I’ve been shy from the time I was a young child. Most of the cousins on my dad’s side of the family are several years older than me. While they left for college and planned their weddings, I was reading Tiger Beat and cold calling crushes. I remember being overwhelmed at large family events, feeling intimidated and hyperaware of my youth. Fast forward to me at 30 years of age, and I still dread many social events. I often find extended eye contact to be horribly uncomfortable, even with people I am close to. My adult explanation for my shyness is to say “I am an introvert”. As a grown-up, instead of burrowing my head into my husband’s chest to avoid interacting with others (which would be hilarious), I find an exit when I need one or simply sit inside and read while he entertains guests. When you look at an online quiz with a list of introverted traits, it does a damn fine job of describing my personality. Here’s a sample from Psychology Today:
1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
2. I often prefer to express myself in writing.
3. I enjoy solitude.
4. I seem to care about wealth, fame, and status less than my peers.
5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to me.
6. I’m not a big risk-taker
7. I dislike conflict.
8. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.
9. I don’t enjoy multi-tasking.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is my husband Derek: an adventurous soul who is a grandiose storyteller and more often than not, the life of the party.
In general, this ying yang chemistry works itself out. Opposites really do attract.
Sometimes Derek struggles to understand my limitations, I imagine because they are so foreign from his own.
As an introvert, all social interactions come with a certain level of exhaustion. Now that I’m a stay-at-home parent, I have a baseline fatigue from which I have to draw the remainder of my reserves from. So while Derek is excited at the notion of several days of social events or extended trips, I feel tired just looking at the calendar in anticipation.
As suggested by the list above, I do cherish one-on-one interactions. I also enjoy a good party with close friends on a semi-regular basis, but it’s important that I space out my social obligations. Introverts thrive when they’ve had a chance to recharge their batteries before diving into the next shindig.
Being an introverted parent is a mixed bag. I hate small talk. I’m not a fan of having to stop and talk to strangers about Ivy’s name, age, and stage of development when all I want to do is pick up some peppers so I can go home and make dinner. On the other hand, there are occasions in which I have to disappear from an event to go breastfeed or put Ivy down for a nap. Sometimes I’m sad to leave the festivities, but often I like having an excuse to go someplace quiet for awhile. Being easily overstimulated is another hallmark of being an introvert.
What about hanging out with another human being ALL OF THE TIME? This can be draining too. Lately Ivy has been taking longer, more predictable naps, and this helps a ton! Having just a short while to be alone makes all the difference in my mood and patience level. In addition, the fact that neither of us expects enthralling conversation out of the other accommodates my intrinsic tendencies as well. Our most complicated chats involve “bah bah bah” and exuded dolphin calls.
Overall, being an introvert and spending endless hours with an infant I adore (with more excuses to leave/avoid other social situations) has been a fairly natural adjustment. I think the shock of parental obligations has been a bit more jarring for Derek simply because he’s such a social butterfly. When we have to skip out on certain activities or leave a party early to put a baby to bed, Derek’s constitution is more compromised. He hates to sit at home and miss out on all the fun. Meanwhile, I’m a homebody who loves to go to bed at 10pm and looks forward to putting my yoga pants on the second I walk in the door.
I like to watch Ivy as she interacts with others to try and guess whether she’ll be an introvert like mom or an extrovert like dad.
She seems to be weary of most adults that she doesn’t know well (1 point for introvert?), but she’s also at a clingy age. When I’m in an edgy mood, I secretly appreciate the moments in which she won’t smile for people on command.
“Won’t you show me a smile baby?”
-Ivy gives them a blank stare.-
I think Just like her mom and have flashbacks of my dance line coach encouraging me to smile during practice. My inner monologue was: Why?! We aren’t performing, and I’m really not excited to be here! I’ve been a non-conformist for years, you see.
But whenever other kids or babies are in the room, Ivy tends to light up and want to engage with (or basically scream at!) them.
(1 point for extrovert?)…
So I guess the jury’s still out.