It’s summer and I’m about to hit the wall. My thinking is sludgy and my responses are slow and disconnected.  Kids arguing, household disorder and interruptions galore cloud my clarity and fatigue my body.  I feel like I’ve eaten a gallon of mashed potatoes and a gravy-injected turkey and washed it down with six or seven espressos. I’m dull but edgy. I want to be alone or resting in another introvert’s company. I want to read until my eyes tire.  I want to listen to music until my external world is as dreamy as my internal. I need a 17-hour nap in a La-Z-Boy.

Yes please!

I need soft energy but am in the midst of summer break with my three kids and their boisterous blend of high energy.

What Drains Most Introverts’ Batteries?

1. Multiple people talking to us at the same time

2. No time to go internal

3. Groups for long periods of time

4. Loud places (except maybe a music venue)

5. Loud people

6. When people talk a lot but say little

7. Having to interrupt in order to speak

8. Constant interruption of our speech, thoughts, quiet time

9. Arguing and conflict

10. Negativity

Secure Your Own Safety Mask First … 

The family comes first idea is often foreign to introverts. We are wired to start inside: many of us couldn’t start outside if we wanted to.

~ Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power 

It seems like today good parenting is based on how much stuff you give your kids, how much you do with your kids and how much you sacrifice. Current social mores urge us to use action to demonstrate unwavering love and devotion to our children. The family universe is child centered. Their happiness is paramount to our personal comfort.  I’m not knocking altruism and selflessness. These traits have merit and traction but they also set the introvert up for a lifetime of guilt and feelings of selfishness because our inner thoughts and ideas compete daily with our external loves.

Quantity is king in the U.S.  The more outward displays of affection the more a person appears warm, kind and wonderful. Introverts are warm, kind and wonderful too. We are just more selective with our demonstrative outpourings.  We have to be in order to protect and ration our limited energy (which we generate by going within).

The manner in which we show love is open to judgment as well.  In the United States doing is almost always deemed more important than being or feeling. My kids’ summer was split this year between two parent’s homes and two styles of family vacations.

Family Vacations Done Differently

I took the kids on a road trip to visit family.  The car ride provided lots of time to go internal; turn the radio on and stare out the window as ideas and day dreams float within your mind and dance with the passing corn fields. There was not a lot planned for the visit, just one surprise birthday party.  Beyond the party the days were comfortably open.  Much of the kids’ time was spent fishing or swimming in a pond with their two cousins, listening to grandparents tell stories, running around the yard, convening at meal times, and roasting marshmallows in the fire by the creek.

The children went with their father to visit family as well. Out of necessity, they flew.  While there they traveled between two homes and spent time with seven cousins and two sets of aunts and uncles.  Their activity list included: white water rafting, zip lining, swimming, museum exploring, movie going, and daily exercise.  When I was included on such vacations, I usually asked for an afternoon reprieve (time alone in the hotel room) half-way through. I needed to recharge by connecting with myself. I used to feel guilty or bad about needing space away from the crowd but now I understand my temperament and let go of those feelings.

In the end, the kids had a ball on both vacations.  Lasting memories were made.  Neither trip was better than the other, just different.

How an Introvert Parent Expresses Love

Just because we don’t express affection outwardly as gregariously as extroverts, does not mean that we introverts do not love our people. I make a point to pull myself away from distractions (admittedly not 100% on this yet) and be present for my kids when I am with them. I take in their words, actions and projected energy (positive and negative).  I absorb and process them deeply. Intensely being with children who can’t always reflect light can be exhausting. Nevertheless, this is what I do. I don’t have a choice because I love my children and my physiology works this way (yes introverts are physically wired differently, see There’s Nothing Wrong with You. You’re an Introvert).

I express love by listening to them, thoughtfully engaging their minds and reaching out with soft physical contact. We do more gentle activities like fishing, watching classic movies and comedies, exploring flea markets, listening and discussing music and perusing comic book stores.

I have personal visions of what my kids may become. I connect with them by squeezing in big picture discussions whenever possible. One on one time is where our relationships strengthen and bloom.

My relationship with my kids is not based on being by their side at all times but I do carry them inside me wherever I go. I think about them constantly and turn their individual characters over and over in my heart like jagged rocks tumbling to become smooth stones. I realize children cannot be independent at all times but also believe that is our job as parents —to guide them to be healthy self-efficient individuals.

How to Make It Through the Rest of Summer

The time the kids are with their dad is my time to renew.  As it is my first summer as a single woman I have been burning the candle at both ends.  I’ve filled my child-free time with friends, travel and dating.  In short, I have been extroverting all over the place. As much as I’ve enjoyed the freedom to nurture and expand other relationships, I realize I now need to rest when the kids are gone.  I need to re-connect with myself and untangle my over-stimulated brain.  Maybe I’ll take that 17 hour nap, focus on writing and be a better parent when the kids return.

How do you function when you don’t have time to yourself? Do you feel bad about asking for alone time? Do you know it’s OK to not be extroverted?

**On the bright side, like Laurie Helgoe says in Introvert PowerI won’t suffer empty nest syndrome. 

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