No, nap time does not count as alone time: You’re not alone just because the other person happens to be sleeping.
One of the beautiful things about being a freelance writer is being able to make my own hours. That way, I get to decide where work fits into my life instead of trying to cram some semblance of life around my work. So when I had kids, I thought for sure that being a stay-at-home mom would be perfect. I could write in the margins of my day, as they say.
I was forgetting one thing though: I am an introvert.
It turns out that kids are just tiny adults who don’t give you any space. And no, nap time does not count as alone time. Not only can naps be totally unpredictable, but you’re also not alone just because the other person happens to be sleeping.
As an introvert, I also tend to drop into a deeply focused zone while working — and being interrupted shakes me. It’s hard to just pick right up where I left off. It’s also hard not to get frustrated and take it out on the little ones doing the interrupting.
At first, I thought I was a failure. I had two small children at home and no childcare. I tried to write early in the morning and during naps or after bedtime. But I was exhausted. And even when I found time to write, I couldn’t focus.
Reaching a Breaking Point
Eventually, there came a breaking point and I quit writing for a while. To my surprise, it brought an incredible sense of relief. I found ease where I was previously fighting to get things done. I found a sense of lightness with my kids instead of constantly pushing and forcing things to go a certain way. I thought maybe working from home with the kids just wasn’t for me.
And I was partly right.
But then we moved closer to family and I suddenly had childcare a few times a week. I was able to sit alone with my laptop and get work done, sans children. And although there was a part of me that wished I could just make it work without having to leave them, there was also a huge part of me that felt alive again.
I realized that I wasn’t a failure: I was an introvert trying to do things in a way that simply didn’t work in my nature. Once I had a support system in place, I was able to function in a more productive and happy way.
If you’re an introverted mama, struggling to work from home — or trying to decide if you should stay home with the kids or work outside of the house — here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that might help you, too.
What I’ve Learned About Being an Introverted Stay-at-Home Mom
1. You are not a failure for wanting something different than your current circumstances.
Most of us have ideas in our minds of how things will look when we become mothers. And when reality doesn’t align with our expectations, it can make us feel like something is wrong with us. If things don’t feel like you think they should, take a step back and consider why you have certain expectations. Maybe they came from your family or society. Or maybe things just don’t feel like you thought they would. That’s okay. Normal, even.
If you are a stay-at-home mom and want to work outside the house, there is nothing wrong with that. And if you’re working outside the home with a desire to quit and stay home with your babies, there’s nothing wrong with that either. You are not a failure for not loving the life you find yourself in. It might be hard and take some time to change your circumstances, but it starts with admitting and accepting what you want.
2. Being a stay-at-home mom is not for everyone (and that’s okay).
I never doubted for a second that I wanted to stay at home with the kids. So it was a hard pill to swallow when I realized that I just didn’t love it and that I actually wanted to work, alone, without the kids begging me for another snack every five minutes or waking up early from their nap. I know plenty of mamas who love staying at home with their kids, and that’s amazing. But I also know mamas who love to work — some have built a career they love or have a dream of starting a new one. And some simply enjoy having a purpose outside the home, and that’s okay, too. The sooner we drop the judgment (of ourselves as much as of each other), the better off we’ll all be!
3. Even introverted mamas need a support system, because you can’t “go it alone” when you have kids.
Okay, all mamas (and dads!) need a support system. But we introverts like to be alone and sometimes think we can go it alone. When we have kids, though, it’s hard to wrap our minds around the fact that we need people — in moderation, of course — so that we can then also get the alone time that we so desperately crave.
It’s not always easy to build a support system, but the effort is worth it in the long run. One quick way to connect is to join a Facebook moms group based in your local area. It’s a fantastic way to learn about in-person meet ups, activities, and build relationships. Reach out, ask for help (which can be tough for us introverts), and find people who can relate.
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4. It’s okay to take breaks, even if you’re not being productive.
Introverted mama, listen up! Your need for alone time is reason enough to take a break from the kids. For a long time, I thought I had to justify my time away from them — grocery shopping, working, running errands, anything with a purpose. Although I did kind of enjoy doing all those things without kids in tow, it never quite recharged me the way sitting alone at a coffee shop and reading a book did.
I’m still working on this one, but I know this to be true: It’s okay to take a break simply because you need to recharge, alone. And if you cannot get out of the house for a break, consider creating an “introvert zen zone” someplace quiet in the house — even a closet will do. Anywhere you can get some coveted alone time.
5. Connect with other introverted moms at places your children frequent.
I personally really struggle with making “mom friends” and would rather drink poison than socialize at the playground. But… the day I connected with another introverted mom was the day I realized that I wasn’t a total failure. It helped me realize that motherhood was (is) a part of me and I am an introvert, so the way I parent is going to be affected by it.
Now, this doesn’t mean I have to force myself to be more extroverted. Rather, it means I need to lean into my introvert superpowers, like my ability to empathize with my kids or impart my love of reading onto them. Having someone to talk to who can relate to my introverted personality is a game-changer because it helps me feel less alone and reminds me that being an introvert is a strength, not a weakness.
At the end of the day…
You need to take care of you. Motherhood is a wild, crazy ride, and if you’re struggling to figure out how to make it work, you’re not alone. I bet if you connect with another introverted mom, you’ll see you’re less alone than you think.
Cut yourself some slack and remember that your well-being is vitally important to your kids, too. It’s okay if what works for you looks different than other moms. Take some time to experiment with what fits you best and then unapologetically live that life.
Introverted moms, what tips would you add to the list? Feel free to share in the comments below.
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