I’ve always loved the human connection. I enjoy spending time with people, listening to their stories, having intimate conversations at dinners and small gatherings. I also like to feel included, part of a group, and a member of my community. My family is very close, and with three sisters and several cousins, being around people in a somewhat chaotic fashion has always been a way of life for me.
Simultaneously, I grew up with a passion to read that rivals any other interest I have had to date. I would walk around with a book in my hand, bumping into walls, eating breakfast absent-mindedly, and staying up way too late to finish the next page. I crave lots of other quiet, independent activities, too, such as running, writing, watching movies, and going for long drives by myself. I always thought these were just random interests of mine.
But since having kids, I’ve realized there is a common thread: these activities all entail being alone. With time to think, unwind, and relax.
Did I mention I was by myself?
I didn’t appreciate the significance of my need for downtime until I had children, when all of my alone time was literally ripped out from under me, with no sign of return. The first few years of motherhood were therefore really challenging. What I had always viewed as independent “hobbies” turned out to be my lifeline to survival and coping with stress.
With kids in the picture, I was literally never alone. Ever. I always had someone attached to me, and everyone needed me. All. The. Time. It was exhausting. I had lost my lifeline, and it was disorienting.
I blamed myself for a long time, thinking I was an ill-fit mother for sometimes being annoyed by my kids and feeling worn down and fatigued. I thought there was something wrong with me, since many nights I would count down the minutes til bedtime so I could have a few minutes to myself.
My husband would often wonder why my kids’ never-ending bedtime rituals could get me in such a tizzy, and all I could think was, because I just need a break.
But then one day I took a personality test online -middle of the night breastfeeding entertainment, of course- that informed me I was a “Social Introvert.” Huh? That couldn’t possibly be right. What did that even mean? I love talking to people and view myself as a people-person.
But as I revisited the definition of a social introvert, it began to sink in. It started to make sense why my kids’ constant presence was zapping my energy levels and leaving me frazzled.
It wasn’t so much about them as it was about me; I just wasn’t getting the downtime I so desperately needed to recharge and feel balanced.
I cannot tell you what a surge of relief this realization was for me. It allowed me to feel less frustrated with my kids and more willing to accept that a little time away from them would actually do us all some good. I am working hard to value my downtime, and having a reason why really minimizes the mommy guilt.
Because I’m learning in order to parent well and be present with my family, I need to find a little time to unwind, recharge, and relax. By myself.