Sep

06

2013

Eowyn Stoddard|12:01 AM CT

The Introverted Mother

A few years ago, our family vacationed with another family. I watched my extroverted friend play a string of games with her children, interspersed with sayings like, "I never get tired of my kids!" It was wonderful, but I felt worse about myself as the days went on. Was I a bad mother? Did I not love my kids as much as my friend loved hers?

The Tug

Motherhood is a challenge, and I believe it can be harder for the introvert. Being a mother is a 24/7 job with little respite. Being around people drains the introvert of her energy, whereas it energizes the extrovert. The introverted mother naturally prefers the inner world of the mind and regains perspective on life by being alone with time to process quietly. It is not that the introvert resents motherhood. Rather, it is easier for her to be sucked dry by the demands.

With five little people in my life, my waking hours were filled with non-stop questions, noise, chaos, mess, and needs. It went against my quiet, peace-loving, introspective, ordered grain. I loved my children dearly, but I often plotted ways to get away from them. I felt torn between my children's need for me and my own need for being alone.

The Guilt

The tug led to feelings of guilt. Why did I feel this constant urge to get away from my children if I loved them so much? Add to that tug the sincere Christian desire to sacrifice and you have a recipe for burnout. The guilt led me into a vicious circle. The harder I tried to be the mom I thought my kids needed me to be, the more intense the feelings of "I need to get away" would become and the guiltier I would feel, which would lead me to try even harder. I tried to change something I couldn't change about myself.

We all have a standard we're trying to meet. The perfect mother is always giving, entertaining, pro-active, energetic, ready to talk, and positive. The more you try to meet this standard, the more your failure will lead you either to pride or despair.

The Temptations

The introverted mother sometimes gives in to her desires to be alone at the expense of others. I must confess to using the TV as a babysitter one too many times, refusing to enter in to my kids' conflicts out of sheer laziness, or telling them to just go away, because they were a nuisance to me. Some other typical introvert sins are being irritable when forced to be around people, feeling resentful for having to help when it costs more time than planned, and experiencing self-pity when your own needs aren't being met.

Another temptation is to neglect your husband. I remember days where I had my fill of interaction, physical affection, and talking. The last thing I wanted was yet another person needing me and my affection in the evenings. My husband ended up getting the dregs of me.

Worst of all is the temptation to neglect time with God. Communing with the Lord seemed like I was trying to get away from my kids once again. Introverted moms need protected time of silence, prayer, journaling, meditating, and simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. Only God can give the supernatural ability to love beyond what comes naturally, but it comes at a price: spending time in his presence. Husbands who want their introverted wives to thrive instead of wither away must carve out time for them to be alone with God.

The Solution

The gospel frees me to embrace who I am while not using my weaknesses as excuses for laziness. My identity in Christ has to be the foundation upon which I build my personal identity, regardless of introversion or extroversion. In his sovereignty, he made me the right mother for my kids. He has promised to perfect me and even use my weaknesses in his service. Sure, there will be challenges, but that is how God intends to grow me and conform me to his image.

You will be stretched to your limits. Every time you fail or sin against your husband and children in your introverted way is an opportunity for you to receive grace from God and to live out the gospel: repent, ask for your family's forgiveness, and let the Holy Spirit transform you. It is a hard but beautiful process to work out the story of redemption before your kids.

Some Tips

  • Teach your kids to respect who you are. I often tell them, "The best way you can love me right now is letting me have some time alone." This will teach them to respect friends, teachers, and future spouses.
  • Build quiet time into your day. Babies can learn how to spend 15 minutes alone in their crib with a few toys. Older children can read in their rooms for up to an hour. It is good for children to learn to be alone and build a basis for future quiet times with God.
  • Send kids outside to play and be loud.
  • Introduce quiet, alone play time (Legos, drawing, puzzles). This activity fosters creativity and independence.
  • Spend deliberate, focused times of play with your child. You do not have to be your child's constant entertainer, but kids also need to have some undivided attention to feel loved.
  • Maximize alone time. How about combining exercise with a sermon or worship music?

Play on Your Strengths

As an introvert, you can still do things with excellence to love your children. The more you play to your strengths, the less you will feel like motherhood rubs against your natural grain.

  • Keep a journal for your children with funny things they said, signs of spiritual development, and thoughts about them. This gift will be invaluable to them as they see God's hand at work in their lives.
  • Write a letter of encouragement.
  • Go on dates with each child, as introverts tend to do much better in one-on-one settings.
  • Use quiet moments like watching a movie to cuddle, give a backrub, and simply be together.
  • Explore the realm of ideas with your children through good books, audio books, videos, and so on.
  • Pray for your children.
  • Remember to share what you are thinking and what God is teaching you. I have to stretch myself to take this initiative, but my kids need to see my heart.

Eowyn Stoddard is a MTW church-planting missionary who has served in Berlin, Germany, for the last 12 years alongside her husband, David. She enjoys teaching the Bible, writing, creative forms of evangelism, and being a mom to five children. She blogs regularly at The Eowiggle.

Categories: Christian Living
  • Carm

    a BIG thank you. indeed you have reminded me of the power of the gospel yet again, and let me know I am fearfully and wonderfully made and it is the gospel that brings it out best.

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  • Meredith

    Thank you for this, Eowyn! My husband and I have been married for over a year and a half now and we are starting to think about and pray about and discuss when to begin trying to have children. I am an introvert as well as a low-physical-energy person, and I admit I have been afraid of a lot of the things you talk about in this article. So often I wonder how I'll ever have the physical and emotional energy to be a good mom. Thanks for your encouragement and the reminder that it is God who will make me the mother that my future children need!

    • http://TheEowiggle Eowyn Stoddard

      Dear Meredith,
      My heart goes out to you as you pray about having children. I am glad you are thinking about these issues beforehand. I never thought of how my introversion might affect my mothering before having kids. It would have been good for me to do so. All the lessons I write about here were painfully and reactively learned...I know the Lord will strengthen and equip you to be a good mom when the time comes. If he calls anyone to a task, He also equips for the task. Don't be afraid, just prepare yourself as best you can. You will be overwhelmed with the amount of love you will feel for that first little baby in your arms...and remember, that is how much God loves you, times infinity!
      Best regards!
      Eowyn

      • Meredith

        Eowyn, thank you so much for the kindness and love shown in your reply to my comment! I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future. :-)

  • http://chelseykcrouch.blogspot.com Chelsey

    This is possibly one of the most helpful articles I have ever read. I've got two boys who are 2 and 3, and the oldest especially is an extrovert just like my husband -- he thrives on interaction with people, and sometimes I just want to yell, "LEAVE ME ALONE!" I so appreciated your practical advice as to how to build our relationship despite our differing personalities!

    • Clarice

      Wow, thank you SO much for this article. You wrote my life and feelings almost exactly. It's a comfort to know I'm not alone!

      I have a very extroverted 4 year old boy who exhausts me, and a more introverted 2 year old boy that doesn't. It can be difficult to constantly engage my 4 year old, but your article gave me faith to love him with gospel love and to live as the introvert I am with freedom. Thanks for the practical ideas, too (maximizing alone time, etc.)

      I went to a parenting seminar that my church held this past year and walked away feeling so condemned and discouraged that I didn't play with my kids enough or engage them the way the other moms did or the pastor encouraged. I think personality has such a huge role to play in how we parent our kids and if we forget that we can place burdens on people that are not in the bible! Thanks for being a voice that lifts those burdens and takes the focus off of extroverted practices and onto a gospel motivated heart.

  • Jane

    This is wonderful and life affirming! Thank you for presenting 'us' with such dignity and positive challenge. I had never quite put all the pieces together and have spent far too much time in reactive personal condemnation.
    Have a blessed day!

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  • Tammy

    I am so glad you have been able to communicate what I have been feeling. I have lived with much guilt as I have needed my space, but as with anything there is a balance. Thank you for posting this.

  • Stephen Parry

    Great article. I would thoroughly recommend a book called 'Quiet' by Susan Cain. The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. Interesting stuff. The chapter on the experiences of introverts in evangelical churches is fascinating.

  • Kristi

    Thank you so much for writing this...I've been rolling around so many of these ideas from your post, in my head the past few months. I go through so much guilt, feeling like a bad mom because I don't want to be with my kids every second of the day, and I'm really useless if I don't have enough QUIET time alone with the Lord for prayer, reflection, bible reading, etc. It's very hard sometimes to find that quiet with boys ages 2 &4.
    It's just so encouraging to see someone else write out what I've been feeling, so I know I'm not terrible and I'm not alone!

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  • Tricia

    Thanks for this well balanced article! I can completely relate as a homeschool mom with four kids and recently also my stepson living in our small house. You have found the perfect balance between acknowledging the way we are individually created by God with different strengths, weaknesses, and needs, while not condoning sin or laziness when we give in to our selfish nature. I have often felt that I was a failure as a mom, if I need a "break" or can't function for extended periods with total noise and chaos. Thanks again for sharing this!

  • http://TheGospelCoalition Daphne

    Thank you SO much for this! I've always known that I am an introvert and my older daughter is an extrovert, but I didn't realize until reading your piece that our differences in temperament are the primary source of my feelings of inadequacy as her mother. My younger daughter is an introvert, but I rarely feel like I'm a bad mom to her; I naturally "get" her! You've helped me appreciate the ways my sweet older girl accommodates my need for "down" time. She is highly social, but she's delighted to sit on the couch and watch a movie together, or to work together on a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Thank you for helping me see more of her strengths!

  • Susan C.

    Yes! Another person who knows that introverts aren't defective!

    My husband and I are very introverted; our son (8) is extraverted. My husband, my mother and my in-laws were for a long time the only people who could see why I needed time away from him--and not coincidentally, the only ones who noticed that we couldn't afford to hire a babysitter.

    Someone mentioned Susan Cain's book, *Quiet,* and I'd agree that it's got some really good points. I enjoyed reading it.

  • elizabeth

    thank you--it greatly blessed me

  • Heather

    Thank you for writing on such an important issue! When I opened my email inbox this morning, my mouth dropped open and eyes widened. I just had a friend this week email me asking, in discouragement and desperation for insight, if I knew of anything written on the "Introverted Mother". The reminders and input were so timely! Thank you!

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  • Amie

    I just can't tell you what a blessing this article is! It has never occurred to me that this is the way I'm built; I have always thought of it as the ways I am defective. What a load off my shoulders, both the article and the comments, to know that I'm not alone or the world's worst mom & wife. Thank you so much!

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  • Charity Neuman

    I am an introverted Mom and i always feel guilty when I push my son away, trying to get him to play by himself so I can have some quiet time. Thank you for your post. I love my son but have always felt so bad about my need to et away from everyone, including my husband. Like you, I have times where I feel everyone wants something from me and I don't have anything left to give. I just need time for myself. Your post has encuraged me that I am not alone in how I feel. I appreciate your practical suggestions and encuragement to not neglect God.

  • Anne Ross

    Great post! I would say that even as a "hyper-extrovert" like myself, even I need time away from kids. I don't know of one mother in my life who doesn't need that time alone to refresh. I have a 6 month old, 2-year-old and 4-year-old and I'm a stay-at-home Mom who can't wait to until everyone is down resting for the afternoon! We all need to do things (most importantly time in the Word) to refresh ourselves to be godly mama's to our babies.

  • http://www.ongsinmalawi.com Jo

    Love this! it's SOOO me! Thank you for sharing so honestly. It is good to know that I am not alone in this. Love all the tips too.

  • jesse

    Thank-you so much!I truly am an introvert and am strugging just as you have described! Every child we have has made me more frustrated in my heart-I hate the noise, the commotion, the clutter and fast pace of the day...but I love the smiles, the laughter, the tickling, seeing my children learn something, hearing them sing, pray, ask questions...I do love my kids-in an introverted way. Thank-you for helping me re-focus on GOD and leave guilt and self-pity behind and embrace all GOD has for our family. Jesse Alberta, Canada

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  • Clarice

    Wow, thank you SO much for this article. You wrote my life and feelings almost exactly. It's a comfort to know I'm not alone!

    I have a very extroverted 4 year old boy who exhausts me, and a more introverted 2 year old boy that doesn't. It can be difficult to constantly engage my 4 year old, but your article gave me faith to love him with gospel love and to live as the introvert I am with freedom. Thanks for the practical ideas, too (maximizing alone time, etc.)

    I went to a parenting seminar that my church held this past year and walked away feeling so condemned and discouraged that I didn't play with my kids enough or engage them the way the other moms did or the pastor encouraged. I think personality has such a huge role to play in how we parent our kids and if we forget that we can place burdens on people that are not in the bible! Thanks for being a voice that lifts those burdens and takes the focus off of extroverted practices and onto a gospel motivated heart.

    • http://TheEowiggle Eowyn Stoddard

      Clarice,
      There's a lot of parenting-righteousness out there...I know because I've been on the condemning side all too often. For me, the main thing is figuring out who God made me to be, how I best function and how I can love my kids based on those givens. I hope you find a peace in your identity in Jesus and the power to live it out, regardless of what others might think. God bless!

      • Clarice

        Thanks for your kind reply, Eowyn! I appreciate your encouragement to find peace in my identity on Christ--one of the greatest challenges in my short life for sure. Almost 30 and finally accepting (rather than fighting due to fear of man, etc) who God made me to be and learning to embrace the sanctification of my God-given personality as well as thrive in it. Thanks for your encouragement!

  • http://www.tredways.org Rebecca

    I'm an extrovert who struggles with the same things you do! Just because I like to be around people doesn't mean my child doesn't drain me--she does. Perhaps these are issues most moms have in common regardless of personality type. Maybe your "I never get tired of my kids!" friend is the exception. :)

    • http://TheEowiggle Eowyn Stoddard

      Rebecca,
      I have had a few extroverts respond the same way you did. And, you know, you're right! Even extroverts get drained and tired of being around people at times. Extroversion and introversion are two poles on a sliding scale. I recently took a test and came out to be 75% introverted. So, obviously, there will some introverted people who probably struggle more than I do. But to see the amount of comments by the introverts on this page, it at least strikes more of a chord with them than with the extroverts. Being a mother is a lot of work and self-sacrifice, regardless of personality! So yes, my friend may be the exception! =) We are all working against our selfish grain...Wishing you all the best in your mothering!

      • Susan C.

        I think the difference is the degree of need. Being very introverted, I don't just need "time away from the kid(s)," I desperately need time ALONE, just to feel sane. Thankfully, my husband understands and gives me that time. My son is beginning to understand.

  • Nellie

    A question for introverted mothers: Do you think it'd be easier to have just one child so it's quieter and less hectic, or to have multiple children so they can entertain each other and leave you out of it?

    • Susan C.

      There's no telling--it depends on the child/children, and on the circumstances. I have only one, but he's extraverted AND doesn't need much sleep, so he was constantly hanging onto me when he was little. I had to learn how to cook with a toddler sitting on my feet. He was also born when I was 36, so I was generally much more tired than the other new mothers I knew. My mother, also introverted, had four introverts, three of us in her late 30s. She says she remembers being so tired she thought she wouldn't live to see us grow up. She also says that unless she got up at 5 am to read Scripture, she would get only a few words read before one of us would try to interrupt (so much for entertaining each other).

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  • http://1toanother.pakistan@gmail.com Jessica LaalDin

    I do not normally comment on articles... but here I'd like to say THANKS so much for writting this. It really spoke to my heart tonight. Praise the words of the Lord through your writtings.

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  • http://intentionalmama.com Michele Cherie

    Mothering as an introvert is something I've been thinking about since reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (by Susan Cain). In fact, I wrote a similar article earlier this month on my blog, IntentionalMama.com, with tips for introverted mamas. Thank you for your thoughtful perspective.

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    • http://TheEowiggle Eowyn Stoddard

      Hi Joshua,
      Wonderful article on Husbanding the Introverted Mother! Do you mind if I recommend it on my blog as a husband's response?

      • http://13past1.wordpress.com Josh

        Thank you Eowyn. Absolutely, that would be fantastic!

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  • Courtney

    This is very helpful and SO relate-able! I love my kids as any other mother, but my love is expressed in hugs and cuddles, reading a book with my one year old son, quietly holding my baby and talking to her.

  • Hannah

    Thank you so much for this honest article. I am really struggling to parent my five year old, who is extremely extrovert. He seems to need constant attention, and I feel drained almost every day, after just a short time in his company. (My introverted 3 year old is so much easier to manage!) I thought I was the only mum who wanted to 'escape' her children, and I was feeling so very guilty. Thank you for your honesty and your helpful advice. You strike just the right balance between acknowledging sinful behaviour and yet respecting who we are as God has made us.

  • Tara

    Introversion is amazing in that we can restore energy from within ourselves. However, in our society it can almost feel like a curse sometimes. Lately, I've been feeling like the loneliest introverted mom, wishing I had friends to connect with and to have play dates with, but struggling to work past all the introverted, internal obstacles that stand in my way. If only I could meet other introverted moms. They're just hard to fine :). Dealing with introversion as an individual is much more challenging when you have kids. Not only become it's incredibly taxing on our energy and need for time alone, but I also feel responsible for fostering and role modeling a social life for my children. I just hope they'll turn out okay despite my own limitations. That fact that I'm online googling "introverted lonely mom" means I'm having a tough time lately. Thanks for this uplifting article.

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  • http://GrittyGrace.com Martha Brady

    great suggestions eowyn:) another help is learning not to compare yourself to the extrovert mom. you have strengths in your parenting. she has strengths in hers. it's the comparisons that will harm you both!

    learning from the differences has proved to be very helpful i see.