Hey introvert mamma, this post is for you...
I disappear sometimes. Not physically of course. I have too much responsibility for that. But if you look me in the eyes...there are days you would know that I'm shrinking...my soul is shriveling. It has always happened to me. My mom has told me for as long as I can remember, that I do "too much." It's my pattern. I adopt full and busy patterns of achievement. And I always run out of energy. I'm not afraid to slow down, anxious about boredom, or nervous about silence. Rather, it is just a way that God has made me. That is, driven and introverted.
There is widespread misconception about introverts. Introverts get stereotyped as quiet, snobbish, shy, hard to get to know and most of all, not people-persons. Extroverts, by contrast, are fun, talkative and outward. These stereotypes lead to misunderstandings and mislabeling by others and also by ourselves. Some people assume that introverts truly have less to say and are on some level less interesting than the more outward counterparts...but there it is again, the tendency to see only extroverts as outward. It is this one mis-conception that would cause most people to mis-label me as an extrovert. In the past year, I have been learning about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the tendencies that come with the 8 letters that identify different preferences related to personality types of people. There is always a danger of putting people in boxes when using diagnostic type personality profiles. However, with proper use of something like the MBTI and regular reminders that no personality type is identical to another (even when letters match), these types of indicators can be helpful to understand general personal tendencies and lead to greater self-awareness. It has been a really helpful exercise to raise my own sense of awareness of how I operate in my relationships with others (family, friends, co-workers, the team I lead, my boss).
One of the most helpful things I have learned is how important it is for introverts to find a way to re-charge. As Jeremie Kubicek puts it, extroverts are solar powered and introverts are battery powered. While extroverts re-charge by being with people (this too has a limit for most), introverts re-charge by plugging in. This means retreating to an internal world which can be sleep, exercise, a great book, a quiet trip to Target (alone)...or pretty much any life-giving (fairly solitary) activity. And here is the kicker, introverts need to do this every single day.
One of the books I read this year is called 5 Gears. The topic of the book is how to be present with people while maintaining productivity. One of the bedrock principles of this book is that in order to be both present and productive, I must be charged every day. If I think about my emotional/spiritual/intellectual capacity as a cell-phone battery, I have to plug myself in...every single day, just like I do my phone. The author argues that it would be lunacy to get mad at our cell phone and simply demand more from a dead battery. However, this is exactly what we do with our souls. No matter if you are a stay at home mom or a leave to work mom, there are demands that you do it all. We are under insufferable pressure to give to every person and every task in front of us. Therein lies the temptation to demand more from our battery than it was designed to give.
When I was single, my under-cover introvert survival tactics worked out well. I lived by myself and was completely in charge of my time. Therefore, when I needed to re-charge, I simply went home to the bliss of restorative quiet. I'm not even sure I was consciously re-charging. It was just the way I had structured my life for as long as I had remembered. When I was dating my husband, I remember one of the legitimate thought processes I had about the goodness and longevity of our relationship was that I enjoyed being with him as much as being by myself. (Hmm, I really like this guy, and I don't ever really want him to go away...romantic right?).
But mothering has brought about a beastly task for me to navigate as it relates to battery management. With kids, there seems to be no time at all for quiet. No time at all for solitary soul care. No time for re-charge. The survival techniques that allowed me to retreat as a single person or a young married just don't exist in the reality of motherhood. There are always sweet little hands to hold or bottoms to wipe. There are questions to answer and lessons to teach. There are clothes to fold and stories to read. All the spaces that used to exist for me are taken up...with almost all good things. It is hard to see my own soul as one that should be tended. However, I'm looking into the tired eyes of a woman who desperately needs to know that she has permission to refuel.
I don't have this re-charge/motherhood thing figured out yet. And I still crash sometimes. But I know the issue and I am finally giving myself permission to fight for my own highest good among the priorities of my life. I know that a dead battery and hollow eyes are not a gift I give to anyone. And I'm learning to give myself permission to care for me so I can be a present kind of mamma that I want to be. Maybe someone else needed to read this too. Go ahead introverted mamma, plug-in to a life-giving space, you are worth the investment.