(Click on title above to view this post on The Aquila Report where it was first published)
A few years ago, our family went on vacation with another family for a week. Perplexed, I watched my extroverted friend play one game after the next with her children, all day long. She kept saying things like, “I love my kids so much, I never get tired of spending time with them!” It was wonderful to see her experience so much joy with her kids and they were clearly having a great time with her…BUT I was feeling worse and worse about myself as the days went on. Was I a bad mother? Did I not love my kids as much as my friend loved hers? Why was it that I couldn’t muster up the energy to be more like her? I started second-guessing myself and made myself miserable for the rest of the vacation.
Motherhood is a challenge for every type of woman but I believe it is harder for the introvert. Why? It is a 24/7 job with very little breaks or respite. Being around people generally drains the introvert of her energy. She naturally prefers the inner world of the mind. She is replenished and regains perspective on life and its problems by being alone with plenty of time to process quietly. Little people who have constant demands at all hours of the day and night pose a huge problem for the introverted mother. It is not that the introvert cannot enjoy being a mother, rather, that it is far easier for her to be sucked dry than for the extroverted person whose energy is replenished by being around people.
Being a mother to an infant was not hard for me because, though the physical demands were huge, the relationship with my baby consisted of a lot of care, affection and quiet times of nursing during which I could sit, think, pray, almost be alone.
As my baby started talking and 4 more little people entered my life in rapid succession, I started to feel the Tug. Non-stop people, extroverted kids who asked more questions than I thought was humanly possible, noise and chaos, mess and more mess, needs and more needs. All of this went against my quiet, peace-loving, introspective, ordered grain. I loved my children dearly, but I was often irritable, and often inwardly plotting ways to get away from them. I am guilty of spending more time in the bathroom than necessary, simply to get a few minutes of respite! I felt torn between my children’s need for me and my own need for being alone.
The Tug led to feelings of guilt. Why was it that I was feeling this constant urge to get away from my children if I loved them so much? Add to that the sincere Christian desire to live a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of the well-being of others and one has a recipe for burnout. The guilt led me into a vicious circle out of which I could never free myself. The harder I tried to work against my introverted nature to be the mom I thought my kids needed me to be, the more intense the feelings of “I need to get away” would become and the guiltier I would feel which would lead me to try even harder…you get the picture. As a Christian, I knew this could not be the way. It was trying in the flesh to change something I couldn’t change about myself.
- Trying to become something you’re not
- Using natural tendencies as an excuse for sin
- Not finding any time for your husband
- Not finding any time for God
The solution: Recognize your weaknesses and remember the Gospel
There is no quick and easy solution to the introvert’s challenge in motherhood. But the main thing is learning to accept that God really is sovereign. Knowing God is sovereign, means that you can accept and embrace the way God made you. You do not have to become an extrovert to please God or love people well. He thought making you an introvert was the best thing for you and those around you. It was freeing for me to ponder the truth that God made me to be the right mother for my children and that my children are the right children for me, because God foreordained them to be a part of my life. The Gospel frees me to embrace who I am while not using my weaknesses as excuses for laziness. God’s Spirit will use me, introversion and all. My identity in Christ has got to be the foundation upon which I build my personal identity, regardless of introversion or extroversion. He has promised to perfect me, yes, even use my weaknesses in His service. That helps me relax, accept myself while not giving in to my natural sins and expect change as the Holy Spirit works in me, through all circumstances. Sure, there will be challenges, but that is how God intends to grow me and make me more conformed to His image. You will be stretched to your limits. Every time you fail or sin against your husband and children in your introverted way, is an opportunity for you to receive grace from God and to live out the gospel: repent, ask for your family’s forgiveness and let the Holy Spirit transform you. It is a hard but beautiful process to which your kids are privy. It is the story of redemption playing out before them.
Some practical things you can do:
- Teach your kids to respect who you are. Children need to learn how to love and respect their parents just as parents are committed to loving their kids. I often find myself telling my kids, “the best way you can love me right now is letting me have some time alone.” This is obviously harder to do with very young children, but even toddlers can learn this. I want them to know me and my limits. This will teach them to respect other people someday too, such as friends, teachers and future spouses.
- Build quiet time into the framework of your day. For babies, I called it “book time,” a time in which I put my babies in their crib with a few toys and books and left them alone for a set amount of time. Older children can read in their rooms and the time can be stretched to an hour or so. It is good for children to learn to be alone and build a basis for future quiet times with God.
- Send kids outside to play and be loud, if feasible. Being out in nature is refreshing and soothing for kids and they can run around, using up some of that energy that drives you crazy when it is let out inside.
- Introduce quiet, alone play time (building legos, drawing, puzzles, etc.). This fosters creativity and independence in kids.
- Spend deliberate focused times of play with your child, alternating with unorganized, independent play. You do not have to be your child’s constant entertainer but kids also need to have some undivided attention to feel loved.
- Maximize alone time. If you need a half an hour for devotions and a half an hour for exercise, how about combining the two in a run with a sermon or worship music? Or go grocery shopping when your husband is at home so you can go alone?
As an introverted mother, there are things that you can do with excellence to love your children. The more you do this, the more you will feel like you are loving them well and the less you will feel like motherhood is going against your natural grain.
- Keep a journal for your child: write up the funny things they said, their spiritual development, your thoughts and impressions about them and give it to them when they leave the house. This gift will be invaluable to them as they see God’s hand at work in their lives all through their childhood
- Write them a letter of encouragement
- Go on dates with each child, as introverts tend to do much better in one-on-one settings
- Love with -but also without words: use quiet moments like watching a movie to cuddle, give a back rub, simply be together without the strain of having to talk all the time
- Explore the realm of ideas with your children (through good books, audio books, videos etc)
- Pray for your children!
- Remember to share what you are thinking! I often catch myself thinking good thoughts, but it doesn’t occur to me to share the realm of my mind with my kids. I have to stretch myself to do this, but my kids need to see my heart and what is driving me. Share what God is teaching you and doing in your life!