I was talking to a (single, childless) friend the other day about how he wanted to go out after a Monday night class and socialize with people, but he was too drained after a day of work to do it. This completely resonated with me as I recalled my days as a full-time employee. Sometimes what sounded like a good idea in the morning -- drinks after work! book club! dinner with a group of old friends! -- sounded like hell in the afternoon.
Such is the plight of the introvert. Other people (I guess we call them "extroverts") unwind in the presence of other people. I can't do that. I can wind down in the presence of my Kindle or my computer or Tom Skilling (assuming he's on television and not sitting next to me at a bar), but being around other folks doesn't relax me. It stresses me out.
This whole thing got me thinking about how now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, I don't get to indulge my introvert tendencies as much as I would have in the past. Back when I was teaching, I had huge blocks of time to myself. I ate lunch alone (unless there was a faculty meeting). I knew other teachers who'd schedule study groups and student meetings during that time, but not me. Lunch time was MY time. So was planning time and before school time and if one of my classes happened to be on a field trip that day time. I'd get in early to do my work, and rush out soon after the final bell rang. Because I just couldn't deal anymore.
But now that I'm home with two kids all day, every day, finding time to recharge is a challenge.
Until a few years ago, I didn't recognize this as introversion. I'm an outgoing person. I like to talk and laugh and sing karaoke. I'm a reasonably fun person at parties. But over the past few years (really, since I had my kids and my free time dipped to hardly nothing), I've been finding it harder and harder to muster up the energy to go out and be social on the weekends. It's not that I'm anti-social or that I don't like other people. It's just that I'm freaking exhausted, mentally.
So here are some tips to care for the introverted mother (or father or just plain old person) in your life.
1. It's not you, it's me. Do not feel rebuffed or angry if I need to be alone. If George Clooney and the entire cast of Ocean's 11 were hanging out in my living room after a long day of being around other people, I'd still have trouble getting it up -- socially.
2. Make plans, and make them early (so I have time to mentally prepare for whatever we're doing). I'll be honest. I'm not sure if this is an introvert thing or a just me thing, but calling people stresses me the fuck out. And if I'm already not feeling up to being social because my brain is so tired, then having to contact another human to make plans is simply the last thing I want to do. So, call me. Email me. Send me a Facebook message. Tell me you want to see me. I want to see you, I really do. And if you make plans with me this time, I promise I'll initiate the outing next time. Thank goodness I'm married to an extrovert who makes plans for me. He writes the dates on the calendar, which is super helpful...when I remember to check the calendar.
3. Dovetailing off that, if you're my spouse, secretary, or social planner, don't cram my calendar full of social obligations. Don't ask me to be at a family brunch in Elmhurst in the morning and a kid's birthday party in Northbrook in the afternoon and expect both to be met with smiles and a rah-rah attitude. Unless, in between the two, you...
4. Give me the gift of time. Offer to take the kids for a while, for a morning or an afternoon, so that I can chill out in whatever way I see fit. Sometimes that will mean being productive and writing or cleaning the house or baking cookies or doing yoga. Sometimes it will mean binge-watching America's Next Top Model while I paint my nails. No judgement, please.
5. If you must be a house guest at my house or if I must be a house guest at your house, remember there's a two-night maximum. And don't expect me to be all sunshine and light for those 48 hours. It's not that I doesn't like you or like you being there, it's just that I need a few moments of respite.
6. Tell me to take a hike. Literally. A long walk -- alone -- is one of my favorite ways to unwind. Forty-five minutes of walking can translate into several hours of me being fun to be around.
7. Ask me questions to draw me out. I'm fine with listening to stories about your work problems and your kids and how much you loved the latest Lauren Conrad novel, but I won't generally volunteer a lot of information about how things are going. So, ask me. And then ask a follow-up question and then ask me what I thought about the last season of Game of Thrones. I'll talk your ear off. Maybe you'll need to mentally prepare for that.
Reading through this, I realize that some of this could be categorized as laziness or just being a jerk. I'm with you. Sometimes (a lot of times) I get annoyed with myself for not getting stuff done and not seeing/talking to my friends on the regular. But it's really more about me getting pulled into this vortex of not being able to take it anymore. Give me a Calgon-take-me-away moment, a little time to recharge, and I'll be right back on top of my game.
A few fun introvert posts were going around recently:
Related Post: Advice for My Son on His First Day of Kindergarten
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