To have a steady stream of people coming through our home would add stress, not reduce it.
I’m an introvert married to another introvert, and our kids are on the introvert spectrum. Because of that, we do things differently compared to more extroverted families. We tend to stay home more, for example, and we tend to do more as a family, rather than as part of a larger group of people.
As our kids grow up, I’ve had to think about what this means for our family. My oldest child is in her tweens, and I’m beginning to consider how we’ll navigate the coming teenage years, specifically in terms of our introversion. One piece of advice I’ve repeatedly heard is that wise parents of teens should open their homes to their kids’ friends, turning their houses into popular neighborhood hangout spots. This way, they can monitor their kids’ activities and know who their friends are.
It’s a great idea, and I know and admire families in my community who do it. I imagine a warm, happily chaotic scene in which my soon-to-be-teen children and their groups of friends chat and laugh in our kitchen as I serve them pizza and freshly baked cookies, before they go down to our basement to watch movies and play board or video games in their own dedicated space, but with responsible adults just a flight of stairs away.
But recently, I’ve realized we’ll never be that type of parents. Here’s why.
Home Is Our Introverted Sanctuary
My husband and I are not the type of parents who are comfortable hosting large, impromptu gatherings of young people we don’t know well, or inviting them to make our home their home away from home. Our kids also aren’t the types who bring lots of friends home. Good friends can be hard to find, and my kids’ friendships go deep with just a few people rather than wide with many. On top of all that, we don’t have a lot of other kids living on our street, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it means we don’t have kids dropping by constantly.
We do host our kids’ friends at our house on occasion. I try hard to be warm and welcoming, and when our young guests wander into the kitchen, I listen to them, chat with them, and feed them.
After a while, though, I have to admit that I get tired of being “on.” Most of the time, our home is a much-needed private refuge for everyone in our family. We are thoughtful and deliberate about this, making sure there is plenty of time for rest, homework, creativity, reading, and just being.
Case in point: Last winter, my tween daughter invited two of her friends to come over after school on a scheduled Friday afternoon to hang out and eat dinner, with plans for their parents to pick them up later in the evening. However, a few days in advance of the play date, meteorologists began predicting measurable snowfall through the afternoon and evening hours that day. An inch of snow can make roads dicey where we live, and if we carried on with the play date, it was possible the other kids’ parents would not be able to pick up their kids when it ended.
I messaged my husband. “I’m wondering,” I said to him, “if we should reschedule the playdate. If not, are you okay with a couple of extra kids possibly spending the night at our house?”
My husband responded promptly. “Reschedule it.”
In the same winter-weather situation, I imagine what my extroverted friends would have said: “Oh, we’ll just have a sleepover if the weather gets bad. It’ll be fun!”
That isn’t us.
I contacted the parents and rescheduled for a week later. We are not against sleepovers for our kids, but we host them rarely and only with a select few close friends or relatives with whom we feel so comfortable that we can just be ourselves.
Our Choices Seem Odd When Viewed Through Extroverted Norms
Sometimes we feel like the world pushes against us. When we visit the pediatrician for annual checkups, they ask my kids a list of social and emotional development questions. It’s done with good intentions, but one question they sometimes ask makes me uneasy: “Do you have friends, and do you go to each other’s houses?”
I know what the “correct” answer they’re looking for is, and I think, “Well, shoot. Have we had any play dates recently so my kid can answer ‘yes’?”
I don’t like the implication that if we aren’t having kids over to our house that I’m falling short as a parent, or that my kids are at risk or broken, as though introversion were a medical problem that needs fixing. The question also fails to acknowledge other acceptable venues where social growth and interaction happen, such as school, church, organized sports, performing arts, or scouting.
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It’s Okay to Have Home Boundaries
But the longer I’m a parent, the less I worry about what other people think of us. I’m growing accustomed to opting out of some of society’s assumed expectations because I know what is good for my family. I trust our doctors to be knowledgeable about physical health issues, and I appreciate that mental health is getting the attention and respect it deserves these days, but I’m not sure a few brief questions on a form can accurately convey my family’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
I do know that my oldest child is happy when she can come home from school and have deep conversations with us about her day. My youngest child makes a beeline for her loft bed when she gets home from school, settling in with a pile of books and stuffed animals (and sometimes our cat). Our home is where our family goes at the end of the day to get away from it all and to have downtime. To have a steady stream of people coming through would add stress, not reduce it.
The families who do open up their homes are doing a good thing, and I love them for it. Kids and teens should have safe and supervised places to go. But our house will probably never be the cool hangout spot for all of the local teens. We’re just not those kind of people, and that’s okay.
If you’re an introverted parent who feels bad about not opening up your home, don’t. It is just as important for teens to have quiet places of retreat, too. Your kids need a place to recharge, to process the events of the day, and to pursue quiet personal interests and hobbies.
Don’t worry. Your kids will be all right.