We humans just love to classify things, and nothing so much as ourselves. Countless personality profiles, indexes, color tests and astronomy charts can testify to this. I’m not immune to this and am unashamedly addicted to every test or assessment I run across. After taking three point seven million, I have begun to see a trend. Left unchecked, I am the unusual combination of anti-social dictator. Yup. I don’t like being around people, but I also want to make everyone do things my way. Life would probably have been much easier for me if I was the kind of introvert who didn’t care what everyone else was doing, or was outgoing enough to make friends with people before I started bossing them around. Be that as it may, I’ve had years and years to soften my edges and for the most part have accepted the fact that I am a classic introvert in that while I actually do like people and want to help people, I also find social interactions inherently draining. After a time with even people I thoroughly enjoy, I will begin craving solitude and a good book. I know there’s others like me out there, but we don’t hang out much, for obvious reasons.
I have been extremely blessed that I have had a series of excellent mentors who have helped me channel and/or overcome some of my less helpful tendencies and make the most of some of my gifts. For example, introverts pretty much suck at small talk and wilt away in large gatherings, but we are similarly kind of terrific at going deep and really listening. Harnessing this helped me as a leader and also made the choice of coaching very appealing. So for a brief and blissful span of time, I was in my element.
And then became a parent.
I gather that almost everyone feels at times completely inadequate and unqualified when presented with this brand new life to take care of and the only instructions you really get are ‘don’t drop it’. And although I regularly have to battle the belief that I am the most unique snowflake on the slope, I sometimes feel like being in my LATE late thirties when I started this parenting journey is harder in the sense that the discrepancy between the confidence and competence I have in other areas of my life is SO apparent between that of my parenting abilities. (Admittedly I was more of a hot mess in my twenties than most, so maybe that’s it).
But lately I have identified that my issues with my own introverted nature are popping to the surface again in the context of this whole Mommy gig. Consider…
Play Dates: Please kill me now. Just kill me. Actually, it’s more of the IDEA of play dates than the actual events themselves. The three I’ve actually participated in have been quite enjoyable – thanks in most part to the other moms’ persistence, patience and generally higher level of social ability than mine. But only another introvert can truly understand the angst of the play date phenomenon. I so badly want to want to do these. I make overtures and then panic. My ridiculous schedule doesn’t help either (yes, I can meet but ONLY two Wednesdays from now at exactly 1:13 for 48 minutes). But as every introvert knows, the struggle between wanting to hang out with real people and wanting to stay home firmly affixed to my routine is REAL.
Pre-School: Same as above, really. We go to a co-op preschool and it’s just a microcosm of social anxiety for an introvert. It doesn’t help to be twice as old as the other mommies with a decidedly more ‘salty’ personality but it’s just awkward.
Mommy Groups: I wouldn’t know. I can’t even.
Actually Parenting: So this is the really tough one. I can handle not being able to handle people for long periods of time or needing to bring Dreamy with me to social situations so he can talk to new people first, but I didn’t realize the impact it would have on my parenting. First off, since I don’t have a lot of Mommy friends, my kids don’t have a lot of friends. I have no idea if they are intros or extros, but they definitely need to play more with other kids. I guess. Then there’s the fact that kind of surprised me, but that sometimes being around the littles drains me. Well, that’s not true, actually OFTEN it drains me. It was very hard for me to admit that, because it seems very unnatural and counter-parenting magazines an all. Facebook doesn’t help with all the perfect picture of family togetherness. I’m glad things work out that I have help and Dreamy can step in when I’m overwhelmed, but then I spend a significant amount of time beating myself up for being overwhelmed.
In my head I get it. I know I’m doing the best I can and that if I’m a zebra I can’t walk around feeling bad about not being a giraffe, but still, that is probably the hardest part about being an introverted parent. So, fellow zebras…how do you cope?