Before I had kids, I set my life up to suit my personality.
As a highly introverted soul, I was thrilled when I landed a work-at-home technical writing gig. I happily tapped away on my laptop for a few hours at a time, taking breaks to go for a walk or yoga class.
It was bliss.
When I decided to become a parent, I knew I’d grieve my alone time. My husband and I vowed to relieve and support each other, clinging to the chunks of our lives that kept us happy and sane.
But nothing could’ve prepared me for the complete penetration of my carefully constructed lifestyle that came with parenthood. As a stay-at-home mom for the first few years of my kids’ lives, I had minimal time to nurture my introverted self.
As my kids have gotten a little older and started preschool and elementary school, I’ve regained some of that cherished alone time. But if you’re in the trenches and can’t yet carve out any solo time, here are some ways to nurture your introvert:
Stroller walks. Taking long walks around the neighborhood with my toddler was a favorite pastime. It felt like parallel play—we were together but not directly interacting. I had my body to myself, and he enjoyed the changing landscape with the pleasure of a snack and some water. Walking allowed my cramped brain to wander, and with my son safely buckled in, I could let go of my parental vigilance for a spell.
Daytime Bath. When my son was little, I let him play in a bubble bath for as long as he wanted—sometimes, up to an hour, his little fingers and toes grey and shriveled. I sat next to the tub with a book and a cup of tea, savoring the ability to read several uninterrupted paragraphs before reminding my son to please “keep the water in the tubby.”
Coloring. When my kids invited me to color with them recently, I initially obliged to satisfy them. But within minutes of setting marker to the page, my mind focused and my heart rate slowed. The Internet is a treasure trove of free coloring pages, so I’ll often print off pages of my kids’ favorite characters for them, and an intricate mandala coloring sheet for myself.
Play dates. This is counterintuitive, but hear me out. Sometimes I found that as much as I missed my alone time, I also craved having another adult human being to interact with. Play dates offer the opportunity to connect to other parents, which can be comforting. And as the kids get a little older, they often wander off together to play, allowing a chance for rare, uninterrupted conversation. Or a few moments of sweet, simple silence.
TV. Before my kids were born, I swore they wouldn’t watch TV until they were like, 35. But the reality is that TV can be quite useful. Some shows (I’m talking to you, Daniel Tiger!) introduce important lessons in different ways than parents present them. I’ll often curl up next to my kids on the couch with a book. I’ve come to love this snuggly downtime, and have (mostly) stopped feeling guilty for it.
And remember: your need for alone time doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a good introvert.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Peter Werkman/Flickr