The Perks and Challenges of Being an Introverted Single Parent

A single father high-fives his daughter

As an introverted single parent, you get to do things at your own pace and truly savor the precious moments with your kid.

Parenting as an introvert is hard enough, especially if you throw an extroverted child or partner into the mix. Presumably, single parenting as an introvert is at least twice as hard… Or is it?

Society likes to believe that single parents have it much tougher than coupled-up parents on all dimensions of parenting, and to a large extent, they’re right. However, as an introvert who has experienced parenting both as part of a couple and on my own, the pains and perks have been surprising, to say the least.

So, without further ado, let’s get into the perks and challenges of single parenting as an introvert. I’m going to start with the latter — it’s best to get the “bad” news out of the way first, right?

(Please note that these are based on my personal experiences and don’t necessarily reflect the experiences of all introverted single parents. I also acknowledge that some of these points may be relevant to all parents, regardless of marital status.)

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5 Challenges of Being an Introverted Single Parent

1. Lack of personal space 

This single mama is all tapped out because she is constantly covered by hands and other body parts (not to mention bodily fluids) that are not her own. So if you miss all the personal space you once had, I get it!

2. Full-time “soccer mom” 

I have to show up for all soccer matches (faux-extroverting is much harder at 7 o’clock in the morning), birthday parties, and playdates. There’s no tag-teaming here. No partner to bribe/guilt-trip/threaten into attending in my place.

3. Full-time everything-else parent 

When I was in a relationship, I could sometimes outsource medical appointments, parent-teacher nights, and other such tasks to my extroverted partner, who genuinely enjoyed chatting to random people. But, once single, this all fell on me. 

It’s hard enough making small talk at the hair salon when I’m the one in the chair. But suddenly I also had to step into it when my child refused to answer the hairdresser’s routine questions about where he went to school, what he likes, what he dislikes, and so on.

And you’ll also have to attend school events alone. I still remember the fire-engine-red embarrassment of the impromptu “HI, MOMMY!” as people swiveled their heads to stare at me when I attended my child’s school concert — alone. At least when a similar previous incident occurred in the company of my (now ex-) husband and in-laws, the diluted attention kept my face a gentle shade of puce.

4. No sitting quietly on the bus or anonymously shopping for groceries 

My adorable little mini-me is waving madly at strangers and capturing attention left, right, and center. This sounds cute and fun in theory, but as an introvert with morning breath who is wearing the same thing I’ve worn all week, the last thing I want to do is make polite small talk when all I am there for is bread. Yes, she’s cute. Yes, she’s big for six months old. No, her hands are not too cold, she just hates wearing her gloves.

I’ve also had the experience of being recognized because of my child. She had made friends with other kids, their parents, and the workers at her daycare, so people I didn’t recognize constantly came up to us.

Similarly, maybe your baby or child is a little blunt… and a lot more blunt than you’d ever be. Nothing jolts you out of your introverted cocoon quite so swiftly as when your little accomplice has a huge public tantrum or asks inappropriate, loud questions like, “Mommy, does that man have a baby in his tummy?” At least if there was another parent present, you could share the social shame.

5. Sleep while the baby’s asleep? Yeah, right! 

For the little spare time a single parent has, introverts like me will need to deliberately carve out “me time,” no matter how bleary-eyed and exhausted they are. I’ve fallen short of the recommended eight-hours-a-night sleep for several years running, all for this precious time to myself.

But… as I mentioned above, there are several perks that come with being a single, introverted parent, too.

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5 Benefits of Being an Introverted Single Parent

1. Distant or absent in-laws, so you can do holidays on your own terms

Holidays can be tough for introverts. Every Christmas, I’m reminded of how lucky I am not to have to contend with awkward dinners with the in-laws, or fail the annual guessing-other-people’s-tastes game (my mother-in-law’s pursed smile suggested that she wasn’t totally pleased with the porcelain hippo I bought her, even though I could’ve sworn she said she liked hippos). These days, I love that the kids and I can celebrate Christmas on our own terms.

Even if your in-laws are still in the picture, they might dislike you just enough to only invite your kids, but not you, to family events. This is fine with me, as then I get little more than some awkward chit-chat at drop-off time.

2. More quality time for yourself 

While noting less me time as a challenge, one of the unexpected perks of single parenting is that the me time you do get is of higher quality and relatively guilt-free. Once your kid tasks are done, your time is completely yours. You don’t need to negotiate for it, nor do you have to field hurt glances from a partner who takes your need for solitude personally.

On a related point, I love coming home after a long day at work from being “on” and not having to speak to another adult. Which brings me to…

3. One less relationship to nurture 

As introverts, our social energy is limited, so I’m happy to spend as much of it as I can on my little ones and best friends. Throwing a partner into the mix, even a perfectly good one, adds considerably more time pressure, as well as obligations that are qualitatively different than those that bond a parent and child. This could potentially take away from the meaningful moments you get to enjoy with your child. Being a single parent allows you to savor these precious moments and to form a unique bond with your child that’s truly special.

4. People will cut you some slack 

Because I’m a single parent, there’s less pressure to join the PTA, fundraisers, or attend every parent-focused school event. After all, you don’t have a partner who can automatically babysit while you’re at the bake sale meeting… Other parents will cut you some slack (even if your people-pleasing nature feels guilty for not helping out).

5. Fewer houseguests

Okay, this is a weird one, as you’re likely to have less money as a single parent, and that’s not a good thing. However, the tiny trade-off is that hardly anyone wants to come to your house. As an introvert who has always hated hosting houseguests, including people I love, it’s great to have an excuse not to invite people over. Living in a tiny and unexciting house situated in a difficult-to-access outer suburb (the only place I could afford) has meant that people aren’t particularly enticed to visit our home or stay the night. (Do you want to sleep on the couch? Don’t mind the funny smells, we haven’t had a poo explosion in years.) 

Even the childrens’ friends think our house is boring and prefer to invite my kids to their place or somewhere neutral. I should be offended by this, but the introvert in me sees it as a victory.  

This can occasionally backfire, though, as there’s always that one person who’s so enthusiastic to see you (or just wants to save money on hotels) that they’ll happily accept the poo-couch. Cue a sudden reduction in personal space while you resentfully hold in gas and actually have to put on pants every day.

Now that we’ve gone over the challenges and benefits, let’s talk about how to better manage when you’re a single parent — and an introvert.

How to Cope When You’re a Single Parent — And an Introvert

My introvert problem-solving tendencies compelled me to add this section, even though I know parenting varies person-to-person. Still, you may find some of these tactics helpful.

  • Create your own team of supporters. Even though you’re an introvert, you can’t do all the parenting by yourself. Sometimes you’ll need to take a break or get help with the practical stuff. That’s when other single parents can step in to help. Single parents can be a tight-knit group, a powerful team. As an introvert, you probably won’t feel like making a bunch of friends, and it might be tough for you to ask others for help. But, you might be amazed at how much you share in common with other single parents. This common ground can make it easier for you to connect with them. And remember, even as an introvert, it’s important to have people you can lean on.
  • Explain your introversion to your kids. Gently explain that people are all different — some people become strong when around other people while others (like mommy) get tired and need a break so they can care for themselves and others properly. But it doesn’t mean that mommy doesn’t love them.
  • For people who aren’t lucky enough to live in a far-off, unappealing home, have honest conversations with your friends (and other potential visitors). Let them know how your introversion and need for space means you would rather they didn’t come over, but it doesn’t mean you don’t love them.
  • If you have some spare funds, literally pay the price for some free time and get a babysitter. Or, put your kids into daycare (depending on where you live, there may be occasional cheap/free options). Does IKEA still have those play centers where you can book your kids for an hour while you wander around the store buying furniture (or sitting in the cafeteria eating meatballs — cough)?
  • If you are short on funds, don’t feel bad occasionally using screen time to get some quiet time. Children’s television is more educational these days, unlike the casual inter-species cartoon violence of our younger days.

So, there you go! Sure, being an introverted single parent comes with its own set of hurdles, but it also has plenty of upsides. Perhaps you’ll find that you can handle it better than you thought at first. As a single parent, you get to do things at your own pace, enjoy your own company, and truly savor the precious moments with your kid. It might seem tough at the start, but with time, I hope you discover that your introversion is actually a strength in your parenting journey.

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