Not too long ago, I woke up one day and decided I was going to be attentive to, and present with, my kids the whole day. I was interested in every toy they brought over to show me. I heeded every cry of concern they had over some cartoon character’s possible demise. I listened to them, played their games, and did everything I could to be the best mom ever.
That night I was absolutely exhausted.
It could be because my kids are closing in on two years old and three years old, respectively, and two toddlers would wear anyone out. And that’s part of it, but not all of it.
I know some may scoff at the idea of my being so proud for interacting with my kids all day. I’m their mom. Shouldn’t I do that every day? What’s the big deal? Do I want a medal?
I do, but not for that reason.
The reason this day was so special and so exhausting is because I’m an introvert.
There is a misconception about introverts which believes we are anti-social. That is totally not the case. We can be very social. I don’t hide in the corner at parties nor do I spend every waking moment wishing I could be by myself. I need people like anyone else.
At the crux of being an introvert is the desire — the need — to be alone in order to rejuvenate. Some people can go to a party or a busy mall or an outing with a couple friends and feel completely refreshed and revitalized. For us introverts it is the opposite. Our downtime is sacred. We use the quiet, the stillness, the absence of interaction as a way to renew our bodies and minds. We need that time alone to become ourselves again.
So that day where I chose to be with my kids and attend to their every want and whim, where I was attentive and intuitive, that day took every ounce of energy right out of me. I had zero downtime from the moment I woke up until they went to bed, and by the time they were snoozing I was too tired to do anything to recharge my own batteries.
It’s a daily struggle for me. I want to be a good mom who is watching their every move and hearing every word because, as we’ve all been told, these moments pass all too quickly. I want to watch every musical act my daughter performs and applaud every puzzle piece my son puts in the right place. I want to laugh at every joke and play every game.
But I also want to take care of me. Taking care of me, though, requires a break which is not always possible. Some days my kids don’t nap. Some days my husband has work and school and isn’t available to give me a reprieve. Some days I have to slog through emotional exhaustion just to make it to bedtime; mommy guilt weighing heavily on me for eying the clock while desiring just a few moments of solitude after my kids go to bed.
Being a mom is the best job in the world. It is rewarding and magical at times. For us introverts, though, it is also a daily battle to find the balance between informing our kids we are always available while sometimes our sanity wishes we weren’t.
If you’re a fellow introvert, you know what I’m talking about. Know that it’s okay to desire alone time. Know that it’s okay to be completely drained after a long day of keeping your kids alive and happy and healthy. Know that you are not alone… unless you want to be.
© 2015 Toni Hammer, as first published on Scary Mommy