Tag Archives: family time

Hello? Is It Me You’re Looking For?

  Tiffany  As a child of the 80’s this Lionel Ritchie song pops up in my head every now and then. And I figured it would be an amusing way to re-introduce myself to the fabulous Introverted Mom community. To refresh your memory you can read more about me here.

Three cheers to Kathy who has so brilliantly run the blog since January. Hip hip hooray! (Repeat two times to yourself.) I am thankful to her for picking up my slack and for growing our group, and I am super excited to be back.

So where the Hell have I been?

The short answer: school. Because I am a masochistic lunatic.

Earlier this year I enrolled in a professional development course. It turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated. “This is like taking a firehose in the face,” one of my fellow panic-stricken colleagues said. Weeknights and weekends (and, let’s be honest here, workdays) were suddenly consumed with reading, researching, and paper-writing. While it was exciting to engage long-dormant parts of my brain, it was almost paralyzing to realize how much more I was suddenly responsible for. Dreamy took on the brunt of the domestic responsibilities and it is only thanks to him that we somehow survived five months of Utter Nightmare Class. It wasn’t pretty but we slogged through.

Throughout this experience I was on my own a lot, hunkered down at a coffee shop or the library.  And you know what?  I was lonely.

Wait. What?

“I’m an introvert,” I thought to myself. “We don’t get lonely. We LIKE lonely.” But I was, and I didn’t like it at all. Feeling disconnected from one’s husband and kids is terrible and it served to amplify and exacerbate the school stress. When we did spend time together as a family I was bitchy and distracted by ever-present papers and projects. Not pretty, indeed.

We all suffered until I was able lean back (sorry, Sheryl Sandberg) and let go of the need to get perfect grades and to perform perfectly at work. Giving myself permission to not earn a  perfect grade on each and every assignment (hmm, sensing a theme here, are we?) liberated me from my own idiotic false expectations and empowered me to refocus and recommit mental and emotional energy to my family.  And voila – the loneliness vanished.  I still cared about doing well but “A Little Less Than the Best” became my official motto. Releasing those expectations felt wonderful and I regret not doing it much sooner.

Now that the course is mostly finished I have a newfound appreciation for the time I thought I didn’t have before; time which, while enrolled in the class, was necessarily highly structured and managed. I can see now how much time I DO have to devote to the kids or myself or to other things, like the blog or DIY home projects. Having truly free time again is a gift I will do my best not to squander.

Now then. Off to purge and organize the medicine cabinet. Just because I can.


Happy Thanksgivukkahmas!

The first night of Hanukkah is tomorrow.  Thanksgiving is two days away and Christmas is closer than the Moms care to admit. We’re a little stressed just writing the word “holiday.”

Fortunately, we have a plan.

Kathy My version of a perfect holiday season goes something like this: Sweet potato casserole. Pumpkin pie. Menorah. Latkes. Christmas music. Cookies. Gingerbread house. Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. More cookies. My ceramic light-up tree. Snow that looks pretty but melts before I have to drive in it. Visiting family. More cookies. Movie night on New Year’s Eve. 

Luckily, Doodlebug and iDad are happy with this holiday scenario, too. And when I lay it out like this, it seems perfectly obtainable. (Except for the weather. The snow gods have not smiled on us in recent years.) But I know I need to plan ahead if I want to keep the focus on the things I love and not get sucked into the holiday maelstrom. Some strategies: 

  • No malls. This is a new one for me this year – in the past we’ve cut way back on shopping stress by limiting the number of presents we exchange and by planning fun trips with our families in lieu of gifts. This year I want to focus more on gifts we (or our talented friends) have made, or things we’ve found at local shops. I’ve decided I’m not setting foot in a mall again until 2014.  

  • Letting go of certain traditions. For the past five or six years we’ve done an advent calendar with a mini stocking for each night – Doodlebug would either get a candy cane, a note about a fun holiday activity we’d do that day, or materials for a craft project. Last year, though, I ran myself ragged trying to come up with new fun things that she mostly wasn’t interested in doing anyway. This year I bought an advent calendar with chocolate inside. Done.  

  • Saying yes, with care. This can be risky — Christmas caroling with the Brownie troop? I have a bad feeling about this — but I also want to be sure Doodlebug gets to spend time with other kids this season. As the only grandchild in the family, I know she’ll be logging a lot of time with grown-ups. So yes, we’ll go caroling. And we’ll be at the neighborhood holiday party. And maybe, if the snow gods cooperate, she and Princess Slim can break out the sleds. Hot chocolate and cookies at my house afterward.

— Kathy

tiffany_head_256 Is anyone immune to holiday stress? Anyone? Bueller?

I’ve been feeling anxious and melancholy lately. The latter is attributable to missing my family, which I’m not going to see this year; the former is … well … hmmm.  There’s baking card-writing decorating shopping wrapping to do in addition to regular home and work responsibilities. There are babysitters to hire and parties to attend. And Dreamy’s birthday to plan. Inhale, count to ten, exhale. Repeat.

As a kid I remember feeling the same way even without all the adult responsibilities mentioned above. My parents attributed my crabbiness to being afraid that Santa wasn’t going to leave me any presents. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Way to throw gasoline on the fire.

While the fear of no gifts undoubtedly contributed to my moodiness, between holiday music program rehearsals and performances, family activities, school, and travel is it any wonder I was a pint-sized stressball? Looking back the connection between Little Grouchy Tiffany and Big Grouchy Tiffany is clear:  not enough downtime.

So, this year the holidays will be different. I will not, for example, succumb to the siren call of holiday craft projects. Store bought tinsel? Fine. I will not attempt spritz cookies, with their mercurial dough and dungeon-worthy cookie press. Bakery treats? Absolutely. I will not attend every party or dinner to which I am invited nor will I stress about making everything perfect for everyone. I will do my best, but that does not include draining my energy tank to mission-critical low levels.

Here’s what I will do:  plan activities for the kids to do while they are on break. Playdates, museums, and a day trip or two. I will bake and cook but not to the point of exhaustion. I will take naps, preferably with Lunchbox in his tiny twin bed. I will drink wine and watch movies (“Skyfall” arrived on Netflix last week.  Double-O YES). And I will hopefully arrive at 2014 feeling happy, healthy, and infinitely grateful for the many marvellous things with which I am graced.

Daniel Craig, that includes you.

— Tiffany

Alone Together

The Moms did not become moms by themselves.  So who are Dreamy and iDad? Which mom is married to a fellow introvert? Which mom is married to an introvert in theory but an extrovert in practice?  Read on to find out.

tiffany_head_128Not long ago I was chatting with another mom at a birthday party. After hearing how old Slim and Lunchbox are and that both Dreamy and I work outside the home, she said “Oooh, you’re in the hurt locker.” I laughed and agreed and noted this term must be employed more often in casual conversation.

The phrase rattled around in my head for awhile but, after seeing the 2008 film “The Hurt Locker,” it took on new meaning. I started thinking that, in some respects, raising children is not unlike war: it is an emotionally, intellectually, and physically unrelenting task, involving multiple explosive-laden stages (toddlerdom, teenagers), strategies (sleep and potty training, time outs) and weapons (bottles, blankets, pacifiers). If you are fortunate you have someone in your foxhole for support, a partner who has your back and will support you during the exhaustion, the frustration, and the soul-crushing fatigue. A partner who also knows your strengths and weaknesses and from whom you can learn how best to manage in combat.

Or maybe that’s just my introverted perspective. Fortunately I’ve got Dreamy in my foxhole. In many ways he is an introvert with superhero-strength extroverted abilities. He doesn’t need as much recharge time as I do, for example, and he is infinitely better at some aspects of parenting than I am. I’ve learned a great deal from him and found that implementing some of his tactics can turn a bad day into a pretty darn good one.

Some of his most helpful strategies are:

1.  Have a plan.

Dreamy recently went on a much-deserved overnight trip by himself.  This left me facing two weekend mornings — usually a war zone at our house — alone. Did I panic? No. I thought about what he would do and used preparation, one of my six introvert strengths, to organize a schedule for both days. As much as I loathe the idea of managing and organizing what is supposed to be “free” time the result was positive: two mostly happy kids and one relieved mom.

2.  Get out of the house.

Prior to marriage and family I could stay in my apartment for days with limited human interaction. My offspring, however, think staying home equals a prison sentence. Getting out is exceptionally difficult for me. Weekend mornings used to be about relaxing; now it is difficult to ignore the massive chore list that piles up during the week and shouts for attention on weekends. It is tough to silence the shouts even if it is to everyone’s benefit, particularly the kids. So on Saturday morning I ignored the chores, bundled everyone up and took them on a leaf-hunting expedition in a nearby park. We had a great time and, more importantly, no meltdowns!

3.  Wear them down.

This is a no brainer and more than a little embarrassing it has taken me so long to embrace it. Saturday’s leaf hunt also included a trail walk through the woods, playground time, and let’s-run-the-bases-at-the-ball-diamond time. The best part was we had all the facilities to ourselves, and the only two people with whom I had to interact were Slim and Lunchbox. After lunch, Lunchbox and I napped while Slim went to a playdate. Come bedtime they were out cold. WINNING.

These tactics seem so simple, so obvious, that I wonder why it has taken me so long to get with it. Probably because these activities are not the way I would choose to spend my free time. The proverbial light bulb clicked on, however, and I understood that this weekend wasn’t my time, it was our time. So, check, get over myself and put the kids first. Fortunately I was able to take a few small, marginally restorative breaks.

I suppose my motivation to make this solo weekend different also stems from Dreamy’s last mini-break. When he came home I was angry, exhausted, and emotionally fried. That’s a combination of ugly to which no one should be exposed, especially those whom I hold most dear. What’s that saying about those who fail to learn from the past? Something about being doomed to repeat it?

Overall the weekend turned out well (minus the epic fail that Sunday morning turned to be, but that’s another story) and reminded me that as parents we should constantly be observing others and learning new skills. And sometimes the person with the very best lessons to teach happens to be hunkered down in the foxhole right next to you.

— Tiffany

KathyYou will probably not be surprised to hear that iDad loves computers. He also loves playing music, reading, watching movies, sleeping, and anything that has to do with water. He can go for hours happily immersed in his own world. In other words, he’s a fellow introvert.

I know that often introverts will pair up with extroverts, the whole “opposites attract” thing. And we are opposite in certain ways (me + water = no), but I’m happy I live with someone who doesn’t need to be with me 24/7, who knows I’m not offended when he wants to do his own thing.

Still, parenting with an introvert is trickier than being married to one. I feel like iDad is constantly bailing me out — taking over at the end of the day when Doodlebug was tiny, stepping in nowadays when I need to retreat after an outing. He’s so conscientious about my time that I sometimes worry he’s left holding the bag when I can’t take another minute.

He says he doesn’t feel that way, though, and I think it partly has to do with our different socializing styles. I push myself to stay on for the entire time I’m with other people, while iDad is much more comfortable taking mini-breaks to read a magazine, play some music, or just retreat into the kitchen (even if it’s someone else’s!) for a snack. So even if we spend all day extroverting, he’s grabbing time to himself throughout. I could stand to borrow some of these strategies.

Plus, as we discovered with the HSP survey, certain situations are in fact more draining for me than for him. So maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty if I need to take my time right away, as long as I make sure he has some time to himself later.

Probably the trickiest thing to negotiate since becoming parents has been the balance between family time, couple time, and alone time. Sometimes, with everyone (Doodlebug included) happy to go their separate ways, the three of us don’t spend a lot of time together. Even family time can be draining for me — it’s different now that Doodlebug is older, but there are still plenty of nights when all I want to do is be by myself once she’s asleep.

Now that iDad and I both work at home, though, we have a little more flexibility. We can sneak out to a movie during the day. We can all ride bikes together one afternoon and then he and I can catch up on work that evening. We can eat lunch together if we want. Or near each other, reading separate books. Can’t get much more introverted than that!

— Kathy