By Bethany Parker
People. I haven’t been entirely by myself other than to shower, drive my car — I got a new vehicle! But that’s another post entirely — or sleep since we moved last month.
For an introvert, this is a seriously difficult thing. I’ve made some time here and there to do the things that I truly love – fun stuff in the yard, organizing things, etc. And that’s been a great boost because it’s knocking things off the to-do list and filling my tank at the same time.
But the alone time … Oh, I miss it. Don’t misunderstand me, I do adore this family and we are working so hard to bring everyone together. Six people under one roof is no easy task and for that reason there probably won’t be a lot of alone time for a while still. It’s time to start working toward it though. After a day of sharing myself with others at work and then at home, I’m emotionally and mentally sucked dry. Sometimes even physically if it’s been a particularly tough day. When this goes on for a long time, I can get … grouchy, among other things. Downtime, as I call it, is vital to my ability to parent, maintain friendships and my relationship and do well at work. Much of my life revolves around allowing myself to BE an introvert and not pretend to be something I’m not.
So this evening, at this moment, I’ve sent the kids to their bedrooms to play quietly, told the bonus child I’ve got better wifi in the back room (it’s true) and left him alone in the front room to play whatever first-person shooter video game he’s currently trying to beat. He’s a great kid, he loves to chat with me and I just need silence right now.
I want the cool breeze from the ceiling fan, the entire couch to myself and nobody younger than me asking if I can separate these Lego pieces, show them how to fry an egg, start the washing machine or clean the litter box. I need to forget, just for a few minutes, that other people are sharing this airspace and will eventually expect me to interact with them. I need to be alone with my own thoughts and not those of another person; to think about my things without the interruption of another person. If I could make it to 9 a.m. tomorrow without making eye contact with another human soul, I would be incredibly happy.
I know what you’re thinking. I hear how selfish that sounds and for so long, for many years, I simply ignored my need for this because I thought it was impossible to balance my need for this with my family’s need for a mother and caregiver. I thought I had to be present and in the moment 24/7, but that’s just not necessary or practical, much less fair to myself or to the children I’m raising. I’m teaching them that it’s right to respect other people’s needs and they are learning how to give me, and each other, small pieces of space and time. And I’ve learned that when I do this, I’m a better mom for them. I’m able to give them my best and not my leftovers.
Of course, being alone until 9 a.m. tomorrow won’t happen. I’ve set myself a time limit on this self-imposed isolation. I get 30 minutes of blessed solitude and then it’s back into the fray I go. It’s not fair for me to hide back here all night, nor is it practical. There are moments (and some last longer than others) when I wonder what the heck I was thinking, that I was completely irrational to think that I could handle living in a house with SIX people.
I have never emptied the dishwasher so many times in one week, answered so many questions in a 12-hour period of time or just BEEN so many things all at once. In my previous relationship, the boys’ father worked a second shift job and wasn’t home in the evening so this is all new to me. Adding these two people to my inner circle has really changed how I’m able to carve out time for myself, and I’m struggling with the balance.
Fellow introverts with larger families, how do you handle the demands of this many people?
Bethany Parker, a frequent contributor to Chambanamoms.com, is mom to the three wilds who, despite all of their recent growing up, still manage to leave Legos where she steps on them barefoot, marbles in their pants pockets and various food wrappers on the floor of the car.