The Survival Skills an Introvert Needs in a Family of Extroverts
Since the extroverts will always want to go to the party, I remind myself that my needs as an introvert are just as important as their needs.
Earlier this year, I took my then-10-month-old to a baby and toddler music class. The parents sat in a circle, while the toddlers ran back and forth between songs, and the babies sat happily on their caretakers’ laps, snuggling into chests when things got too loud.
There was only one exception to this scene — my daughter — who was systematically crawling from person to person and pulling herself onto each adult’s shoulders to look them in the eyes and smile. While everyone laughed, my belly dropped with the realization: I have another extrovert!
I’m the Sole Introvert in a Family of Extroverts
I am already the mother of an extremely extroverted five-year-old and equally extroverted husband. He’s the kind of man who happily approaches lost-looking tourists and offers to help them find their way.
I thought perhaps my second child would be more like me, and crave quiet and solitude. While she displays normal attachment traits, as long as a caretaker is nearby, there is nothing she likes more than getting to meet other people.
Now that I have confirmed that I am the sole introvert in my little family, I am doing what I can to care for myself while also respecting the needs of my family. I’ve also been recognizing the perks of such a family, and am sharing my “survival skills” below in case you’re in a similar situation.
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4 Survival Skills an Introvert Needs in a Family of Extroverts
1. Remember, you have different needs — and it’s your job to be clear about them.
As an introvert, I need to remember that my family won’t view everything the same way that I do. If I receive an invitation to an event that sounds draining, my impulse is to immediately decline. I have to remind myself that something like a child’s birthday party or a coworker’s going-away party — both of which sound like pure torture — are actually really appealing to the extroverts in my family. So I need to actually see if they want to go…
And they always want to go.
While I can’t yet fully expect this consideration from my children, this goes both ways in my marriage — and my husband would never accept an invitation without running it by me first. Being clear about your needs as an introvert, and remembering that your family members may see the world differently, is key to surviving in an extroverted family.
2. Define your boundaries, because your needs are just as important as their needs.
Living in a household of extroverts means boundaries are essential. Since I know the extroverts will always want to go to the party, I remind myself my needs are just as important as theirs. I don’t need to worry that I am a “party pooper” just because I want to leave a party earlier than they do. This may mean giving my son advanced warning that we will be leaving early. Or having a plan to walk my daughter outside for her nap (or maybe even taking her home at nap time).
I remind my husband that I will probably require some recharge time afterward, so we should not make other plans for the day (ideally, for the month). Even the most extroverted five-year-old can benefit from downtime after a day’s worth of stimulating events. I remind myself that while I am meeting my own needs, my family is benefiting as well.
3. Learn to love their extrovert energy. You have to admit that it can be infectious!
I won’t lie: My son’s, and now my daughter’s, extroversion — while often tiring — can also be a bit infectious. I’ve learned to love their extrovert energy. We have a 15-minute walk to and from school, and most days, this involves my son yelling “Salut!” (“Hello!”) at everyone we pass.
Just watching it can be draining, but one day, I finally decided to ask him why he does this. “It makes them smile when I say hi, Mommy, and that makes them happy and me happy.” It’s hard to argue with a five-year-old who is just trying to brighten a stranger’s day.
4. Give yourself permission to take breaks, even if it means extra screen time for your kids.
In my household, I know the most stressful part of the day is going to be between school/daycare pickup and bedtime. It’s just a few hours, but is filled with forced interaction with parents and teachers, two children that are often overstimulated, tired, and hungry, and not much of a break till bedtime.
While I can usually tag out with my husband for mornings and weekends, I am usually flying solo in the afternoon/evenings. One of the best things I have begun doing is giving myself permission to take a break, physically and emotionally. I do my best to make sure that I am not moving right from a work commitment to school pickup; instead, I schedule in at least a few minutes to sit in silence or do some movement activity that is just for me. This alone time is crucial.
Sometimes this means my son stays at after-school care and my daughter stays later than usual at daycare. At first, I felt guilty not picking them up the moment I was done with work. But I’ve come to embrace this time and remind myself that they are always just as happy at whatever time I arrive. (And my eldest never complains about having more time with his friends!)
On days when I don’t have this break, I grant myself permission to put the five-year-old in front of the TV and the baby in her playpen. Every afternoon period doesn’t need to be a trip to the playground or a Pinterest-inspired activity. This may look different to you — perhaps it’s asking a parent (or hiring a babysitter) for a break in the middle of the week. Or perhaps it’s extra screen time.
Whatever it is, taking time for a quiet recharge is always beneficial — and ideally includes silence from that little voice in your head telling you you need to feel guilty. (You don’t!)
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
Benefits From Being the Only Introvert in a Family of Extroverts
You can send the extrovert out into the world on your behalf.
Living with a family of extroverts isn’t all bad — I like to focus on the positives, too.
As an extrovert, the things I dread aren’t always so bad for my spouse, so I can pass them on to him. This is certainly the case for the “parents must stay” birthday parties. While I don’t think a five-year-old’s birthday is the top of either of our list of ideas for ideal Sunday activities, my husband knows that if I go, I will be miserable — not just while I am there, but also completely depleted on the way home. So he often completes this particular parenting task.
The fact that your partner, or other family members, can handle some of your more dreaded tasks is a priceless benefit to living in an extroverted family.
Embrace the (lack of) separation anxiety.
I can’t lie and say that my children have never experienced separation anxiety. In fact, both of them have gone through stages where they didn’t want to be separated from me or their father at school, daycare, or camp. This would often happen during developmentally typical life stages and high-stress moments.
Yet, for the most part, we’ve been very blessed that their desire to meet new people outweighs their fear of separation. When my son started maternelle school (pre-school) at age two-and-a-half, we arrived early and waited outside the school. We were surrounded by crying toddlers, understandably nervous about starting school.
And then my son started crying — not about leaving us, but because the doors of the school weren’t open yet. The minute they did, he ran off ahead and asked us to leave so he could play. My husband and I got to spend the planned acclimation period drinking coffee at a nearby cafe.
Finding Balance, and Acceptance, as the Sole Introvert
I am never going to be one of those mothers who loves the chaos that comes from children, especially extroverted ones. Sometimes I look at more introverted families and wonder what it would be like to have a whole family that could happily spend a weekend doing quiet solo activities. (And I’ve spent more time than I care to mention wishing I could be one of those parents that can happily laugh about a non-stop day filled with social commitments and too much noise.)
Yet to be that person, I would have to stop being me, and I play an important role in my family — an amazing introverted mother who balances the extroverted energy that would otherwise be running free.
And, to be honest, for all its noise and chaos, I wouldn’t choose anything different from what I have. Sometimes I just have to laugh and acknowledge the universe sent my wonderful extroverted husband to me, in order to help me discover new people and things. We made two amazing kids who push my limits but also teach me so much about connecting with others.
Plus, my children have enough extroverted energy that no one minds when I sometimes need to sneak away and enjoy some introverted moments. My best advice? Find them where you can — and use them… for your extroverted child will want to play again at any moment.
You might like:
- What I Am Teaching My Extroverted Child About Introverts
- How Introverts Can Establish Boundaries With Extroverted Family Members
- 8 Confessions of an Introvert Living in a World Made for Extroverts
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