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?
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 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 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 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.
- 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.