When I was pregnant with my first kid, I read approximately 5 million books on parenting. I learned the 5 S’s, bought the must-have baby products, and had a plan for getting my baby to sleep (of course, when the baby actually arrived and didn’t want to behave in the way that the books said he would, that plan went out the window). But one aspect that a lot of those books didn’t cover was all the new social situations you would be thrust into as a new parent.
As an introvert and highly sensitive person, I’m drained by social interactions and environmental stimuli like constant noises. I don’t mind socializing, especially in small groups and with good friends or people I have common interests with, but I need alone time to recharge after attending social events.
Before becoming a parent, I heard a lot of jokes about how parenthood meant you would stay home more, and I was like, eh, I’m cool with that. Once I had a kid, I did have a pretty good excuse for turning down an invitation to a work happy hour at a crowded bar, but what I didn’t realize, is parenting would add a whole new array of socializing to my schedule including playdates, parent/child classes, and small talk at the park. Would I rather attend a networking event or a birthday party full of kids and parents I didn’t know? Honestly, it was a bit of a toss-up.
During the course of writing a book for introverted parents, I’ve realized the many ways that my introversion, sensitivity, and feeling anxious in some social situations affects my parenting. And being aware of my personality traits has helped me better navigate these situations. These are some of the things I’ve learned:
Don’t Feel Guilty Saying No
Because I’m sensitive to others’ feelings, I have trouble saying no. But I also know that if I am overscheduled, I am more likely to become frazzled and will be less like a Zen mom and more like a wounded crocodile mom. So, I try to minimize the number of activities my kids and I have going on. This means turning down some birthday party invites and skipping out on baby tap dance classes, but luckily, having a kid comes with a lot of built-in excuses to say no.
Find Your Alone Time
When I first became a parent, my dream vacation involved me traveling to the closest hotel to my house and locking myself in a room for a couple of days. I imagined I would order room service, have 8 plus hours of interrupted sleep each night, and watch one whole movie without interruption. If you can somehow get yourself some time alone to live out a similar dream, do. But at a minimum, find ways to get the time you need to recharge—trading off with a partner, paying someone for childcare, or just going through a drive-through to pick up some food that makes you happy and then hanging out in your parked car to eat French fries and listen to podcasts.
Choose Playdates Strategically
Playdates with young children can be exhausting for introverts because they require you to pay attention to several things at once. You might be trying to keep an eye on your kid while also socializing with a parent and wondering if that parent is silently judging you for still letting your child have a pacifier. So, it’s okay to limit the number of playdates you have or choose selectively based on whether you think you and the other parent’s personalities will jive. It can also help to sometimes opt for a class or other activity where a paid professional can lead your child through Wheels on the Bus and you aren’t expected to talk.
Be Selective with Classes
Speaking of classes, choose them based on what will be most comfortable for you. If you are sensitive to loud noises, maybe opt out of the baby drumming class. Choose a class that is quieter or less crowded if you can. Or better yet, have a partner or family member take your baby to the class while you stay home alone and binge-watch The Great British Baking Show.
Making Parent Friends
Becoming a parent means you often have to go through a new round of meeting friends at your child’s childcare, school, or the new suburban neighborhood you suddenly found yourself in even though you thought you would never leave the city. As an introvert, it often takes time for me to get to know people and I’m not great at just striking up conversations with random strangers.
If I do have to attend a birthday party where I don’t know a lot of people, I try to talk to the other parents hanging out alone on the sidelines. And even though feeling anxious about certain social situations often means I want to arrive late, I’ve found that arriving earlier (before everyone else is already sitting around in groups chatting) is easier. Also, sometimes an extroverted parent just comes over and befriends me, which I appreciate.
Becoming a parent does mean you will need to manage some new social situations, but it also helps me to remember that there are plenty of other introverted parents out there trying to manage the same things. Even though social media may lead you to believe otherwise, not everyone feels like they are completely killing it all the time as a parent, and just because another parent is happy with a booked social schedule it doesn’t mean that I will be. Finding ways to parent in your own way can help.
Are you more or less social since becoming a parent?
We want to know what it’s been like for you adapting to this chapter in your life in the comments below.