Being an introvert parent
I detest labels. They are usually weighted with so much meaning, much of which gives a totally false impression of the person or thing the label’s being slapped upon.
But one of the labels I am happy to claim is being an introvert. Before I go any further, let me dispel some of the myths that might immediately spring to mind following that admission (although I know much better and more comprehensive lists have been written, including here). Here I go:
- I like people. In fact, I adore people. Lots of time I’m not particularly good at spending lots of time with lots of friends, but please don’t mistake that for a lack of care. It’s just that I need a bit more time than most to re-charge alone, which can restrict the amount of time I spend with others. If I really like and trust you, you’ll have a loyal friend for life – although you might not see or talk to me quite as much as some of your extrovert friends.
- I like to talk. A good chat with a good friend is always a highlight of my day, the only caveat being that I might start to drift off in a conversation that lasts much longer the subject matter demands. Oh, and I’m not good at small talk. It’s not that I don’t participate in exchanging pleasantries with friends and colleagues, but it comes with the hope that the conversation quickly becomes something more meaningful. I don’t really see the point of value-less words for the sake of value-less words.
- I like communicating. In fact, my job is all about communicating. Much of this is written, which often involves a lot of solitary thought and planning while words and phrases are drafted and re-drafted in front of my own eyes. However I deeply value the power of effective communication, in whatever form it may come.
In fact, the thing that troubles me most is extroverts who aren’t prepared to adjust to different types of people like me. We’re not rude, inferior or solitary, and we certainly don’t enjoy being dismissed for being occasionally backward in coming forward. I’m far less likely to shoot my mouth off in an unconsidered manner, and I know that I’ll give you a far better answer about almost anything if you give me even just a couple of minutes thinking time.
So, in referring back to where I started, I’m far more than just a label. After all, the purest definition of an introvert is that I need to re-charge on my own, as opposed to in other people’s company. It’s not a commentary that frames exactly how I respond in every other situation. Once I’ve re-charged, I’m quite happy to be the centre of attention, the proactive force driving a meeting, or even – if the mood takes me – the life and soul of a party.
But what does that mean about my parenting?
Well, for starters, it helps me understand my children if they turn out to be introverts as well. My eldest is already showing signs of such tendencies, but neither my wife (an extreme extrovert) nor I are concerned about this. After all, I think we agree that I’ve not turned out too bad in the end.
But above all – as previewed above – I need to re-charge. I’m as full-on as most dads in being lively and chatty with my children during the day. I love to spend time with them, mainly because I’m convinced it’s the most important thing I can do for them (as highlighted in several previous posts including this one).
Given this, I’ve had to find ways to survive. Just like anybody else, without the necessary re-charge time I quickly burn-out or just fizzle out. So I’ve applied a basic requirement for most aspects of parenting and learnt new ways to get by. For example, as soon as the kids are in bed I can’t relax until pretty much any evidence of them is cleared away from the living room. My field of vision needs to be visibly clear before I can begin to mentally unwind. There are several other very simple examples: making time for myself during the course of my week (at least one or two evenings), giving myself a brief time-out while the kids are watching TV, shutting myself away to cook or clean the kitchen, etc.
I would list some more, but I think you’ll agree that I’ve done quite enough pouring out of my heart and soul for now … especially for an introvert.