Have you heard of Susan Cain? She wrote a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I haven’t read it yet, but I did watch her TED Talk, where she speaks about the book. I realize that’s not the same, but I have a long list of books to read and it only keeps growing. For now, the TED Talk will have to do.
Susan Cain provides a great definition for introversion. She says, “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. …introverts [often] feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”
I’ve never questioned the fact that I am an introvert. But I have always hated that word, and I still don’t like using it. It just has this connotation, you know?
For me, the word creates an image of someone who shies away because of a desire to be inside and alone. It’s a recluse who smells bad and doesn’t know how to form proper sentences. But that’s not accurate. Connotations aren’t whole pictures. (Honestly, though, sometimes I am that weird introvert who just wants everyone to go away. Sometimes I even smell bad and have a hard time forming proper sentences. Okay. Whew. Now you know.)
I am an introvert, but I love people, too (most of the time). I’m even okay in big crowds. And I love going to parties.
But do I actually love going to parties?
Sure, going to parties makes me feel popular, liked, included. But do you know what I usually do at big parties? I sit on a couch. I cling tightly to the people I arrived with. I don’t talk much. Instead, I watch. When I was young, I just thought everyone was supposed to love big crowds. Now, thankfully, I know that I swing more toward small group settings. I can unapologetically say that I really only want to be around a few people at a time, people I can chat with, people I can learn from, people I can discuss deep meaningful things with like the dichotomy of Pinterest: we love it but it also makes us feel like we have a big fat L across our foreheads. That is a deep truth.
Really, I love having people around. I just can’t be around people all the time.
But I’m a stay at home mom, so I have to be around people all the time.
I think all of us, introvert or not, know that since small children require so much attention, there has to be some kind of relief. Most of us don’t have the innate ability to just take care of other people and never do a thing for ourselves.
I know that mothering experts say we need to take time to do things that we love, things that refresh us. We need to step away from the home every once in a while. I also can’t shake something that I heard an elderly lady say to me recently. “When I was young,” she said, “there was no such thing as ‘my time’.” So how did mothers survive back then? I wish I had asked her.
For now, I know that the television is always there for me when I need to shower or read a few pages of great literature (other people sneak off to do that, too, right?) I know that when I feel like my kitchen exploded with cookie dough and our two-nights-ago dinner, I can clean it with the help of “15 minute sibling time” and my type B personality.
Some days I feel crazy. I feel like I shouldn’t have had kids. I feel like I need my kids to go to day care somewhere so I can just sit at home in all my introvert-ness and read and write by candlelight while Beethoven plays softly over the Youtube.
But I have kids. They were my choice and I love them. They were given to me. I was given to them. I am their mother.
One thing I have learned is that taking care of kids, doing housework, making lunches and even grocery shopping can be restful acts.
That sounds crazy, right? But hear me out. Rest is not something we can create. Even candles and Beethoven, a massage, a hot bubble bath, wouldn’t relax me unless I allowed myself rest.
So, while I do dishes, while I sweep the floor, while I pick up dirty socks and two-inch army men, I remind myself to breathe as if I’m practicing Yoga with Adriene. Our feeling of craziness is so often our mind’s doing.
I challenge you to take it over. Next time you feel stressed out, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Say the words, “I need help right now.” I promise that if you actually want it, you’ll get it. It might not look like you think it will, but you will get rest if you want it and are willing to look for it.
When you feel crushed and useless from social stimulation, take a rest. Take it with your kids if you have to. Just stop creating busyness. Sit down. No matter what has spilled, no matter who is fussing, if you are feeling crazy, just stop for a second. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t turn to the computer. Those things do not provide rest.
Mom, when you can’t find a quiet, low-key environment, rest in the knowledge that whatever chaos is happening will not last forever.
You can, right now, invite your kids to lie down in your bed with the lights off. And don’t mind if they tickle each other or giggle through the whole thing. Sit down in the middle of the living room floor and let your kids find a seat in your lap.
Then, while you are washing dishes and the kids are acting like the world is ending, the soap on your sponge can feel like the bubble bath you think you need.
You’re welcome 🙂