As a mom and an introvert, I need these things more than ever. But my alone time these days is often bittersweet. Why? Because it’s usually laden with guilt.
Regular Alone Time Makes Us Better Moms
It’s a special type of guilt that only an introverted mom will understand. Sure, moms often feel guilt. We feel guilty about going to work, telling ourselves that we should be home for our children instead. We feel guilty when we can’t afford to put them in the expensive extracurricular activities that they constantly request. Guilt when we give them take-out for dinner for the second time in a week.
As introverts, we also feel guilty when we take time to recharge.
Yes, I know every parent needs and deserves time to recharge (even extroverts!), but as an introvert, I need more of this time than my non-introverted friends — and I need it more frequently, just to stay sane.
As a young adult with no kids (and few responsibilities), getting alone time was pretty easy. It’s no wonder that I didn’t understand how introverted I was until I became a parent. In fact, I’ve become more introverted since becoming a mom.
But here’s the thing. If we ensure that our recharge time is a regular part of our lives, we will actually be better parents. We will be able to give more to our children. We will be more present and engaged when we are with them.
Personally, I go for a run or walk every day, by myself. If for whatever reason that’s not possible, I’ll grab at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted time alone without my kids. Sometimes it’s a matter of asking my husband to take them for a walk, and sometimes it’s just the 10 minutes late at night before I turn the light out. Spending time alone is crucial to me succeeding at this parenting thing.
5 Ways to Banish Guilt
I know that this guilt doesn’t serve me well. When I feel guilty, I never recharge fully. I come back from my alone time feeling unsatisfied and resentful. It’s a vicious cycle.
In my experience, here are five ways introverted parents can mitigate the guilt:
1. Talk to yourself like your best friend would. You know what he or she would say, right? “You deserve this, you are a great mom who gives so much to her children. Enjoy the workout/movie/trip to the library!”
2. Explain your need for alone time to your children. I often find that if I let my kids know why I need downtime, they are less inclined to make a big deal over me leaving (a crying 4-year-old is a great instigator for guilt). Of course, it depends on the age of your children, although it may help if you take this definition and put it in your own words. Also, try talking to them about something you have planned to do with them after your alone time (or anytime in the near future). This does two things: It takes the focus off you leaving, and reminds you that you are coming back to give more of yourself to them later!
3. Mindfully and consciously leave the guilt at the gate. As you walk out the front door, on your way to a solo shopping trip or a stroll through the neighborhood, acknowledge the guilt. Stare it straight in the face and tell it (nicely) that you appreciate it popping in to say hello, but you are not taking it with you. Tell it that you will attend to it when you get back, but right now, you refuse to bat an eyelash in its direction!
4. Make your alone time regular. If you only do it once a month, then it will be foreign to you and your family. The more you practice getting this recharge time, the easier it will become. And ultimately, you’ll feel less guilt. It will become a habit, an important ritual, and there won’t be any room for guilt.
5. If you can’t leave the house, get up early (or stay up late). So far, I’ve referred to alone time as out-of-the-house time. But sometimes that’s simply not possible. Many introverts are single parents (and honestly, you deserve a freakin’ medal) and cannot afford to pay a babysitter. One solution? Get up early. Again, your ability to do this may depend on the ages of your children. Start with just 10-15 minutes. Enjoy a pot of tea in silence. Do some stretching or read a book — alone. You won’t get there every morning. Some mornings, your preschooler will wake up the moment you slip out of bed. But a few mornings a week will add up to an hour of alone time.
Parenting as an introvert is hard. It can be the biggest source of struggle, but it can also be a source of immense growth.
When we engage in this type of self-care, we are teaching our children an important lesson. We are teaching them that they are not the only thing in our world. I want my girls to grow up knowing how to take care of themselves so they can take care of others.
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