Introvert Raising an Extrovert

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Why does no one prepare you for the possibility that your child’s personality may function so differently than yours, in such a way that it continuously yanks you out of your comfort zone on most days of the week? Maybe people do, but I must’ve missed that day in parenting class. 😉 There’s so much focus on preparing for the baby stage that we almost forget that little baby will someday be a real person with their own opinions and quirks. It’s a joy to continually get to know my children as they grow, but it’s not been without some hiccups from time to time.

Understanding Introvert and Extrovert 

I have an extroverted husband and oldest child. I’m not sure where my second child falls yet because he’s only one. I am an introvert. This might make those who know me in real life laugh, but I really, truly am at my core. The titles “introvert” and “extrovert” relate to how you recharge, not how you socialize/interact. I have a bubbly personality and can carry on a conversation. I love connecting with others and learning more about them. However, no matter my love for people, social interactions exhaust me to the point where I need space or a solo activity soon after in order to recharge. 

I used to be more of an extrovert as a child and teenager; however, motherhood has changed this for me. I used to recharge by being around/interacting with others like an extrovert, but now my recharging looks completely opposite. 

I tend to recharge by reading a book or an article, going for a drive or a run, painting my nails, or getting a workout in. My husband, however, recharges by talking on the phone with friends, having long conversations with family, and chatting with the neighbors. I don’t have to be completely alone to recharge, but I definitely need less stimuli. Ongoing stimuli is definitely a trigger for me and gets very overwhelming. I don’t always react when overwhelmed, but I definitely feel it. Sometimes this rubs off on the people around me. This is not something I’m proud of, so I’m working on it. 

Maybe I’m just an introvert while I have young kids. My former extroverted ways may return someday, but this is my reality for now. I do believe motherhood changes a person from the inside out and it certainly has for me, especially in this way.

Don’t Change Yourself 

Nothing has triggered my “mom guilt” more quickly and deeply than this situation. I feel guilty when I’m short-tempered due to energy depletion and overwhelm. I used to think this would happen because I must not be emotionally regulated enough, and then I would feel like a terrible mom/adult. Eventually, I realized it’s because I wasn’t taking care of my emotional and relational needs, at all. I was prioritizing my child’s relational needs exclusively. I thought that I was “being a good mom” by doing this, but a good mom doesn’t neglect herself. Moms, you need to be okay in order for your children and family to also be okay. We must have enough self awareness to know what our emotional needs are so that we can preemptively set the most peaceful tone for our household environment.

It’s okay for you and your child to be very different from one another. In fact, I personally think it makes the family more diverse. It also helps each family member be educated on how to interact with all types of personalities, which makes for a more well-rounded individual.

You don’t have to completely change yourself and your personality to raise your extroverted child.

You’re still you, and the world needs you to be you. 

My child has an infinite amount of energy (partly because she’s 3, but also because that’s just her personality.) She LOVES people, loves conversation, and loves asking questions. She is so very curious and loves hearing other people’s stories. I absolutely love this about her! It’s so inspiring and humbling to see her curiosity and genuine care for others. However, as an introvert, this can make simple things, like everyday errands, feel exhausting. I used to feel so guilty admitting that, but I’ve realized over the years that I don’t have to love every part of motherhood in order to be a good mom. I’ve also learned nothing good ever comes from beating myself up.

Managing Expectations (and Chaos)

I’m no expert on this topic, but I’ve adopted some little mindset tweaks and daily practices that help us function a little more harmoniously together. 

  1. Accept who you are and accept who your extroverted child is. Make peace with your differences and appreciate them as strengths. All that you learn from one another makes you more well-rounded people.
  2. The quickest way for me to regroup in the moment is by putting in an earbud and turning on a podcast or some music. It takes me out of the moment and puts me in my own world temporarily. This allows me to compartmentalize more effectively by blocking out some of the extra noise. I use this method to take a mental break to tide me over until I can get a much-needed physical break. Doing this buys me some more patience so I don’t get overwhelmed as easily. (I wouldn’t recommend this method if you’re already overstimulated by noise, though.)
  3. Something else that helps is promoting independent play. As my daughter matures, she has gotten so effective at playing on her own. Having a younger sibling to interact with nowadays helps as well.
  4. Along a similar vein to #3 above, I make sure I have some some intentional structured activities ready every day to pull from when needed. They’re helpful for those moments when I need a break but she needs more stimulation. These can be something as simple as breaking out a new coloring book or pulling out some play dough.

 

All About Balance

I recently came to a realization that helped me to have a breakthrough. My child’s interactional cup may never be completely full, so I gave myself permission to stop chastising myself for not satisfying her interaction level enough. We are just made differently, and that’s okay.

We end up teaching each other so much by just being ourselves. I help her understand that not everyone functions the same and how to create boundaries when needed. She pushes me out of my comfort zone to get to know people on a deeper, more genuine level. She also just inspires me constantly to chase the FUN in life! 

You’re a better mom when you’ve had the opportunity to recharge. That being said, we’re not always able to recharge. We’re busy. It’s all about creating little moments to temporarily escape within the context of the situation. Recharging doesn’t always have to be a bubble bath alone or some grandiose plan. It can be listening to a podcast during the breakfast mess clean up while your children play in the living room. Don’t overcomplicate it!

Quality Time Over Quantity of Time

At the end of the day, what matters most to me is that our time together is meaningful and provides emotional connection for us. I would rather have fewer quality interactions than have a high quantity of low-quality interactions. It’s okay to have emotional needs. You’re a mom, and we’re pretty amazing; but you’re also human, and that’s not a fatal flaw. You’ll eventually find the right balance for you and your children. Just remember these things:

  • Don’t change yourself.
  • You can still be your introverted self while raising your extroverted child.
  • Manage your expectations.
  • Utilize structured activities and routines to meet the needs of everyone.
  • Quality over quantity.

You’re not alone, and you’ve got this!

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Audra Smith did not spend her childhood in Alabama, but got down here as fast as she could! Originally from Ohio, Audra met and married her husband (of nearly 6 years now), Brian, while in college, and they decided to move to Alabama on a whim a year after graduation, resulting in the best decision ever made. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies/Child Development. Audra spent the first few years after the move working for The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa within Early Childhood Education. After years of working in close proximity to Big Al, it’s safe to say now that she is a faithful Tide fan. Audra is an Army National Guard wife due to Brian’s military service and dedication to the great state of Alabama and our country. After enduring years of infertility, Audra and Brian were miraculously blessed with their daughter Nora Jo, who was born in March 2018 in the heart of Birmingham. Audra now resides in the Chelsea area (Sterrett) with her husband Brian, daughter Nora Jo, and living security system (lab/hound mix) Hamilton. When she’s not wrangling and chasing after a spunky toddler, Audra enjoys a good book, just about a million cups of coffee a day, embracing/celebrating the wild ride of postpartum, any DIY crafty project, and being on the water. She initially went to college for Vocal Music, and still enjoys music and singing very much as an outlet (even if she’s mostly singing “Baby Shark” these days.) Audra is passionate about raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, as she lives with this disease every day. Audra is currently a stay at home mom who makes it a priority to cultivate side projects related to her passions. She enjoys connecting with other mamas, women, and anyone who needs someone to talk to. Instagram has become a virtual tribe for her, and if you’d like to participate, head on over to @audrashoupesmith whenever you need a dose of “real life.”