother said it made sense that I chose an accounting career at the ripe old age of 16 when I resonated with my introverted high school accounting teacher. I knew an accountant needed to be around other people but it seemed ok because most of the time you had to “keep your head down and get your work done”.
I was managing my introvert nature pretty well by hanging out with different groups of people who knew me well enough and understood when I needed to say no to an invite or needed to leave early. They understood that sometimes I could rock a karaoke night with the best of them but that I wouldn’t be seeking consistent attention like my extroverted coworkers.
Life was going along smoothly and quietly until my husband and I decided to have children. That’s when my comfy little introvert world was challenged in ways I never expected.
Becoming an introverted mother
No one told me that when I had children I would need to find many different coping skills because I was an introvert. Children don’t care that you get drained easily around others, that you avoid needy people whenever possible, that the idea of walking around the mall with other mothers and strollers is horrifying or that sleep deprivation is kryptonite to the introverted super mom.
Before children, being around noisy people was avoided as much as possible but I now needed to learn how to be around crying babies and noisy toddlers. Before becoming a mother, social interactions were rarely sought out, but once I had children I needed to find ways to be comfortable with Mommy-n-Me classes, Girl Scout meetings and travel soccer teams.
Being a loving, nurturing mother was a role I took very seriously. I wanted to do my best to raise great kids which meant having to figure out how to balance their needs with mine as well as have a career that I had worked so hard for.
Being productive at work when sleep deprived now took special planning. Giving my children what they needed when they needed it meant learning how to fill my cup up so that I had something to give. Being an introverted mother meant learning coping skills that helped me to show up in ways I would have resisted before the gift of being a mom.
Tips for the introverted mother
The single most important skill for introverts is managing our energy. Here are some things I discovered that helped me balance my needs as an introvert with my children’s needs:
- Managing my mind – the most important tool I used when I felt overwhelmed, frustrated or any other negative emotion, was journaling. I journaled to get my thoughts down on paper in order to see what was creating my experience of life. Since I knew my feelings were created by my thoughts, I was able to shine a light on some of the thoughts that were creating those negative feelings. Then I could choose better feeling thoughts which in turn created much better results (for help with the Manage Your Mind Model get your free copy here of “5 Simple Steps To Reduce Overwhelm Today”).
- Getting up very early – this was a life saver for me because it gave me much needed “alone time” before everyone else woke up. This habit is still with me today. Although my children are grown, I still get up very early in order to have quiet time before starting my day.
- Having a structured routine – my children thrived on routines as much as I did. Anyone who ever had the pleasure of taking care of my children said they were so easy to manage because they had a predictable schedule that worked for everyone. Setting up a routine made it easier to plan times when I needed to recharge in order to be fully present with them.
- Taking a time out – when my children were old enough to not have me watching their every move, I would take a “Mommy time out”. They thought it was the funniest thing when I would announce “Mommy is taking a time out in her bedroom for 10 minutes”. They rarely interrupted me and eventually they started taking their own time outs when they felt drained.
- Arriving to school early – In the afternoon I would leave work early enough to pick them up from school so that I could give myself 30 minutes in the car by myself. The transition from being an accountant at work to a mommy at home was much easier when I gave myself some quiet time in between those two roles. I am also an “Olympic power-napper” so I was able to put the seat back and snooze for those 30 minutes before the kids came out of the building. This gave me the refreshed energy I needed before giving my children what they needed.
- Owning my uniqueness – since I come from a family of extroverts and my first husband was a classic extrovert, I had believed there was something lacking in my personality for many years. But once I learned that I am in the company of amazing people like Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Eleanor Roosevelt, I wore my introvert badge proudly. I chose to excel at doing things behind the scenes like planning the best kid’s birthday parties ever and letting my husband be the host the day of the party, contributing to the PTA by taking the quiet treasurer position and baking for the baking sale rather than working the bake sale.
The point is that being a mother has its challenges and rewards no matter where you fall on the spectrum of introvert or extrovert. It’s important to “know thyself” and to take action from a place of feeling positive about your unique nature and needs. Being true to ourselves is one of the best gifts we can give our children, our careers, our relationships and ourselves.
- Extrovert’s energy is directed outward; Introvert’s energy is directed inward
- The single most important skill for an introvert is managing our energy
- Being an introvert mother is a great opportunity to learn new skills
- Knowing what you need in order to be the best version of yourself is definitely worth discovering