Before I had Micah, I was the textbook introvert…
I made friends quickly and easily, and had outings and such with those friends, but I thrived in environments where I could be alone. I would pass up the opportunity to go out and spend time with family and friends to sit at my sofa alone. On top of the fact that I am an introvert, I am incredibly shy, especially when I’m in mixed company. It’s easy to be myself in front of my friends, but I find it hard to connect with other people. I had an instant connection with my closest friends, but I couldn’t seem to just connect with any- and every-one. I have no issue sitting at home all weekend with nothing to do, just sit around watching television or reading.
Micah is the total opposite, a truly amazing extrovert…
Micah loves being around people – the more, the better for him. He is the life of the party wherever he’s at. When he was younger, he would have a hissy fit if we didn’t go out on the weekends. Even if it was to go to the park, he had to get out and about at some point over the weekend. Now that he’s in school, he gets invited to every birthday party and he is one of the most popular kids, even though he’s only been there a short time. He knows everyone by name, and goes out of his way to say good morning, good night, congratulations or otherwise. He is so super friendly with everyone that, at one point, he would meet someone at the store and tell them his full name, introduce me, and I had to stop him before he gave them our full address.
So how do I survive as an introverted single mom to an extroverted child? Let me share some tips that I have used in these short 5 years of parenting an extroverted child:
1. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone.
My son has definitely taught me to step outside of my comfort zone. I have made some great mommy friends through stepping outside of my comfort zone and being engaged in things that I would not normally participate in. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean that he should be limited in his social adventures. I want to encourage him to be the best extrovert he can be – we go to almost every community outing or activity, birthday party, playdate, sports activities, and everything in between. I encourage him to be involved, even when I’m cringing with having to do it all.
2. I’ll embrace you being an EXTROVERT, if you embrace me as an INTROVERT.
Many times, I will over-exert myself just to make my son happy. Although the first tip is to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone, this tip will focus on knowing when to step back and allow yourself to be the introvert. My son has to learn at times that he has to enjoy playing by himself. He can’t always have Mommy involved in every activity or play every game with him at home. Sometimes we won’t be leaving the house for the weekend; we may be staying in for a few days. Sometimes, he’ll have to watch the movie on his own while Mommy reads a book in the other room. Just as I am willing to embrace his extroverted nature, he has to sometimes accept my introverted nature.
3. Carve out some alone or quiet time.
Quiet time is so important for an introvert, and without it, you can easily feel like you’re losing your mind. On most days, I wake up earlier than my son and stay up much later than him in order to get that ever-so important quiet time, and when I work from home (which is typically 2 days a week), I sit at home working with no television or music to just have that time to hear myself think. I treasure those times, because the moment that my son wakes up or comes home from school, there is no quiet time whatsoever. He talks from the moment his eyelids open until they close at bedtime. Although I do love talking, well listening, to him (you seriously can’t get in a word most days), without that quiet time I would never be able to mentally handle it.
4. Run some errands by myself.
Yes, this is very hard to do when you’re a single mom, but there are ways to do some errands without your child. I’ll run to the grocery store before picking up my son from after-school care. I usually have about 1 1/2 – 2 hours between arriving in town and after-school care closing time, and I take advantage of that time to do simple things like getting my eyebrows waxed (OMG, my eyebrows are screaming to be waxed right now) or grabbing a few things at Target, picking up some takeout, or sitting in my car in the parking lot and listening to some tunes. I try to take advantage of the short time available before after school care closes to get these things completed. I don’t need this extra time for errands every day, but I’m happy to know that it’s available when I need it.
5. I read and I write.
Yes, this sounds like a Hooked on Phonics commercial, but this is exactly what I do. Writing helps me cope and reading helps me to let go. Both allow me to relax and find solace in the words. It’s incredible how much it helps when you can’t afford to go somewhere on your own, or in my case, you’re limited in the people who you trust to watch your child while you focus on yourself. Therefore, it is an asset being able to read and write.
6. Ask for a minute.
My son and I have an understanding. When Mommy asks for a minute, this means that she can’t think straight with the rapid-fire questions coming her way. So he has learned to take a minute and do something else while Mommy refocuses. After a few minutes, he’ll come back and ask me if it’s okay for him to continue with what he was asking or telling me. In the majority of the cases, these few minutes are just what I need to be re-energized and refreshed, and putting my full attention into whatever it is he needs. It’s something you have to teach your child at a young age, otherwise, you will completely lose it and may end up with both you and your child in tears (it’s happened a few times when he was younger).
7. Go out together.
Just because my son is an extrovert doesn’t mean that we always have to go to a party or a playdate with someone. He is learning that we can go out, just the two of us, and have a great time. And I have to learn that although we’ll be around hundreds of people, I don’t have to engage with them all. Trips to the aquarium, library, or our local farm helps us to get some outside time by ourselves while spending time together. It’s a great balance for the introvert child and the extrovert parent.