- You enjoy having time to yourself.
- Your best thinking occurs when you’re alone.
- You lead best when others are self-starters.
- You prefer not to engage with people who seem angry or upset.
In other words, you might be an introvert if everything involved in parenting absolutely wears you out. This is particularly true during the baby and toddler stages, when kids are at an especially exhausting combination of dependent-on-you and louder-than-you’d-ever-imagined-possible. Until they’re old enough to start school, giving you some much needed recharge time, I’ve discovered five hacks that can help you through the day.
1. Re-evaluate Alone Time
A few years ago, my New Year’s resolution — and I’m totally serious — was to quit the gym. Why? Because going to the gym meant being surrounded by people, noise, glaring nights, and superficial conversations. I dreaded it. I knew it was time to leave when I almost had a knockout brawl with a woman standing so close to me in Zumba class that her sweaty arm kept rubbing against me mid-dance move.
Fast forward three years. Workouts in the privacy of my own living room had turned into mayhem: cats rubbing against my face, children pulling at my clothes and whining. It had simply become easier to skip working out altogether. Then I realized that escaping to the gym, where I could disappear into a pair of headphones and an elliptical machine, or into a yoga class where everyone is held to the confines of their own rubber mat, could double as both exercise and recharge time. Whereas the bustle of a noisy gym used to drain me, I now find that the commotion gives me something into which I can anonymously escape. (But there’s still no amount you could pay me to squeeze myself into another Zumba class.)
2. Reduce Visual Clutter
Anyone with a baby knows that when you have a baby, you don’t just have a baby. You have a baby, and a carseat, and a stroller, and a crib, and a pack n’ play, and an activity gym, and a playmat, and a high chair, and an exersaucer… the list goes on until your house feels like it might rip apart at the corners from the sheer strain of it all. Especially for highly sensitive introverts, to whom visual clutter and overstimulation are not friends, all-things baby can get out of hand, and fast.
And unfortunately, most of the baby gear from easily accessible retailers tends to feature garish, sense-assaulting color schemes that make it hard for introvert selves to enjoy the sense of order and peacefulness that our busy minds crave. My house was full of these neon colors, flashing lights, and incessantly beeping toys with my first baby, and I constantly felt overwhelmed and stressed.
With my second baby, I invested in a few key pieces that have helped to curb the overstimulation I used to feel. Although they may be a little harder to find, pieces like this simple white high chair, these play mats and these that could pass as tasteful area rugs, and this classic, charming activity gym make time in my own home feel calming instead of crushing.
3. Don’t Put Off Leaving the House
Many of the introvert coping mechanisms that I embraced back when I was childless (namely, declining social events and staying home whenever possible) are no longer options. Kids make it necessary to leave the house on the regular, whether for a trip to the doctor’s office, a friend’s birthday party, a ballet class, or even just to the park to wear out some energy.
Back in B.C. time (Before Children), I would often wait until the last possible minute to get ready and leave for any engagements, delaying the inevitable as long as I could. Now A.C. (After Children), I’ve found that the longer we wait to walk out the door, the more chaos, yelling, and stress I experience, before even arriving at our destination.
To ensure we get wherever we’re going as refreshed and charged as possible, I like to add an extra forty-five minutes to our pre-departure schedule. This gives me time to calmly handle any surprise baby needs like diaper emergencies, to gently wake my toddler who rouses much happier with a calm voice than a panicked plea, and to triple-check my daily to-do lists to put my mind at ease.
4. Wake Up Early
I’m not an early bird by any means, so this is the advice I struggle with the most, even though it’s proved the most helpful to me. When you are a parent — especially if you’re a stay at home parent of children not yet in school — you are almost never alone, a crippling problem for most introverts. As a result, you have to work hard to carve out and protect your recharge time, and possibly the best way to do this is to wake up before anyone else in the house.
Sip your coffee in silence, read a book in bed, even get some laundry running if that might help get you in the right frame of mind for the day. Whatever you do, make sure to consciously savor the quiet of your usually bustling house (try to keep the background noise like television or talk radio to a minimum, unless you are personally recharged by those things — I won’t judge).
I’ve noticed that this trick doesn’t work as well when I try to capture my alone time at night after everyone else has gone to sleep, because I’m so worn out from the events of the day that this time doesn’t really feel rejuvenating. It’s like charging your iPhone — if it fully dies before you plug it into the charger, it spends an awful lot of time with that infuriating blank screen doing absolutely nothing before it’s able to run again. Better to start the day with a full battery.
5. Capsule Everything
This is the trendiest advice I can offer to a highly sensitive introvert. By now, you’ve probably heard about capsule wardrobes. The idea is to pare down your wardrobe to as few quality pieces as possible that all work together to simplify your morning routines and prevent decision fatigue before your day has even started.
But why stop with your wardrobe? Why not use this method with your baby and toddler? I’ve got bins and drawers and closets full of kids’ clothes, but we tend to keep pulling out the same few key pieces every week, simply because they’re the most comfortable, or the most loved, or the most stain-friendly.
So why do we keep the rest of it around? All it does is use up our decision making abilities and shelf space, and create loads of extra laundry. So purge it, and relish the freedom and extra brain power you’ll gain.
And while you’re at it, consider what might be referred to as a capsule set of toys, too. Stick to a few key, well displayed pieces (think of the Montessori method) to keep your life and home both kid- and introvert-friendly.
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Image credit: @crystalmariesing via Twenty20