I am an introvert. I like to be alone. I like quiet. I like not speaking out loud for hours on end. When I have to talk or someone talks to me, my energy tank starts to drain. When I'm in the presence of people, my ability to stay engaged starts waning. I wish, wish, wish I could be energized and empowered when around people. That would be easier. (Extroverts don't know how good they have it!) When I'm already tired around people it drains faster. When I'm hungry, faster. When I'm in pain, faster. When I'm sick, even faster.
Have I mentioned I also homeschool five children?
They are not mute, they are full of words and noises and messes. Before I made the decision to homeschool, I wondered how in the world I would survive homeschooling. Not because I had something better to do, but because I know I need quiet time.
During the first year of homeschooling, I think my introvert tank was empty all-the-time. So I was angry a lot. I was tired a lot. And I had no idea what to do to balance the scales. So this is for all the introverted homeschoolers and stay-at-home moms (& dads) who are being sucked dry and dying inside from all the talking, questions, quick movements, visual clutter, audio clutter and child-consumed moments.
Introverts want to enjoy their children too. We want to enjoy the "Hey, look at this mom!" "Listen to this, mom." We want to stay engaged when they start dancing and showing off for us. We want to make good memories, not just survive or "put up with" the chaos.
So the best way to enjoy our lives is by knowing ourselves. Knowing our limits. Knowing our strengths. And then developing good character in the midst of both.
Introverts & Social Interaction
Introverts are NOT just friendless, antisocial, awkward people. They need social interaction but not in the same way as extroverts. Generally, introverts would prefer to not be the center of attention. They are good listeners. When tired or there is too much going on, they go into survival mode and it is difficult to join discussions, share thoughts and interact with a group.
How does that translate into Homeschool Mom terms? If you homeschool more than one child, you are automatically outnumbered. My children all desire my attention all at the same time. I have to teach math, history, grammar and more. This requires a lot of WORDS. Even if they are working independently, they interrupt me teaching another child and ask me questions. When I'm teaching math someone is sure to ask a language arts question, "Mom, do I use a comma after the word said, before the quotes?" Answering questions, is energy draining. Talking to two people at the same time, is draining. Teach a lesson, is draining.
So how do we deal with this constant social interaction and retain our sanity as an introvert? Introverts need space. So create that space and stand a guard to protect it! Here are some practical ideas that have helped me:
1. Boundaries. Because I need my space while I am WITH my children, I've set up a handful of rules so that my children know my boundaries and their limitations for interacting with me. (Babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, have no concept of personal space. But just know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and few things you can try to protect your introverted bubble.)
Reading the book "Boundaries with Children” (Dr. Cloud, Dr. Townsend) helped me realize that I had the worst boundaries. I would get pushed around by the will of my children. It was time to get realistic with them. Stop warning them over and over. Stop saying yes after they've nagged me for something for 20 minutes that I had originally said no to. (I think I did that mostly because I just wanted them to stop talking to me so much.) Classic! And limit the amount of questions they are allowed to ask at a time. (Funny thing... I tell them they can't ask me anymore questions after 6 pm. Then they have to go ask daddy. WORD BUCKET... FULL.) I have been training them little by little respect my introverted bubble and take care of their needs at the same time.
2. ME TIME. It is NOT selfish to establish time for yourself. Early on, when my kids were small, someone told me to take time for myself. I thought they were crazy. They suggested going somewhere without the kids, or taking a bubble bath. I thought that they just did not see how it was in my house. I felt I had to be engaged 100% of the time. When dad was at work, I'm at 100% (of course.) When dad got home I'm still at 100% so that he could wind down from his day. I'm on 100% to make dinner. I'm on 100% to clean it up. I'm on 100% to put them all to bed.
I realized that I was slowly killing myself. I don't HAVE to be 100% engaged all the time. I was deceiving myself to think that I should be 100% all the time, especially when daddy is home. I'm robbing parenting-time from him if I don't pull back and share the reigns with him. We can parent 50/50. And at times, he can be 100% while I take some time to recharge my batteries. Therefore, I had to express my need for "Me Time" so that he could help fill that need too. (They don't automatically know what we need, we kind of have to keep them updated about our current needs.)
Here is the ME TIME I need and how I got it: (Your list may be different.)
Daily In-Home ALONE Time: I have figured out that I can only give my full attention to homeschool during the mornings. By lunch time, I'm wasted. If our day drags on after lunch, the "tank empty" signal may blow and I risk becoming the Rage Monster. I don't like being that lady, so I will avoid that at all costs. (Even if that means we don't finish all our school work for the day. GASP! I know, right?) So I recharge in my room, alone after lunch. This used to be the "cherished nap hour" but my children are well past the time of naps. (Sadly.)
HOW? During my alone time my children must entertain themselves and give me my down time. Currently, my kids are 13, 12, 11, 8 and 6. Needless to say, they are able to entertain themselves. Additionally, our oldest has been babysitting for a year now. I know those with toddlers, your eye is twitching at me and wondering about how to make it work for you too. If your little one still naps, my only recommendation is to stop doing all the "stuff I couldn't get done when my toddler was a wake" and try refilling your energy with some good quality NOTHINGNESS. No demands, no talking children, no vacuuming, no washing dishes (unless, of course, that sort of thing soothes you.)
WHERE? Find that spot in your home far enough from the buzz of the house (bedroom, bathroom, outside) where you can spend some time recharging. Once you find that space, defend it like a preschooler does a lollipop! Okay, maybe more like a grown up. Set up you boundaries. Tell them, “Don’t interrupt me while I’m having introverted time.” No questions, no loud noises, no sudden movements. “If someone/something isn’t broken, bleeding or burning, save it until I’m done.”
Weekly "Get Out" Time. Most introverts don't like hanging with large crowds and prefer to stay at home. But it is good to get out and refresh our mommy brains. Introverts like to be with a few close friends. I know need time and space from my children and messy home. I try to get out in the evening once a week (which is a lot..) Most of the time I can only get out every other week. This should be worked out with your husband beforehand, and if you are one of those introverts who either need to be shoved out the door, or shown that the house won't burn down while you're gone, make sure your hubby understands and can help you get out that door.
Surprisingly, this has been quite a refresher for me and I encourage any introvert to try it. It’s like trying a tasty new coffee creamer. Sure it’s different, sure you like it. But boy it really helps change things up and give us a new flavor in our lives.
Are you introverted? How do you handle homeschooling when it comes to all the social interaction with your children? Do you hide out after a draining day? Go get your alone time. Cling to it like the food in your toddler's hair!