I’ve lately been contemplating the quandary that is parenting while being an introvert. It turns out that if you google it, there’s an avalanche of blogs and literature out there already about this phenomenon. I read a few and while not all points resonate with me, many also hit painfully close to home. (“You love watching your kids play. You don’t necessarily love playing with them” was a real kick in the gut.)
I mean, I’ve always known that I’m more of an introvert. I don’t like big parties. I don’t like a lot of noise. I would rather hang out with a few good friends in someone’s house drinking tea or cocktails than go out to a bar. I find it easy to get lost in my own head for hours, get lost in a book, get lost in the silence of being alone in my house.
Or at least, I used to, until I helped create another human who is entirely dependent on me. Sure, at the age of four I can now admonish him that he knows how to turn the bathroom light and go to the toilet by himself, but let’s face it, he’s still stuck to me like snot most of the time. If it’s not something he needs, then it’s something he wants.
And what do I want? I want time alone to get lost in my own head. It’s restorative. It’s also a bit addictive for someone like me, so the more I get it, the more I want to keep having it, especially now that it’s become the ultimate luxury.
What’s worse is when you’ve two introverts in one relationship. If it’s not just me that feels this way, that means there are two adults in this house with a four year old that want time to be by themselves to regain sanity, and that means weekends aren’t about resting and relaxing. Weekends are about surviving. It’s no wonder that almost no housework gets done for me on weekends without supreme effort. And the more stressed out one of us is about something, the harder it is to cope without that space to be alone, and the harder it is to be a functional parent able to offer quality interaction with their child.
I’m not having much luck in that department right now. Sometimes if I’ve been away from the house for a bit and I come back home, I see The Mister down on the playmat, assembling some Lego creation with Hawkeye or playing with the giant zoological assembly of plastic animals that we have (the word brachiosaurus is now a common one around the house). What do I do when I’m on my own with Hawkeye these days? Well, it’s generally one of three things – I will read books to him if I have the patience, or else we’ll head out to do some shopping or errands if I have the energy, because keeping him distracted out of the house is easier than in the house, or if I have neither the patience nor the energy, I will admit to turning on “the third parent” and hiding out under a blanket on the couch. What I really crave when things get like this is a solid week by myself in the house during the day. I sometimes even weight up the costs and benefits of taking a week’s annual leave just to spend time at home on my own in the house.
The problem with all of this is that after a while you start to drown in the guilt of feeling like an awful parent. It’s not possible to interact with other parents and not be exposed to the expectation that you should love spending all your time with your child. Anything else is frowned upon. Apparently, not being able to spend day after day talking about your kid’s toys and his world of make-believe makes you a defective parent in society’s books. There’s an expression Hawkeye has that I am coming to loathe which is “but I want to do something fuuuuuuuuun….” This is something that can be said after he’s been playing with Lego non-stop for an hour, or even just spent two hours running around like mad at a birthday party. What he means when he whines about doing something fuuuuuuun is that he wants to do something fun with someone. Preferably mommy or daddy. Hearing this sentence is now like a Pavlovian trigger of simultaneous guilt, heartbreak, anger, and frustration. “Sorry, mommy can’t right now. Mommy needs some alone time.” isn’t something that a four year old really understands.
I don’t have an answer to this problem, at least yet. Yeah I try to make time for myself etc, but sometimes life just won’t stop long enough for you to recharge your “dealing with people” battery, much less your “dealing with small people” battery. Instead I fall back on the balm of repeating “this too shall pass” to myself while I half-heartedly wave a plastic rhino around in a mock-duel with a …. *squints at the other animal*… a quetzalcoatlus. One is the “goodie” and one is the “baddie” but I can’t remember which one is which because, as my son constantly reminds me, he’s the boss of this game and the rules keep changing on me.
Repeat with me. This too shall pass.