Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about your kids?
I know that I am an introvert, big time. I love my kids, my family and my friends, but I also need my alone time, desperately. When we have a busy week, like last week for example (2 park days, a birthday party, and a library event), I am thoroughly exhausted by the weekend. I need time at home, with nothing but a good book or my laptop and some reruns on TV – or even complete and total silence (but this is so rare that I’ve come to accept it won’t happen!).
My kids are somewhere in the middle, I’d say. They do much better with being out and about and not being quite as exhausted by being out with people, but I can still see the withdrawal into themselves when we come home – they get on the computer or lay in bed and watch TV. They just bounce back quicker than I do. And since we live in a neighborhood with practically no kids, they look forward to seeing their friends a lot more, since park days, field trips and other things like this are the only way they get to see them. I still get to interact with my friends through texting, phone calls, Facebook, etc. so I also don’t feel quiet so apart when I’m at home.
This presents some interesting challenges for us. My kids will often be all for attending events and activities that I would be just as happy to skip. They will often want to stay far longer than I would, and a large crowd doesn’t intimidate them quite the same way it does me. For this reason, I often find myself stretching way outside my comfort zone, in an attempt to ensure that my kids don’t feel left out or like they’re missing out on things.
I also have to admit that sometimes, I just don’t tell them about things. If there’s an activity that I really just know I don’t want to go to, I simply try to make sure they never find out about it. I know it sounds mean, but I know my limits. If I know that I just can’t handle going somewhere or doing something, it’s easier to just not tell the kids than to fight with them when they don’t understand why.
I also give them choices. If there’s more than one thing going on, and I know that attending all of them is going to be too much for me, I give them the option of deciding what we do. I tell them they can pick X number of activities and here are the options. They still miss out on some of the activities, but it’s by their own choice, not mine. It gives them the time they need with friends, but also allows me to not feel quite so overwhelmed trying to keep up and deal with people.
I also find that sometimes it’s just the people involved. I’m always willing to get together with some people, while others I feel like I need time to prepare – almost like going into battle. When it comes to those people that are more exhausting, I tend to be much choosier – I plan get togethers with those people much less frequently, and make sure that they are events that are usually shorter in duration (usually with some very definite start and end times), and whenever possible, lots of structure. Events like lectures, tours, or movies are often good for these situations – they cut down on the talking, and keep you on a relative strict schedule so that you keep moving forward, and give you something to actually do so you’re not mentally counting the minutes until you can politely excuse yourself.
You might be asking yourself why I would get together with someone that I feel like I need to mentally count the minutes until I can get away from them. But if you think about it, you know. You’ve been there: your kids and their kids are best friends, but you aren’t quite that big a fan of the parent. Or you’re both part of the same group and there’s not polite way to not be friends with them. Or you live right next door to each other, making the kids convenient playmates even though you and the other parent aren’t really all that compatible. But you still have to try, so…you plan accordingly.
As a homeschooling parent, I quickly learned that my introversion could easily be a problem. My desire to be at home, alone, is always pretty strong. So it would be very easy to say no to most invitations, to plan our school structure in such a way that I could say we have plans during any and all events, and be able to stay home pretty much constantly. This is where the fact that my kids aren’t as introverted came in handy. They would ask about events and activities. What they would ask about was helpful, too. It became very clear early on that park days,a weekly event, were pretty important to them. Field trips are fun, but they don’t always want to go. Library events are also something that ranks pretty high on their list – again, a consistent, weekly event.
This made it easier for me. Knowing that, for the most part, I could take them out for a couple of activities that happened every week and they’d be happy, allowed me to put those events on the schedule and plan the rest of my week accordingly – making sure that I had plenty of time for myself both before and after the days we’d be doing those activities. It also allowed me to feel less guilty if there were other things we didn’t do – say, joining a co-op or signing up for classes somewhere.
We’ve finally managed to (mostly) find our feet. We have our schedule, and while we mostly stick to it, we do occasionally go off plan when something comes up. My kids get the interaction they need while I still get the alone time I need. Everybody wins.
Whichever way you go – introvert or extrovert – what do you do to find balance if your kids are the opposite?
On the other hand, if you’re all introverts or all extroverts, how do you keep from becoming total hermits or being gone all the time and never getting anything done at home?