Tag Archives: introvert

Tiffany’s Totally Unscientific Theory About Introverts and Sleep

In which one of the Moms pretends to be something she’s not.

—————————

tiffany_head_256Remember our post about sleep? We shared some research that concluded introverts do fine on less sleep while extroverts hit the wall without enough shuteye. This is largely due to the way our brains are wired and how we respond to certain stimuli. At the end I theorized introverts need more sleep than extroverts, contrary to the study results.

Because, you know, I am a scientist.

My theory has been somewhat refined thanks largely to this brilliant visual. Here goes:  the more time I spend outside my hamster ball the more sleep I need.

Being outside that ball exhausting. Having people reach inside that ball is exhausting. For introverts, as we all know, this is akin to hooking up our internal battery to some giant, power-sucking device (this comes to mind) and letting it drain our battery right down to empty. 

I’ve observed if I don’t get adequate recharge time physical exhaustion is sure to follow.  Ignoring the tired leads to illness and before I know it I’m bowled over by a sore throat, a sinus infection, or some other respiratory nastiness. And we all know if Mommy is sick everyone suffers.

As a result of this earth-shattering knowledge I have taken a few steps to address the fatigue issue:

1.  Limiting gluten. “So trendy!” you might think. Honestly, however, reducing it has made my energy levels noticeably higher. My legendary ability to consume massive amounts of sweets is going to make holiday baking a challenge this year but in 2014 I plan to eliminate gluten entirely.

2.  Scheduling bedtime. Usually I’m in bed by 9:30 p.m. and read until 10.  Does this happen every night? No. (Damn you, New Yorker magazine!) But the more I stick to the schedule the more rested I feel. And 30 minutes of reading is a good way to transition between being outside the hamster ball and going back in.

3.  Redefining weekend time. This was a tough one but running around like the proverbial poulet sans tête on Saturdays and Sundays does not equal recharging. I am happy to do my chores and spend time with the kids, but at a certain point I need to sit down and be still. It is helpful to make lists, of course, and to set a “Busy Work” time limit.

4.  Taking naps. One per weekend if possible. My body tells me how long to sleep:  sometimes it’s only 30 minutes while other times it’s a two and a half hour monster snooze with Lunchbox.

5.  Drinking water. Tiredness is an easily overlooked symptom of dehydration, and while drinking a lot of water is easy at work it is difficult at home. Thus a new rule:  every time I go into the kitchen (which is A LOT) I drink a glass.

Fellow introverts, have you noticed this about yourselves?  If so how do you cope?

Off to get more H²0.

– Tiffany

 

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

Book Review: Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference by Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D.

tiffany_head_128The title alone should have prevented me from buying this book; I care about influencing people about as much as I care about the GNP of Kerblechistan. I felt compelled to give it a read, however, particularly after realizing it is geared specifically towards introverts in the workplace. I am one of those, I thought. This book is perfect!

“Quiet Influence” is designed to help introverts maximize six specific strengths in professional settings. They are:  taking quiet time; preparation; engaged listening; focused conversations; writing; and thoughtful use of social media. The author argues that introverts are just as capable of leadership, business development, and other executive functions as extroverts but approach these tasks differently from extroverts.

Diving in, however, I quickly realized we were not going to click. The author’s excessive reliance on a handful of executive coaches and corporate consultants was annoying, as was the constant self-promotion (as evidenced by the concluding section on how the author is available to do keynote speeches, in-house trainings, executive coaching, blah blah blah).

Additionally some of the examples used are downright silly. Someone made POSTERS and put them in the office kitchen! Oooh…way to go out on a ledge there. This may be too judgemental and harsh, but I expected more macro-level and, frankly, more compelling case studies of introverted leaders and how they influence, particularly from someone with an advanced degree in Corporate-Type Stuff (Kahnweiler holds a Ph.D. in counseling and organizational development).

Fortunately I don’t work in the corporate world. Maybe this is another reason why I didn’t connect with this book or its message.

In spite of the above there are three redeeming qualities introverts might find valuable. First, there’s a quiz designed to give you your “Quiet Influence Quotient,”  or QIQ. A series of simple questions and some easy math establishes your baseline QIQ, while a second sub-quiz tells you which of the six strengths you use most often.

As much as I dislike the idea of personality pop quizzes I understand and endorse the QIQ concept. It is useful when trying to identify where on the introvert scale you fall, and it is always helpful to be reminded of your core attributes, particularly if your work environment is geared towards emphasizing weaknesses rather than strengths. I use most, if not all, of these attributes every day in the office.

Second, each chapter discusses how to better develop each strength and provides realistic examples and illustrations of how tinkering with your abilities can improve your ability to influence.

One thing that occurred to me after wading through each section was how often I use core strengths simultaneously; for example, engaged listening and writing. In meetings where lots of people talk at once, talk over each other, and generally TALK A LOT, I listen, observe, and take notes. If needed I’ll summarize those notes in an email and send it to myself so I can better process what actually took place. At the risk of sounding like a simpleton, my brain needs more time to digest and think about things. This is helped immensely by reviewing my notes and addressing lingering issues after taking time to reflect.

Finally, hard-core introverts who work or aspire to work in a corporate or executive setting would benefit from some of the tips and strategies for getting ahead. If “getting ahead” is indeed one’s goal.

Extroverts who manage introverts could certainly benefit from “Quiet Influence” if only to get a better idea how to draw out employees they perceive as introverts. And to set these employees up for success by maximizing the skills introverts have and minimizing exposure to functions or tasks in which introverts might not perform so well.

Parents should read this book if they have an introverted child whom they consider an employee.

If anyone wants to borrow it I am happy to loan it out on a, ehrm, permanent basis.

– Tiffany

Who Needs Sleep?

The Moms do, because this week we are too tired to come up with a witty intro.

Kathy

I recently read Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think because, well, who doesn’t want more time? I liked her suggestion of figuring out what your “core competencies” are – the things that are most important to you or that only you can do – and eliminating or outsourcing the rest. It helps with all the saying no that we talked about last week. Making my own cheese? Not a priority for me. Handcrafting all my holiday cards? Not a priority for me. Having all the laundry done? Not, apparently, a priority for me.

You know what else is not at the top of my list? Sleep. Anyone who knew me before kids will tell you that’s crazy because, you guys, I was such a good sleeper. I’m a night owl, so I’d stay up until 1 or 2 AM and then sleep till late morning. Okay, or noon. But there are several reasons I’ve had to give up my champion sleeper crown.

  1. The sweet, little-girl-shaped alarm clock we acquired seven years ago

  2. Insomnia (grrr)

  3. Downtime

One of these things is entirely under my control. I could be asleep every night at 10:00. I know this, and every so often I will vow to be better. I will avoid the Internet rabbit hole and not even turn my laptop on at night. I will not read one more chapter. I won’t start that second episode of Friday Night Lights because by the time it’s over it will be too late and I’ll be exhausted and okay, but this is the last one, I promise! It never lasts. 11:30 is my set point.

Doodlebug goes to bed at 8:30, and by then I’ve survived school pick-up (often with playground mom-chatting), the trip home (often chasing after her on her scooter), homework, making dinner, cleaning up, bathtime, reading time (ahh), and the bedtime routine. Yes, I work at home, and yes, I spend a lot of time by myself during the day, but that evening stretch is brutal. At that point I definitely deserve a prize, and that prize is time to myself.

I find it very, very hard to cut this time short. I’ve thought about it a lot – is time awake really more restorative for me than sleep? Physically, it’s obviously not, and I’m not a happy person (or a very pleasant person) when I’m sleep-deprived. But I am a happy person when I get three hours to myself to do whatever I want.

Is there a better way? Probably. I’ve had success with an “Offline after 11” policy, which means I don’t stay up till the wee hours reading blogs anymore. I could bump that forward, at least on some nights. Or I could alternate early and late nights, but whenever I try to set a strict schedule like that I get derailed. So my main strategy is just hanging on till Doodlebug starts sleeping in until ten.

Or nine. I’d take nine at this point. Eight? Zzzzzzz.

– Kathy

tiffany_head_128I stood in the pediatrician’s parking lot, leaning into Dreamy and sobbing my head off. Not petite ladylike sobs, mind you, but guttural, heaving, movie-worthy sobs. It was February 2011 and seven-month old Señor Lunchbox had just been diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). He’d been coughing incessantly for three or four days and his doctor blithely delivered the news with a “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.  It usually only lasts a week or so.”

Thus began one of the darkest, most terrifying parts of my life. What the pediatrician failed to grasp was that no one had slept – neither Dreamy, nor Lunchbox, nor I – for those three or four days. Lunchbox was so sick he was only able to sleep for about 45 minutes to an hour at a time before another fit of vicious hacking woke him and, by default, us, because when your child sounds like he’s strangling that kind of happens.

I was obviously deeply worried about Lunchbox, but at that moment, the idea of enduring for another seven or even more days without at least a few consecutive hours of rest pushed me over the edge. “I am so tired” was all I could manage to squeak out between sobs.

This tired was different than my usual tired. I have always been a crappy sleeper (apparently this is another trait of Highly Sensitive People) and although I love to sleep, I rarely feel rested even after nine or even ten hours in bed. I had survived two newborns and Lunchbox had acid reflux-related sleep issues from birth, thus feeling worn out and being sleep deprived weren’t exactly new experiences. This Super Sick Kid tired, however, was cruel and deep and unrelenting and further compounded by loops of endless mental what-if-ing.

The virus lasted for about ten days. My ability to function during this time was so impaired that I did a number of incredibly stupid things, such as drive a car and call my Very Important Boss insisting that a colleague had intentionally sabotaged a project. (Note to bosses everywhere: please don’t ever reprimand an employee for doing something like this when you know a sick child is involved. And when you’ve been kept in the loop about the situation the entire time.) I narrowly avoided crashing the car but succeeded at shooting myself in the foot at work.

Some introverts, including my personal hero Susan Cain, tentatively assert that we can get by on less sleep. Jonathan Rauch thinks that “For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.”  Neither of these seem quite right. Lunchbox’s illness taught me that I am ok with getting by on less, but at some point large blocks of sleep will be required to chip away at whatever sleep deficit has been created.

And while I have no data to support this claim, I am going to go ahead and say that introverts across the board require more sleep than extroverts. Sleep is the ultimate recharge; so if introverts require more recharging than extroverts, introverts without sleep are probably going to fry faster than an egg on a Foreman Grill.

– Tiffany

Write It Out

The Moms like to write.  Duh.  But how does writing help in the parenting department?

Tiffany Confession time:  I babble when nervous.  Gaps in conversation make me uncomfortable and as a result, I prattle.  On and on until I can extract myself from the situation.  I will change the subject six or seven times, pepper people with inane questions, or blurt out something marginally inappropriate and usually profane.

While I am perfectly content with silence (oh, hell, I CRAVE it, who are we kidding?) when alone or with a few carefully selected friends, larger groups of people or social events cause me to quake with fear on the inside.  Numerous times during these interactions I find myself thinking, “Couldn’t I just write you all an email?”

Introverts like to write.  It is easy to see why:  writing allows time to process and construct responses and to reflect upon the interaction itself and any resulting feelings or ideas.  For me writing is a quiet, solitary activity.  Writing also serves as an ordering exercise and allows for the mental arrangement of a tiny portion of the endless stimuli with which I am bombarded.  It can take the form of a simple list to a free-form exercise describing the overwhelmingness of everyday life or how happy a pair of well-fitting pants makes me feel.  These things, in aggregate, calm me down and permit a return to center, if you will.  Oh, the power of a blank piece of paper and a pencil.

And believe it or not, I think an affinity for writing makes me a better mom.  Obviously there are many, many situations with small children that do not allow time to formulate a considered response (example:  Señor Lunchbox.  Every.  Damn.  Day.).  As Princess Slim has matured, however, we’ve had some great conversations during which I’ve been able to offer more considered and thoughtful responses to the changing nature of her questions.  Writing has undoubtedly trained me to think this way.

I hope writing will bolster our mother-daughter relationship during the tumultuous teen years when she hates me and doesn’t want to acknowledge my existence.  That can all be fixed with a funny note or email, right?  

- Tiffany

KathyPoking my head in after a week away at a writing workshop to say I AGREE, both on the importance of writing for introverts and the sad lack of opportunities to gather one’s thoughts while wrangling little kids. One of the toughest things for me as a parent is having to fly by the seat of my pants so often.

But, like Tiffany, I hope that will change as Doodlebug gets older. Long ago I wrote down the title of this book, a journal for moms and daughters to write together. It looks like it’s aimed at tweens, and I think it will be great to have not only a place where we can “talk” without being face to face but also a method of communication that will allow me to marshal my thoughts and my reasoning ahead of time.

You wouldn’t even have to use a true diary, any notebook would do. And Doodlebug and I both looooove pretty notebooks. I might just have to raid my stash and get us started sooner rather than later. Maybe today!

- Kathy

 

 

The Crazy, Hazy (But Definitely Not Lazy) Days of Summer

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince got it right in “Summertime”:

School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz

But back then I didn’t really know what it was

But now I see what have of this

The way that people respond to summer madness 

These months present challenges for parents everywhere.  School ends, schedules are disrupted, and madness can ensue.  How do the Introverted Moms cope?

***************

tiffany_head_128

Summer is no big deal to Señor Lunchbox.  He will wake up and go to school.  This is good because he desperately needs a structured environment.  Dreamy and I will wake up and go to work.  This is good because we need to keep our jobs.  Princess Slim will, on the other had, wake up and go somewhere new every week.  For her this summer will be one of constant adjustment to new routines, new places, and new people.  She bears the brunt of summer insanity, and it breaks my heart.

Princess Slim is signed up for seven — SEVEN — different camps this summer and I have two weeks left to fill.  Really hoping to draft some grandparents into service so the poor girl can sleep in late and have some down time once in awhile.  Guilt isn’t my thing, but  booking her into all these activities has made me feel guiltier than I’ve ever felt in my entire life.  Why?

Some of it is undoubtedly tied up with childhood memories of long stretches of unstructured time and the exhilarating sense of freedom felt upon finishing the school year.  Perhaps I need to let go of my expectations for these months and acknowledge my anxiety stems from the fact that I want summers back, the kind with long days and seemingly limitless choices.  These experiences were critical to my development, I think, and I desperately want Slim and Lunchbox to have these same types of opportunities.

As Kathy mentioned to me, however, these kinds of summers “aren’t possible any more for us.” And let’s be real:  even if I did have summers off I would still be looking for things to do with the kids, who most likely would not want to sit around and read all day.  Hello, adulthood calling.  Responsibility on lines one and two.  There is no going back, only forward, and I can’t let unrealistic expectations mess up my head.

The other guilt-inducing part is murkier.  As a mother, isn’t it my job to spend time with my kids? I find it impossible to reconcile my roles as Mom and Working Mom during the summer months.   My job is deathly quiet in the summer but I still have to show up and appear to be working even though I’d much rather be goofing off with Slim.

These thoughts hurl me into an ugly insecurity spiral:  what the hell are my priorities? Why do we live in an area where two incomes are required?  Kids are only young once, you know, and you are fracking it. all. up.  Why did you even have kids if you can’t spend time with them?  You are a terrible mother.

Ugh.  A solution must exist.  It may be as simple as taking a vacation day once every few weeks and declaring it “Slim and Mom” time.  It might be as complicated as changing careers (anybody need an English teacher?  I have no experience or certification but I sure do love words and books!).  This isn’t coping at all; it’s a mess. And I don’t like it one bit.

– Tiffany

Kathy

I’m not very good at summer. I’m not talking about the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the sand, or the sunscreen, although I’m no good at them, either. I’m talking about the vast expanses of unstructured time.

This is pretty ironic, because, as an introvert, I’m all about the unstructured time. I need it, I crave it. If I had 10 weeks to myself… sorry, my head just exploded.

But managing Doodlebug’s summer is one of my biggest challenges as a parent. It’s gotten easier – iDad was still working in an office when she was small, so I basically resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get any writing done until preschool started again in September. Now that he works at home we have much more flexibility, but it’s still complicated.

How much of Doodlebug’s time should be completely open? If we sign her up for camp, will she hate it? (Still smarting from the Art Camp Debacle of ’12.) When can she see her friends, who are all on different home/camp/vacation schedules? Do we get to take a vacation? When will iDad and I work? And how will I fit in my own downtime?

The last one, of course, is where I always get tripped up. As a kid, summer was a time for slowing down — sleeping in, reading, taking a break from the social pressures of school and being by myself for a change. But now that I’m a mom, summer is exactly when things ramp up. I feel like Doodlebug’s social director, carefully planning enough fun to keep her entertained but not over-committed.

We spend more time together, which is wonderful. During the school year, we only get about six hours of Doodlebug time a day. Most of that is rushing through our schedule, trying to hit our targets: breakfast, dropoff, pickup, dinner, homework, bedtime. I don’t miss that craziness. But that doesn’t change the fact that summer, with more emphasis on my Mom role, is draining for me.

I know, from past summers, that certain things do not work. Wide-open days with nothing planned? Cranky mom, cranky kid. Swapping half-work days with iDad? The blocks of time were too short to accomplish much, and we never spent time as a family. Vacation here, camp there, free week in between? No routine, and I thrive on routine (so do kids, I hear). Playground playdate + picnic lunch + berry picking + pool? After two days of that I would need a week off to recover.

So here’s what we’re trying this year. The first part of our summer is pretty open. We have one mini trip scheduled, and Doodlebug will be spending some long weekends with her grandparents (thank you, grandparents!). But when she’s home I will plan morning activities, either playtime with friends or excursions with me and/or iDad.

I want us to be home in the afternoons, though, and we’re going to try an after-lunch family reading time. Stealth school skills for Doodlebug, downtime for me. iDad is our pool parent, so hopefully they can fit in some water time in the late afternoons. More downtime for me. And if all else fails I will have my precious evening time.

Then comes the camp phase – Doodlebug and Princess Slim are signed up for four weeks of camp together, which I hope will solve the “But I don’t have any friennnnnds there!” issue from summers past. And I’m also hoping that grouping the camps in a block will let me get in several good weeks of writing. Taking that month-long break beforehand will give me a chance to organize my thoughts about my novel. Or so I’m telling myself.

After the camps we’ll have a family vacation and then one totally free week before school starts. I want to keep this as open as possible, both to give Doodlebug a chance to transition back to the school year schedule and to give us time to eat plenty of ice cream. I will let you know how it goes…

– Kathy

Ch-ch-changes

KathyThe transition from no baby to new baby can be a bumpy one for lots of reasons, but some of them are unique to introverts. In no particular order:

People will come over to your house. This is good, truly it is. Other people! People who don’t wear diapers or spit up on you. People who can communicate with words instead of shrieks. Sometimes they even bring you food, which is excellent.

But if you’re like me, your house is sort of your private sanctuary. It’s not the place where all the neighbors come and hang out. Certainly not while you’re trying to figure out how to feed a tiny person with food you’ve made with your own body. That was weird. But just know that the visiting phase doesn’t last forever. And that it’s perfectly fine not to answer if someone calls or rings the doorbell. Um, not that I ever did this.

Your baby will probably want to be held a lot. Babies just do. Doodlebug definitely did, and it was a big change to go from normal human contact to nearly-nonstop, 24/7 human contact.

So trade off with your spouse whenever you can. This is also where the visitors can come in handy – let your friend hold the baby while you take a shower. Let your mother-in-law try out the baby wrap you haven’t even gotten a chance to open yet. (Side note: if babywearing is not your thing, that is OKAY.) And if your baby refuses to be held by anyone but you, read on. Tiffany feels your pain.

Introverts are not good at switching gears or leaving a project before they’ve finished with it. Guess what – you will have to do that all the time with a baby (and with older kids, too).

Since I was at home with Doodlebug, it was vital for me to have “off-the-clock” time where someone else was in charge and I could set my own pace. At first it was just a twenty-minute trip to the grocery store, alone, while my mom babysat. Later it was going to the library to write while Doodlebug and iDad hung out for the afternoon. Family is great. Babysitters are great. Preschool is great. School is really, really great.

Moms’ groups. They’re everywhere – at the hospital, in your neighborhood, for nursing moms, for working moms, etc etc. I tried to embrace the concept, really I did, but it was just not me. I didn’t want to go and be with people I barely knew when I was already busy with my baby, who I barely knew! So I will go ahead and say that you do not have to join a moms’ group.

Having mom friends is key, though – I spent a ton of time with one friend whose son is a few months younger than Doodlebug, and that was just right for me. Plus, now there’s Facebook and Twitter, which can function as your own virtual moms’ group from the comfort of your own home. And, of course, you know you are always welcome here.

On the blog. Not at my house. If you ring the doorbell, I reserve the right to pretend I’m not home.

– Kathy

tiffany_head_128I definitely believe introverts have a more difficult time adjusting to motherhood. In my case I am fairly certain one of the after effects of giving birth was a bad case of agoraphobia, particularly after Señor Lunchbox arrived.

Señor Lunchbox had acid reflux and slept in roughly 20 minute blocks the first months of his life (no, really.  I timed them).  Everybody was tired but as the parent on maternity leave my primary job was to take care of him.    It took ages for us to figure out the reflux situation, get the proper medication, and for it to start working.  He finally began sleeping better.

When he was awake, however, it was Mommy or nothing. Not Dreamy, not a bouncy seat or special pillow or sling or swing or any of those “soothe your newborn” gadgets. If I put him down to eat, he screamed, and if I dared to pee or just wanted to have my arms back for a few minutes, he screamed. The lack of physical space was smothering and became increasingly difficult to manage. I didn’t love Señor Lunchbox any less but there were days when I wondered how I was going to make it through. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did.

There were other reasons I stuck close to home. Both Princess Slim and Señor Lunchbox are summer babies and it was boiling hot in the weeks after they were born. On cool mornings I would take them out but only for a quick stroller-spin around the block or to lounge on the patio.

Also, after Señor Lunchbox was born, Dreamy took the Good Car to work and I had the Beater Car. I love the Beater but it has half an airbag and dodgy air conditioning. I didn’t feel exactly secure about placing a newborn in the back seat, hopping on the highway, and hoping for the best. And where would I have gone, exactly? The mall to look at clothes I couldn’t fit in to? A library or museum with a howling, projectile-vomiting baby? No, thanks.

Now I realize my inability to leave the house wasn’t really about the heat, or the car; had I wanted to go out I could have made something work. The real issue was my non-existent energy level. Monitoring one’s energy level is critical to introvert self-care, and mine was so low that I simply could not deal with the stress of being around other people. One tiny person consumed every bit of emotional, mental, and physical energy I had. “We’re on vapor, Cougar,” from the movie “Top Gun” pretty much sums it up. I was the next smallest state of matter after vapor.

The lesson learned is this:  contrary to all the instincts that activate upon becoming a mom or dad introverts must take care of themselves first to be good parents.  99% of the time you’ll be able to put everyone’s needs before yours; it’s that 1%, however, to which you must pay attention to avoid depleting your energy reserves.  Ignore your need to recharge and you might end up like Cougar, out of fuel and panicking as you try to land your jet on the aircraft carrier.   Without anything in your tank things can get scary fast and you may not have it in you to pull up before crashing onto the deck.

How did I pull out of the tailspin?  That’s a subject for another post.

–Tiffany

 

Being an Introvert: How and When?

We thought it might be interesting to write about when and how we first knew we were introverts and how this realization shaped our personalities. And how we might parent differently as a result.

tiffany_head_128It was Sunday afternoon. Or rather a series of Sunday afternoons when I was a kid.

After my family went to church (if we went. Sorry God!) we would eat lunch and scatter: my dad napped on the couch or read; my mom disappeared to her sewing cave downstairs; and my younger brother played outside, in his room, or – being the extrovert – at someone’s house. There were no lessons, no sports, no nothing except long afternoons and my own imagination.

I would wander up the street to play with friends only if someone forced me. My preference was to be by myself with my toys, dress up clothes, books and other things not requiring human interaction. Naturally there were times when I was bored but some of my best childhood memories are of those unhurried, solitary afternoons. No additional people required.

By junior high I suspected I was different. By high school, I knew I wasn’t like other kids in my class. My parents knew too and were sensitive enough to give me space on weekends to recharge. During the first weeks of college someone called me an introvert. Mr. Webster provided the definition and the cartoon light bulb switched on over my head.

Anyone reading this blog knows it is currently fashionable to be an introvert. This wasn’t always the case. I tried, so hard, for so many years, to deny and subvert it, because it wasn’t cool to stay home on Saturday night or to not go to happy hour three nights a week. Only recently, really recently, have I become ok with saying “This is who I am.”  I think it has something to do with being over 40 and no longer giving a rat’s ass what people think.

Accepting the introvert means acknowledging when my Solitude Tank is running low. It is easier to say “I need to be by myself for a while” rather than morphing into a snappy shrew who’s pissed off at everyone JUST BECAUSE. Small restorative breaks enable me to be a better person which translates into better managing my various roles. I feel guilty, of course, but I feel infinitely worse when I turn into Her Shrewness and treat everyone like shit.

So. How has this affected my parenting? When Princess Slim goes in her room and closes her door, I don’t knock. I try not to arrange Sunday play dates because this time, this having-nothing-to-do time, is critical in a world where everyone is overscheduled. I want her to learn to be alone and to be ok with it. If and when Señor Lunchbox doesn’t require as much supervision (please God, sorry about church again, but please let there be a when) I will do the same. I won’t force them to do stuff they don’t want to do in spite of the incredible pressure to do and join and play.

Will they suffer? I hope not. We can only afford to have one person in therapy at a time and that’s ME, bitches.

– Tiffany

Kathy

I don’t know when I learned the word introvert, but the first time I understood the concept was in ninth grade.

During freshman year I had a group of lively, crazy, silly friends. We passed notes at school, talked for hours on the phone, went to the movies, had sleepovers, and got kicked out of half the stores at the mall for excessive giggling.

In between, I hid out in my room to read, write stories, and memorize all the songs on They Might Be Giants’ Flood album. And I wrote in my journal nearly every day. My favorite topics were how many times That Guy said hi to me in the hall and what everyone was wearing. (I thought I might want to be able to picture how people looked later on. Memo to 9th Grade Me: No. You won’t care. Sorry.) I really do think those spiral notebooks were the key to my sanity, giving me space to sort through the many dramas of fourteen-year-old life.

By the end of the school year, which included back-to-back overnight trips with choir and color guard, I was seriously drained. So I pulled back, but I didn’t have the vocabulary (or, truthfully, the maturity) to say to my friends, “Look, I’m an introvert. Even when it’s super fun, being with people nonstop wears me out. I need some time to recover, but then I will totally be up for going to Boardwalk Fries.”

Instead I kept turning down invitations, which tends to make people think you don’t want to be friends anymore. We never had a huge falling out. But things just weren’t really the same. And after that year, I did protect my downtime more carefully. I kept writing in my journal, too, which continued to be a calm place when things got crazy busy again.

Fast forward to seven years ago when Doodlebug was born. By then I did know the term introvert, but it honestly never crossed my mind that being one would affect my transition into parenting. I had stocked the freezer with six dozen muffins, but I had exactly zero plans for making sure I would get the alone time I needed.

Add in sleep deprivation, nursing issues, and the idea that good moms love spending every minute with their babies, and it was a rough time at first. Some days are still rough. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, though. Doodlebug can spend hours drawing and writing her own stories. She has decimated my supply of spiral notebooks, but that’s okay. I’ll just keep buying more. For both of us.

– Kathy

Meet the Moms

Who are we and who do we think we are, having time to blog?

My name is Tiffany. I am married to Dreamy. We have two children, Princess Slim, seven, and Señor Lunchbox, three. I am originally from a tiny town in Illinois but have lived in and around Washington, DC for more years than I care to count.  I work full-time outside the home.

Not surprisingly, my introverted self struggles mightily with working, commuting, and child-raising. Not to mention being a wifefriendauntcousinsisterdaughter. The old saying about being ‘spread thin’ sums up how I feel every. single. day.

Thus my purposes for blogging are twofold. First, to build a community of similarly-situated introverted moms facing these kinds of challenges who can not only commiserate but share coping strategies as well, ‘cuz sometimes I’m not so good with the coping. Second, to try and reclaim some of the creativity I had before the responsibilities of being a full-time everything hit. Plus, true to my introverted self, I prefer writing about things rather than discussing them in person. Unless you are my therapist, to whom I pay a shit ton of money for the privilege of listening to me babble.

Fair warning: I swear a lot. If you are sensitive to that you might want to stick to Kathy’s posts. I also like Jay-Z, all things British, and making labels.

KathyI’m Kathy, and I do too curse, but only if I’m really mad at you. Or tired. Or if I haven’t been getting enough downtime.

I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life, currently with my husband (iDad) and our seven-year-old daughter (Doodlebug). For the past ten years I’ve done some variation of working from home – first as a writer, then as a mom, and now as a mom struggling to find a good balance between writing time and family time.

You know Hermione, from the Harry Potter books? When in doubt, go the library? That’s me, too – but nothing I read in all those parenting books prepared me for the collision between my introverted personality and the intense experience of being responsible for a whole other person. Someone should be writing about this, I told Tiffany. Maybe we should be writing about this. So here we are.

P.S. Do you like Nutella? Okay, good. I think we’re all going to get along just fine.