Making a Case for ‘Quiet’ Parenting as an Introvert

A quiet introverted parent takes a walk with her son

As an introverted parent, try to cultivate quietness in your kids where you can, through reading, spending time in nature, or even a car ride.

As the pain of the contraction subsided, the doula asked if I was a singer. “No,” I answered, wondering what I must sound like to prompt that question. Then the next contraction obliterated all my thoughts. As I had been doing for the past few hours, I closed my eyes, grabbed my husband’s hand and my doula’s hand, and moaned with them, drowning out the pain with our voices. 

Given that I’m an introvert, this was not how I expected to behave during labor.

In the weeks leading up to my due date, I was equally scared of a few things: the pain of contractions, the large epidural needle, and being the center of attention. Now, as the contractions peaked and I tried to cope, I suddenly found myself making sounds. Somehow, the intensity of the sounds matched and diminished the intensity of the contractions. So I moaned during each contraction — apparently somewhat like an opera singer — and made it through without an epidural.

Welcome to the World of Introverted Parenting, My Son

Not being able to think or speak in words during the contractions gave me a small taste of what my son must have been going through during his first moments — having no choice but to cry out to express his needs and interact with the world.

I’m most comfortable communicating in well-planned words. A thoughtful response in conversation, a carefully crafted email, or even a presentation I’ve spent lots of time planning for and preparing. But meticulously planning your words is a luxury that isn’t always possible — and it can easily veer into overthinking (which we introverts know all too well). Sometimes an unselfconscious gut reaction is just what you need.

After giving birth, I was relieved to return to the world of language and to my normal quiet self. But I brought two realizations back with me. I can be really loud when necessary. And it’s that introverted way of processing the world, experiencing the building intensity of the contractions and taking the time to consider whether or not to get an epidural, that led to all that noise.

Learning to Embrace the Noise                  

It turns out that was all good training for being a mom. My older son is now four and I also have a one-year-old son. I am living in a surround sound environment of constant laughing, crying, whining, singing, questioning, and answering. The only way to get through is to match their outward exuberance with my own.

I spend most of my time with my sons running on instinct, blowing raspberries, making silly faces, answering questions about electricity and dinosaurs, going out in the rain to jump in puddles, serving dinner, getting them to bed, and then collapsing. There’s not a lot of time to reflect while they’re awake. It’s exhausting, but also helps balance my tendency to think (and overthink).

My older son has a strong extroverted side. I once watched him recruit nearly every kid on the playground into his imaginary game, assigning roles and dictating signs for older kids to write with sidewalk chalk. He’s just as comfortable speaking to adults, asking random people in our building’s lobby whether they own a Tesla (something we see on our daily walk to the bus stop) or whether the clothes in their laundry basket are dirty or clean.

When I return to my apartment each morning to work from home after dropping the kids off at school and daycare, it’s like entering an alternate quiet universe. A full day of demanding work doubles as a chance to recharge, but it’s not always enough. I often stay up way too late after everyone’s asleep and the chores are done so I can simply exist on my couch — my coveted alone time — the only stimulation whatever I can see by the light of one dim lamp.

All parents need a break, but introverts can become particularly drained by the constant conversation and chaos that is parenting. Often, that conversation is delightful: Saying “Tweet, tweet” with my one-year-old while he flies around a Big Bird doll and tries to mimic the sound or talking with my older son about how excited he is to ride the escalator at the mall or hearing his daily recap of school and all the pre-K drama of who got to be line leader.

But when the spirited play turns into yelling or the insightful questions turn into repeated “Why”s that can’t be answered, I try to find ways to channel their energy into something a little less stimulating (i.e., quiet) — and more rewarding for everyone.

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Trying to Find the Quiet Moments as Much as Possible

I’ll never replicate the quiet of sitting up at 1 a.m. reading, but I try to cultivate quietness in my kids where I can. At their age, reading is essential. I keep the kids’ books on a low shelf they can reach and offer a range of stories, from quiet classics like Frog and Toad to superheroes like Spider-Man. When my sons ask for storytime, or when my older son independently decides to “read” to himself, I feel like I’ve won a point for Team Quiet. 

Spending time in nature also helps kids slow down and helps us all recharge. When we’re walking in the forest, the whole family naturally becomes more quiet, with questions about animals, ponds, and leaves punctuating the silence. The quiet appreciation of nature even follows us home. When the moon is out, my son will call me over to the window and ask me to sit with him and watch the sky.

Going for a drive is another way to make quiet time happen. When I was a kid, I loved looking at the scenery during a sunny drive or watching the way raindrops merged and slid down the car window. Now, I observe how my son relaxes as soon as he gets in his cozy car seat and we start moving. Often, as we approach our building after returning from a trip, he’ll ask if we can keep driving for a while down a scenic street in our neighborhood. Although he can’t articulate it, I think it’s his way of acknowledging the special quiet of a car ride and asking for more. 

Wherever my sons end up on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, I hope I’m able to impart what I’ve learned — by both giving birth and raising them. Processing the world in a certain way doesn’t always need to lead to the same result. You can watch the raindrops through the window and dance in the rain. Those varied experiences can deepen your understanding of yourself and your connection to those you love, introverts and extroverts alike.

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