You know what makes me feel guilty these days? The fact that I don’t enjoy hanging out with my family more. Of course we have fun. Of course I love them. And yes, I realize that these are precious years I should appreciate to the fullest. (Why do you think I feel guilty?)
But a fundamental aspect of my personality makes it tough, sometimes, to feel like I’m giving my family my best. I’m an introvert.
I don’t hate people. I’m not agoraphobic or shy. I’m what some would call a social introvert. I enjoy the company of others, and I’m not excessively awkward in social settings—at least not that I’m aware of. The best definition I’ve found for my kind of introversion is that I’m energized by being alone. It’s like I’ve got a tank of available go-juice every day, and being around people requires me to expend more of it than another, less-introverted person might need. So by the time I’ve done my thing with clients and co-workers, tended to my children, touched base with their teachers, and caught up with my husband at the end of the day, I don’t have a lot left in me. In fact, I often feel pretty irritable.
Of course everyone needs alone time. But I’m amazed how little alone time some of my friends and fellow parents appear to require. They’ve got infinite patience for a seemingly infinite number of kid activities, and they’re still up for partying all night with other grown-ups on top of a weekend’s worth of other commitments. Sometimes I feel like I’m limping along, trying to keep up.
Before I had kids, introverted me could come home and watch TV or read a book in complete solitude if I wanted. Even with a spouse, it was easy to go in the other room to decompress and refuel.
Having children means having other people around you pretty much all the time. Even weekends can be trying, sometimes even worse, because I’m running an energy deficit just when it’s time for family fun.
And you know what? That’s my problem. I recognize it.
Kids shouldn’t have to care if you’re scraping the bottom of your barrel of patience. Children deserve fully engaged parents. They need someone to clean up the puke at 10 p.m. or listen when they’ve had a no good horrible very bad day. They enjoy having fun with Mom, not just doing homework together or looking at the back of a head while they’re being driven to school. It doesn’t matter if everything inside me is screaming to curl up with my computer and surf the Internet. I’m their mother. I want to be there for them so they feel secure and as loved as they truly are.
So I’ve developed a few strategies for managing my introversion, and for getting over the guilt when I’ve reached the bottom of my tank. I’m not always successful, but it helps to remember these things.
I try to get alone time. Whether I have to sneak away to a coffee shop or negotiate it with my husband, I grab solitude where I can find it.
I try to be mindful where I spend my social energy. I don’t advocate acting like a bitch to anyone, but if I’m being super sweet to the clerk at Home Depot and then snapping at my children, I know I need to re-set my priorities.
I try to be aware of when my tank is almost empty. That way I can tell the difference between a truly irritating situation and one where I’m just being irritable.
I let my family know I have limits. Like most moms, I take on more than I should. But I’m working on asking my children to do more for themselves, and having my husband take more responsibilities, so I’m not solely in charge of the cooking, cleaning and family calendar.
I push myself beyond where I think my limits are. Often it’s tempting to turn down invitations, stay in and hibernate. But most of the time, I find that I feel better if I actually do get out. Especially if it’s with other women.
I try to forgive myself. Sometimes I’ve just had it. I’m done, and I’m probably not much fun to be around. Times like those, I apologize if it’s needed, and then I give myself a do-over. Because when I tally up all the time that I spend with my family, there are more wonderful times than not-wonderful ones. And the fact that I’m making an effort counts. Or at least I like to think so.
Other working mom introverts, how do you juggle your need to be alone with the needs of family and co-workers? And how do you get over the guilt when the juggling doesn’t go as well as you’d like? Share your tips!
9 thoughts on “Getting Over Guilt When You’re a Working Mom Introvert”
I feel like I could have written most of this post. I live people and am social, but I have always that of having a fuel tank that slowly depletes with people. If I have a big event I have to attend, I won’t plan anything the best day to recover.
Thank you so much for writing and posting this.
My baby is 4 months and I also have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia so Im still learning how to navigate all of it with working full time and all these things!
I feel like this post was transcribed from my mind! I too am working mom introvert. After years of not making it a priority, I now make sure i get some quiet, alone time for me. Over scheduling stresses me to the max, and it’s not good for my family either. It’s tough sometimes. Just his weekend I had to tell my own mother that I prefer that she not come over today because we had already had a busy weekend – kids had a sleepover and we had a big cookout with m husband’s family. We needed some time to rest and recharge, probably me more than anyone. I was gentle and I explained why, but I kniw she was disappointed. But I’ve learned to makes boundaries and enforce them when I need to.
Thankfully my husband is supportive and will encourage me to take some time for myself when I need to. I’m a better wife and mommy when I do 🙂
Great post. Lately I’ve been adding my children don’t have to do everything’ to that list. I’ve felt guilty for the last couple of years that my kids aren’t in many activities (I let them do one each but they have to be at the same time so Dad can take one of them) and that we don’t host many play dates (because I find making small talk with other parents exhausting) . I’ve had friends tell me that I won’t get to do that for long, the kids will want to do activities and have more people over etc… yup. I get that but I’m the Mom. It is my job to set the boundaries until I deem that my kids are old enough to decide for themselves (and not need parents at play dates). It is my job to show them how to take care of themselves physically and mentally. Taking time out for myself is good role modeling and I’m hoping that is true not only for my children but for other moms too.
I honestly thought there was something wrong with me until I read this article. I’m greedy for time to myself. In fact most days I wake up at least an hour or so early so I can be alone. Working 5 days a week, taxi driver to my girls and their sporting commitments – come the weekend I rarely feel like socializing. Thank you for giving me a label to attach to how I am and more importantly making me feel normal for wanting to be alone.
This article sums me up in a few short paragraphs! I too am a working Mom introvert who feels guilty when I’d rather read a book or binge on a couple of episodes of a favorite show at the end of the day. During the day, I spend my working hours on conference calls and handling services issues for clients so I’m continuously interacting with people for eight hours straight. On nights when I don’t have my kids (I share custody with their Dad), I work a part-time retail job that requires me to be “on” for a few hours more. Some of my coworkers will want to go out afterward for a drink but I just want to get home & decompress. When my kids are with me, I spend evenings running them to sports practices and school events. By the time we get home and have dinner (that I’ve had to fix or, more often, purchase via a drive-thru window), I am worn out and don’t want to speak another word to anyone. Then it’s time for showers and bedtime snuggles so I start feeling better knowing that my time for peace and quiet is coming soon.
Thank you to everybody who commented on this – I’m so glad I’m not alone. You know, I suspected there were others like me out there, but… so many people I know seem up for anything at any time, even after a full day of work and kids. Some of us need a little extra time to get ourselves re-set, and that’s OK!
Its refreshing to hear others struggle with the same guilt. I often feel like I’m only mother struggling to balance it all. Thank you for sharing!
I am 100% on the same page. Usually, the only alone time I get is when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. I’m a mechanic at a dealership so I spend all day doing physical work around lots of other folks. I’m tired on two fronts. When I get home, my loving long-time partner and my beautiful non-bio daughter are already home. If traffic isn’t bad and I’m home with extra time, I might sit in my car for 10 minutes before I go inside. Its not enough. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I can count on my partner taking the kiddo to the park on occasion to give me a moment. He’s really sweet. My daughter’s bio mom is so unreliable and misses a lot of visitation –let alone pay child support! I had an unreliable and absent father (also didn’t pay child support) so I know how it feels. I feel extra guilty the days I don’t have enough ‘beans in the jar’ to read her a story at bedtime. Just dad. I’m so tired after work, people, and cooking. I worry that she’ll learn not to rely on me emotionally. I have yet to find balance as a parent and an introvert. My kid knows no other life than the three of us living together. I feel lucky to have my little family. I appreciate them. I wish I had the energy to show it more. I feel guilty even for the 10 minutes when I sit uncomfortably in my car. Lol At least I’m not like my stepdad. He had a quick temper and it was so bad that my brother (older, we’re in our 30’s) is still very damaged. I think that’s part of it for me. I want to be everything my stepdad wasn’t, but being an introvert hinders that a bit.
Brittany, I’m sending you a big hug. It’s clear to me that you’re working very hard, not just to help support your partner and his little girl, but to also give them the best of yourself. The fact that you are thinking about these things, and that you’re mindful of what you DON’T want to do, tells me you’re probably doing much better than you think you are. If you need a few minutes in the car before facing the rest of your day, take them – if it helps you bring a little more love into the house, then they’re worth it.