In general, I am not a black and white thinker. I am not always keen on labels and categories. But there are a few labels that I have found useful for understanding myself and how I can live with a little more ease and comfort.
The first label that turned my life around was “perfectionist”. I resisted the label for a long time, because surely if I was a perfectionist, I would be… better? But once I realised that being a perfectionist was pretty much nothing to do with being perfect (it took until I was 26, but I got there in the end), I also clicked that it was pretty much me to a t. And once I accepted the label, I found it easier to figure out why I was struggling, and what I could do to make things a little better. It’s a work in progress, absolutely, but then again, most things are.
The label “introvert” was a lot easier to get my head around. I am an introvert, and pretty much always have been. When I was young, it was often painted as “shy”, but that’s not really it. I just take a little while to warm up to new situations sometimes. And when the shit hits the fan, I prefer time and space alone (or with just The Engineer or my family) to regroup and recharge.
Before The Engineer’s Baby arrived, I knew that my perfectionism was going to be a problem. Because honestly, there is no way to be the perfect parent, and very few things go perfectly with an infant. I was prepared. There have been (MANY) challenges along the way, but I’ve generally understood a bit of the why and a bit about how to get through them.
But until I read this article yesterday, I truly didn’t make the connection that being an introvert was part of the challenge of parenting for me. I am honestly surprised that it took me nearly eleven months to click, because it is so bloody obvious. But here we are, proof that it did.
When you’re an introvert and you become a parent, your body goes through a little shock. Suddenly, you have very little alone time. Sure, your new baby is not talking to you — and at times, not making much noise at all. But let’s face it: You are never truly alone from the moment your first child is born.
This quote jumped out at me. I knew I was feeling touched out (particularly early on). I knew that most parents wanted a break from time to time (because, duh!). But I hadn’t completely realised just how little alone time I get. My little dot is not a great independent sleeper in the day. She still breastfeeds frequently. So even when I do get a little break, you’d best believe she’s pretty close to the top of my mind. And I need physical and mental alone time to really recharge. (I also need sleep, but that’s a whole different story).
And then there was this:
1. Avoid beating yourself up for craving (or enjoying) time away from your littles. My favorite time of day is after the kids are tucked in bed — and most introverts I know feel the same way. I love my kids. I really do. But I love the downtime I have after they are sound asleep. If you’re an introverted parent, you will find yourself wanting for more alone time… and that is OK. Nothing to lose your “Good Parent” badge over.
If the lack of recharging wasn’t challenge enough, there was the guilt about wanting it (Hello again Perfectionism!) As much as I know it’s normal to want and need a break, there’s a little naggy voice in there that says “but if you were a GOOD mum, you’d love spending this time with her…”
This perfect storm of perfectionism and introversion is my biggest struggle as a parent (so far!) But I am feeling really great about it. Because now I know. I realise. I know from experience that this realisation is not enough to make the challenge disappear. But I also know that it’s a first step. And the more I am aware and accepting of my “labels”, the more I am able to find some strategies to create a life that works with them, rather than against them.