The Introverted Mom

Kevin Liang/UnsplashSource: Kevin Liang/Unsplash

Got kids? Got a headache? Got an urge to lock yourself in the bathroom until they’ve all gone off to college?

A home-schooling mom to three, now teenagers , Jamie C. Martin has a new book just for you. Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt , and Quiet Joy (Zondervan, $17.99) is aimed squarely at the introverted mom wondering if she might be in the wrong business. Offering insight, ideas, and reassurance, it’s a welcome addition to the canon of literature for introverts. Jamie and I swallowed our introverted aversion to the telephone for a chat about the book and the challenges and rewards of being an introverted mom.

On realizing she’s an introverted mom:

I found out I was an introvert when I was in high school and took a personality test. But it wasn't until I became a mom that it really hit me how much that affected me. Until that point, through school and college and getting married and my first job , there were definitely draining experiences, but you could still kind of cope with the stress to get what you needed. And then suddenly with motherhood, especially when one baby became two babies and two babies became three babies, that chance to take time for yourself was just not there anymore. That's when it really began to impact me, but I don't know that I could have pinpointed the issue. I just knew that I felt stressed and strained and exhausted, and frustrated — angry at times. I thought: Why can't I do this? I must just be a bad mom, I must not be cut out for this. And that's a big guilt-inducer, especially when you dreamed of being a mom and it's something that you really wanted.

That's why I'm so passionate about this. I feel like if moms really understood themselves as introverts before they become young moms, it would make a difference in the way they approach motherhood and they would not have to go through that painful experience of finding out.

Courtesy of the author.Source: Courtesy of the author.

On the challenges of being a new mom as an introvert:

The noise, the chaos, and the drain of being with people all the time, and people who need so much from you. And they are not in a place where they are necessarily giving back and contributing to the relationship. It's very one-sided at the beginning of motherhood.

Encourage daddy time. The greatest untapped resource available for improving the lives of our children is time with Dad - early and often. Kids with engaged fathers do better in school, problem-solve more successfully, and generally cope better with whatever life throws at them.

On having more than one child:

Because my three kids are so close in age, they were a team together and they turned to each other in a lot of ways. They always had a playmate, and that might have helped with my extroverted kids. A mom who has just one child at the moment, if that child is an extrovert, might have a harder time because the child would always be “play with me, play with me, play with me.”

Of course, having more children equals more noise, but that was a trade-off that worked out.

On the isolation of being a new mom as an introvert:

At the end of the day, an introverted mom is not going to want to go out, even with a close friend or to do something that might be a nurturing, fulfilling experience because she's just so exhausted. So it can lead into a cycle of depletion.

On workarounds for that:

There were times I forced myself to go out at the end of the day when I didn't have the energy, and sometimes that was really the best thing I could do for myself — going somewhere where I knew people, where it was a safe space. Sometimes pushing myself was a benefit for me.

I had maybe two or three close friendships. Even being able to text these friends — it still allows you to invest in relationships. And Voxer is an audio app that allows you to send messages back and forth. That's something I do with a best friend of mine often. It’s like phone calls for introverts. She'll send me a message and I'll get a notification, then I can listen to it whenever it fits my schedule, and then I can respond to her whenever it fits my schedule. We joke about how it’s the best app for introverts ever.

On home schooling as an introverted mom:

Home schooling has so much flexibility and freedom. There are things that are very draining in the traditional school experience — the rush getting everyone out the door in the morning, the whole chore of trying to get your kids through homework and not having a lots of real quality time. There are trade-offs, but there are definitely ways to make home schooling work as introvert because you can control your schedule and your kids' schedule so much. You can build time into the day where your kids work independently.

Screen time shouldn't always be alone time. Co-view, co-play and co-engage with your children when they are using screens—​it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. Play a video game with your kids. It's a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. Watch a show with them; you will have the opportunity to introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives—and guidance. Don't just monitor them online—interact with them, so you can understand what they are doing and be a part of it.

Now, there have been many times when I’ve scoured school websites and things like that. I’m not trying to say it’s all been bliss, but it has added a lot to our family.

On kids needing to talk when Mom needs quiet:

Now that my kids are a little older I can say, “I really want to talk to you about that, but I just can’t do it right now because I’ve done this and this today. Let’s make sure we meet tomorrow to talk.” In the younger years it would be more about making a plan to introduce a new activity, realizing OK, we need to wrap up this activity and say “we’re going to do this now,” or “I’m going to put on an episode of…” whatever the show is, just to try redirect the activity to things that would be better for me at that time.

On talking to the kids about introversion and extroversion :

I probably first started talking about it with my son who is an introvert. He's 14 now, maybe when he was eight or nine, just mentioning it in quick moments—"that might be because you're an introvert,” or “that might be why you felt so exhausted when we finished this.” It's kind of slow growth in discussing it on a deeper level. And helping all of them see that this is the way God made you, this is the way you are for a reason, and there are really great gifts that you bring to our family and to the world through being you, so it's best you really understand yourself.’

On making sure the family introverts have quiet time:

We've all experienced what happens when my son doesn’t get that, so everyone really wants him to have that. Likewise with myself. My daughter will often say, "Isn't it time for your introverted nap time?" If I can, I will take a good 20 to 30 minutes eyes closed, even if it’s not a deep sleep . It’s my reset period. It’s amazing how well that works.

Even when the kids were little, I gave it my best shot. I encouraged them to nap as long as possible, and after they gave up naps, we still had quiet time in their rooms in the afternoon, listening to an audiobook or doing different stuff. That gave me time. That made me the best mom, so it was good for them too.

Closing words:

What I really want introverted moms to recognize is that when we take care of ourselves and give ourselves enough recharging time, we will be such good moms. The return on taking that time is much greater than the actual investment. When a mom begins to really realize that, that will help alleviate that guilt. Healthy introverted moms tap into deep creative insights that enrich their family life in amazing ways, and I want to take that burden off the introverted mom locked in the bathroom and make sure that she knows that she's not alone.

Talk about the risks associated with meeting online “friends” in person. Adults should understand that the internet can be a positive meeting place for children, where they can get to know other young people and make new friends. However, for safety and to avoid unpleasant experiences, it is important that children do not meet strangers they have met online without being accompanied by an adult you trust. In any case, the child should always have their parents’approval first. In addition, it is also a good idea to have a fail-safe plan in place such as calling them shortly after the meeting begins so that they can bail out if they feel uncomfortable.