Parental Battles: The Introverted Mom Vs The Extroverted Dad Vs The (?) Baby

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.

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/quiet-the-power-introverts/201103/quiz-are-you-introvert-or-extrovert-and-why-it-matters)

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.

But…

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.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/introverts-signs-am-i-introverted_n_3721431.html

http://www.medicaldaily.com/brain-introvert-compared-extrovert-are-they-really-different-299064

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/quiet-the-power-introverts/201103/quiz-are-you-introvert-or-extrovert-and-why-it-matters

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One thought on “Parental Battles: The Introverted Mom Vs The Extroverted Dad Vs The (?) Baby

  1. Fun read!

    Believe it or not, we share a lot of the same qualities. Most people expect performers to be extroverted. On stage is one thing, but unscripted, unpredictable interactions are scary!

    I went to a theatre teacher workshop last night and today. I had to psyche myself up with little affirmations, reminding myself that a lot of my fears and insecurities are just that,”mine”, and not the reality of others; that I’m alone and reclusive 70% of the time in the summer, and human interaction is healthy and essential; that awkward silences are only awkward if I’m constantly assessing their meaning. Sometimes people can sit together quietly and that’s ok… “breathe, Louisa.” Sometimes I’ll even start a statement and my brain will shut off in the middle of it, and I’m suddenly observing myself from a floating space above my head, reading the facial expression of the person I’m speaking to, and immediately assuming that whatever I just said didn’t make any sense. This is rarely the actuality, but that little anxiety devil…man!

    That’s how deep it goes in my head, and it is very much rooted in the desire to enjoy myself and please others…though as I get older, I do care less and less about people pleasing, and more about being genuine and letting it play out as it may.

    I also have an increase in anxiety if I have more than one commitment on my calendar on any given day…”but, I won’t have any ‘me time’ if I fully book my day.” I relish my freedom, and it seems that we rarely feel as free as we do when we find quiet times to check in with ourselves. Some of my colleagues give me a hard time for having the luxury of ‘me time.’ That actually makes me feel like an outsider. Yeah, I don’t have a significant other or children. I’m not acting in a show while working full time. I don’t feel like joining social activities after spending 6-7 hours of my day constantly teaching, consulting, emailing, and conversing with people at work. And, I don’t know when or if I ever will. That’s my choice, and everyone else has made theirs. They may be a little jealous. 😉

    The one thing I will acknowledge is how much more engaged, focused, and eager I am to have those deeper conversations or to make genuine connections with people as a result of having time alone. We need to recharge our batteries, but holy cow, the loneliness can seep in.

    You guys have a terrific balance and the understanding and appreciation you share of your individual desires and struggles is admirable. Keep communicating! But, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. ❤️

    Like

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