Perhaps I should start this article with a disclaimer; I love my children dearly. I do sometimes think about eating them, but at the same time I would happily die for them.
Help I’m never alone! Having gotten that out of the way I have a sentence that has jammed its elbows in so badly that it has to be dragged onto this article and that sentence is the bold statement that being a parent is mostly an extroverted activity and that introverted parents really struggle with the loss of me-time. The reason this sentence was hesitant to join the article is that it is not only introverted parents who struggle – even extroverts need some time to themselves. And so we all suffer.
Let’s look at the definition for clarity; what defines an introvert from an extrovert is where they draw their energy from. Introverts energise when they are by themselves and extroverts energise when they are with others. With a one year old and a two year old I am never by myself anymore. I feel this loss of me-time with a cosmic intensity that can hardly be put into words. I did a little survey amongst my mom’s group and these are the things they miss most:
- Mountain biking
- The ability to be spontaneous
- Sleep (+1 for that, I can hear you all think!)
- Going to the movies
- The freedom to be sick, that sounds odd I know. But it is all about having the luxury of time to get better when we do get sick.
- For me personally what I miss most are lazy Sunday afternoons with a book on the couch, or having a shower without having the door being opened and closed 75 times, going to the bathroom by myself and having two hands to pour a glass of wine (amazingly you develop the ability to open a bottle of wine with your mouth and pour with one hand. Screw tops rule!)
One thing that all moms comment on is that they miss being worry-free and guilt-free. In my pre-children life as self-indulgent introvert I used to worry about which book to read next. Now all my mental energy is being consumed by how to potty train with the least amount of stress and the boy biting my boy at school. Being a mom takes up space in your head, but it also takes up some of your physical space. I read some research the other day about personal space in the office and it turns out that open plan offices allow for 11.49 square metres per person – a 25% drop from a decade ago! I compare this to my sharp decline in personal space at home and can honestly say that I have experienced a 95% drop. The only areas off-limits to my children are very high cupboard shelves where I can hide the rat poison and kitchen cleaner.
You may be familiar with the term ‘intern creep’. I like to think of what I am experiencing as ‘toddler creep’ – they take over your bed, your television, your phone, your whole house. Similar to having a hot desk at work I guess, you don’t really own any personal space anymore. You can put up decorations and photos to claim it as your own as much as you want, but deep inside you know that at any moment a 2 year old might drag his yoghurt- covered hands all over your stuff.
So what can you do? Because let’s face it, this external stimuli that bounces around on your tables and chairs with blonde curls, is (gratefully) here to stay. I thought long and hard about advice I might share and sadly the best I can come up with is to hide in your garage. I do that sometimes. I get home and for 5 blissful minutes I sit in the car and breathe in some me-time (in the garage, in my car I can only faintly hear them shouting for me so it is kind of easy to ignore them). Another suggestion is to work out a schedule between yourself and the baby-daddy. You get Sunday morning for example and he takes afternoons – but for this to work you must leave the house. You can pretend to have to go to work – I think men secretly employ this strategy. Lastly, you can rely on your support network of willing family members – bribe them or even pay them if you must.
I have mentioned many times before that it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately we don’t all have the luxury of easy access to a village of willing cat-herders anymore; quite ironically as introverts we got what we wanted – we are alone. We are all alone in this parenting thing, which at the same time means that you will never, ever be alone again.