I have, and always have been, an introvert and homebody. When I had kids, my biggest fear was that I would have to start socializing with new people so that my children weren’t hermits. Shockingly, getting out and meeting people wasn’t as traumatizing as I thought it would be. Now I’ve got the hang of it.
I have always found that I need to regroup, so to speak, after social events. For example, if I went to a party on a Saturday, you wouldn’t find me at brunch with friends on Sunday morning. I would be home recovering. Not because I was hungover or under-slept, but because my body and brain were exhausted from a lot of social interaction and stimulation.
I never took the time to think about this characteristic of mine and its impact on my post-kids life. Let me tell you – I am exhausted. I’m not exhausted because my kids don’t sleep (sometimes they don’t, and I survive), or because I schlep them all over the place for super awesome activities (I’m a born and bred schlepper).
I am exhausted because I have no personal space. None. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
Both of my kids never stop talking, and they both have a complete and total lack of volume control. There are questions, requests for snacks, singing, dance parties, whining, shrieking and fighting.
There is also a lot of touching – constant, never-ending touching. I breastfed each of my kids, and I always felt touched out. Now there’s the climbing into bed in the morning, climbing over my body like I’m a jungle gym if and when I sit down for five seconds, and then the sitting on the floor by my feet when I’m working or using the toilet.
While I did expect them to talk a lot, I didn’t expect that the constant noise would make my brain feel like it was going to explode. I love quiet. LOVE it. I also love being alone. I didn’t quite realize how much I needed quiet and time to myself until I had children. I’m sure one day I’ll miss the din, but for now I am often in survival mode. My ears buzz when the volume reaches certain levels, and my body twitches when those little hands can’t seem to find their way out of my personal space.
My kids will never stop talking or hugging me, and I would never want them to! I love those squishy little faces and chubby little feet. But, I’m only human. I was born an introvert and will stay an introvert, for better or for worse. So, if you can relate to yours truly, here are some things I do to try to keep my brain zen while my three-ring circus performs around me:
Quiet Reading Time
My kids are still little, but we are working on this, courtesy of my mother-in-law’s suggestion. When things get a little too loud, I park my kids on opposite couches with some books and get them to read quietly for ten or twenty minutes. This calms them down and allows me to breathe.
Let Them Be
If my kids are playing nicely and don’t need me to oversee the madness, I extract myself and stand alone quietly in the kitchen. Sometimes I eat a teaspoon (or tablespoon) of Nutella. Just being honest here.
Take Back Your Own Time
My daughter tends to get very clingy when my son goes down for a nap. She will ask me to sit next to her while she plays (but I’m not actually doing anything other than sitting there). I used to feel guilty saying no. Now, I tell her I need to get things done and go on my merry way. She is generally okay with it.
Create Your Own Bubble
When I (rarely) get to take just one kid to an activity, I take my iPad with me, so that I can sit and write or draw while I’m alone. This way, I can reflect and regroup instead of having to make small talk with strangers. I call this my adult version of putting on headphones while riding on public transportation.
I used to be too guilty to ask my kids to please give me some space. This led to frustration. Now, instead, I politely ask them to give me a little space. So if someone wants to sit on the bath mat while I use the toilet, I politely say, “Mommy would like a little privacy while I’m on the toilet, please.” If I give them privacy, then shouldn’t they learn to give me (a little) privacy too?
Get Your Partner on Board
When you’re a stay-at-home parent, weekends are often more stressful than weekdays. So when my husband is around all day, I ask him (politely, but he knows I mean business) to take the kids out by himself for “daddy time” so that I can have a little space. Even just an hour alone in the house makes a world of difference.
Yes, sometimes I hide from my kids. If I need a minute, I get out of the room and regroup.