My kids are back in school and I feel normal again. It's amazing how fast I went from total-raving-lunatic-who-can't-focus-long-enough-to-form-a-complete-sentence to semi-normal, functional adult. What made the difference?
One little hour-and-a-half of silence.
On a typical school day, we run errands and do household chores in the morning while Energy, Mellow, and Bright are at school. After lunch, Plucky gets on the bus for afternoon kindergarten and Caboose goes down for a nap. Then I have almost two hours before Energy comes bounding off the middle school bus. Compared to the constant song and dance I feel I must keep up to entertain everyone over the summer, this feels like a well-deserved reward.
Silence is golden, as they say. But for me, and other introverts out there, silence is essential. The Huffington Post even says so in this article detailing the signs of an introvert.
Before I became a parent, I didn't know I was an introvert. Sure, I often felt a bit shy and always hated being in the spotlight. But I didn't understand all the complexities that go hand in hand with my introverted personality--most notably, my need for alone time to recharge my mental and emotional batteries.
Introverts crave solitude. Though we may enjoy spending time with large groups of friends, or children, as the case may be, some alone time at the end of it all is vital. Without it, we are unable to recharge and regain a sense of normalcy. For a stay-home mom, on call 24/7, this alone time can be extremely elusive. To compensate for the lack of silence during my days, I tend to stay up way too late at night. I have always considered this to be a character flaw, but I've come to understand that it's my way of recharging. I enjoy the silence. I revel in it. It makes me feel alive again, and ready to tackle a new day.
But I do need to be functional in the mornings and throughout the day, so I've come up with some ways to fulfill my introverted needs without compromising my sleep every single night.
1. Ignore the phone. If you don't feel like talking, don't answer it. If it's important, they will leave a message and you can call back when you're done recharging.
2. Don't be afraid to hide out in the bathroom when necessary. I've mentioned this before, but I often resort to the bathroom to escape the noise and chaos of the house when I just need to breathe and clear my head. I also do this at parties sometimes when I'm just tired of making small talk. Don't laugh--it totally works.
3. Keep a pen and a generous supply of sticky notes handy. Your non-stop inner monologue will often feed you brilliant ideas when circumstances prevent further pondering--like when you're driving, cooking dinner or reading to your kids. Write them down and think more later.
4. Don't try to fit too many activities into one day. This includes laundry, grocery shopping, play dates, dance class, whatever. I try not to plan more than one morning activity and one afternoon activity per day because I know trying to squeeze more in will stress me out. With five kids, and lots of different interests, this gets tricky. But I'm a firm believer in kids not being over-scheduled and, between all the running around that comes with my job, sometimes I just need to spend time in my home. Limiting each of my kids to one extracurricular activity at a time makes this manageable.
5. Ignore people who tell you to come out of your shell. Only do it if you want to, and only on your own time. Being outgoing and outspoken is not a marker of success. (Unless you are in school and being graded on classroom participation--in that case, suck it up. Sorry.) Luckily, as a stay-home-parent, nobody is grading you on anything. If your Pinterest perusals have led you to believe otherwise, remember that the things of most importance aren't the kinds of things that can be captured in a photograph and plastered online.
In summary, I love being a stay-home mom. There are many ways I've found in which it actually suits the introvert within me. For example, I don't have to show up at an office, primped to perfection every morning at 8:00 am. If I want to stay in my PJ's till noon, no one has to know about it. Also, I don't have to make small talk with coworkers. The only thing small about the conversations I have is the size of the people I have them with.
I've spent a lot of time trying to reconcile my inner introvert with a job that requires me to spend my days with tiny socialites. I've only recently realized that there's nothing to reconcile. Whether you're an extrovert or an introvert, being a stay-home parent is hard. The key is to take joy in the moments that suit you and take heart in the moments that don't.