You’re not alone in feeling depleted as an introverted parent — but taking care of yourself is taking care of your kids, and everyone will be better off for it.
Have you ever Googled “self-care for parents” and rolled your eyes at all the out-of-reach suggestions? So much of what is talked about in the self-care world feels super impractical for the season of life with little kids at home. Spa days? Weekends with the girls (or guys)? I don’t even have time for long leisurely baths (an actual suggestion I found in a popular parenting magazine).
If you’re looking for something more practical and something to address the needs of introverted parents, then you’re in the right place. Here are 15 realistic self-care tips for introverted parents of young kids. I actually prefer to call them “survival tips,” as that’s what we’re all trying to do, right?
15 Survival Tips for Introverted Parents of Young Kids
1. Put on clean clothes each morning.
They don’t have to be fancy, especially if you’re hanging out with the kids at home or going to the park. No need to pretend to be Carrie Bradshaw in Manolo Blahniks. Just stop wearing the same peanut-butter-smeared sweatshirt you’ve had on for three days (not that anyone is counting).
2. If you can manage to wake up before your kids, great! But don’t try to cram all-the-things into this time.
Take 15 minutes to sit alone with your coffee (or morning beverage of choice) and just soak in the quiet alone time (such a rarity for us moms!). Ditch the 15-step morning routine and allow yourself to do the one thing you need most: absolutely nothing, all by yourself.
3. Be ready to take advantage of quiet moments that show up throughout the day.
I’m telling you, this tip is important! Whenever quiet moments come up, embrace them — whether the kids are finally napping at the same time or they finally figured out independent play for five minutes. Capitalize on the quiet moments by sitting down to breathe, preferably in a different room, and not tackling your to-do list. (It can wait, I promise!)
4. Play with your kids and call it a workout.
You probably won’t get a quiet 30 minutes to practice yoga in peace every day. So turn on the “good mood” Spotify playlist and have a dance party with the kids. (Pro tip: Do this pre-nap time so they can get their energy out and sleep well, which will hopefully give you a bit of a much-needed break!)
5. Eat and drink for energy.
Look, having young kids and not getting the alone time you need is draining (to say the least). Do what you can to keep your energy levels up so you don’t completely burn out. One way to do that is to drink more water, snack on fruit, and eat nutrient-dense meals (which is exactly what it sounds like). You can even try a meal kit service if it’s easier — it doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. You can also try keeping a food-and-mood journal to see the correlation between what you’re eating and how you’re feeling. Speaking of which…
6. Eat when the kids eat.
It’s so easy to get caught up in feeding the kids and running around getting “more yogurt please” and picking up all the frozen waffle pieces your kid threw off his high chair… that you forget to eat something yourself. Hunger is not your friend, especially as an introvert who needs all the help she can get managing all this human interaction. After all, you don’t want to get “hangry” (hungry + angry).
7. Let others help — though I know it’s hard to depend on others (or even ask).
Yes, even though we’re introverts, we still need people. Make friends with other moms and dads who have kids your age and plan play dates or swap babysitting days so you can have some time for yourself. Ask for help from family, too (if you have them close by) and don’t feel guilty about letting someone else enjoy your little ones for a few hours, so you can sleep or finally shower or just stare at the wall.
8. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
I rolled my eyes at this when I first had kids and, to some degree, it’s true that you can’t always sleep when the baby (or toddler) sleeps. But you can sometimes. Sometimes you can let the laundry pile up and allow the toys to cover every inch of the carpet, so that you, sweet mama, can doze on the couch for half an hour. Sleep deprivation will make all your wonderful introverted qualities turn into raging monsters — you have no idea how fast I can go from calm, quiet, and intuitive to fly-off-the-handle loud when I haven’t slept enough — so get a little shut-eye whenever you can.
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9. Get a hobby (and I don’t mean scrolling social media).
You might think you don’t have time, but delete Instagram from your phone and you’ll learn real quick that you have more time than you thought. Did you know you can learn to knit while you sit with your kids in the living room and watch Frozen for the 142nd time? Or reconnect with your love of painting while your toddler colors all over the dining room table? Occupy your mind with something that brings you joy. It will go a long way in keeping you off the track to burnout.
10. Don’t forget the little things, like washing your face and brushing your teeth (I mean, when was the last time you showered, anyway?).
It sounds simple, but it took me a long time to realize that the kids can wait (safely in their beds) for five more minutes while I go to the bathroom to get myself ready for the day (the bare minimum version of “ready,” that is). Relish those five quiet moments. While you’re at it, take a few deep breaths.
11. Learn the art of relaxation, whether it’s deep breathing, meditation, or something else.
I came across this really simple, but incredibly effective, technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. You basically move through every muscle group in your body, tightening each and then relaxing it, until your whole body has softened and released tension. There’s a great step-by-step explanation of it here, and once you get the hang of it, you can literally practice this anywhere, anytime (even while your toddler requests a third viewing of The Little Mermaid and your daredevil 18-month-old is climbing onto the dining room table). Whether you try this technique or do another, like meditation, the key is to do something — anything — relaxing.
12. Cancel your weekend plans… right now!
It’s so easy to overload your weekends with the kids’ activities and get stuck on the go-go-go hamster wheel. But too much activity on the weekends means you’ll begin your week feeling depleted, which is never a stellar start. So maybe you can’t cancel all of your weekend plans all of the time, but you can scale back or choose just one or two weekends a month to say no to invites and activities.
13. Find opportunities for real, adult conversations.
Small talk (and baby talk) is not an introvert’s favorite thing. In fact, it’s one thing that can drain us completely, if not just drive us crazy. Connecting with other moms on the playground can lead us straight to Small-Talk-Ville if we’re not careful. So be intentional — be the weirdo who asks personal questions in your mom group (odds are, they, too, are looking for deeper talk than you can get with a two-year-old).
14. Schedule “quiet time” into your daily routine.
If your child is in the baby stages, this “quiet time” will probably be during their nap time. Or if they’re a toddler, entering that horrifying “I don’t want to nap anymore” phase, then this is when you want to replace it with quiet time. They can read or play quietly or have half an hour of screen time. It might not work perfectly every time, or even right away. But keep at it and soon enough it will become routine, and you can take advantage of that quiet time to recharge each day.
15. Talk about your need for alone time with your kids.
Explain to them that mommy needs some quiet time or a few moments alone to feel her best. If your kids are introverts, they’ll relate and grow up knowing how to ask for the alone time they need. If they’re extroverts, they’ll learn to respect other people’s boundaries (even if they don’t need the same things). Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Play the long game here and involve them in your process of self-care and survival as an introverted parent. It will pay dividends down the road.
Hopefully, you can find a few things here that will help you manage as an introverted parent of little kids. You’re not alone in feeling depleted and touched out by the end of the day (or even by 10 a.m., let’s be honest). But there are things you can do and they’re worth the effort, believe me. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your kids, and everyone will be better off for it.