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The truth about parenting that only introverts know.

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The challenges of parenting seemed obvious to me. Crying, sleeplessness, poop, blah blah blah. Surprisingly, I’ve struggled with something far more difficult to overcome: my introverted and shy nature.

My default mode is reading a book by myself, headphones and iPod on, in a room with the door shut. I love doing stuff by myself. Eating out, art galleries, seeing movies – you name it, I’ve most likely done it solo. One of my uni lecturers nicknamed me “the girl with no friends”, because I’d often turn up to lectures by myself, instead of surrounded by a posse of mates. I had friends, but I always preferred my own company.

I’m now a mum of two, and very rarely do I have a moment to myself. Just now, I had a shower and I put my baby son in the bathroom with me, because he cries if he can’t see his mum. My three-year-old daughter sleeps in my bed, and always wants to sit on my lap. I’m with at least one other person 24 hours a day.

Carla GS with her 2-week old daughter, Emmeline, in 2014. (Source: Studio 7 Photography, Australia.)

And I hate to admit it, but it’s draining.

I love my children more than anything. They are my favourite humans in the world, along with my husband. The reason why I am drained is because, as an introvert, constantly being around people saps my energy.

While the physical aspects of parenting are undoubtedly tiring – breastfeeding, carrying, wrestling exhausted toddlers into car seats – what I find to be the most exhausting is the never-ending company.

The question I’ve been asking myself lately is: how can I overcome my introversion, now that I’m a parent?

Look, I totally believe that everyone should be their true selves. But being an introvert and a parent are two things that just don’t go together, and I know I need to change.

Parenting is an innately social thing. When I was a brand new mama to my daughter, I remember feeling so confronted and uncomfortable when strangers would approach me in public, wanting to talk to me about my baby. At the time, I lived in a unit block, and the neighbours would literally chase me down to see my baby. The pressure to converse with several strangers is an introvert’s nightmare. I knew that these people cared about me and my child, but I didn’t have the energy to talk to people all the time.

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Now that I have two children, my introversion has become more pronounced. I’m less likely to engage in conversations. The other day, I was on the train, and a lady started talking to my baby son. It was a half-hour train ride, and I didn’t want to talk to this stranger the whole time. So I pretended that I didn’t hear her, and walked straight past her. She was offended, because she called out, “GOODBYE!” to my retreating back. I felt a bit bad, but mostly, I experienced a sense of relief.

Watch: Mamamia mums reveal what they get up to after they've put the kids to bed and have some time to themselves. Post continues below. 

Something I do feel guilty about is not talking to my husband as much as I should. By the time Jeff comes home from work, I feel like I have nothing left to give. I’ve given everything to my children – all of my hugs, all of my chatter and thoughts. I know he’s keen to chat with me about his day. But by then, I want to be alone, and have a bit of space.

I’m not proud of this. I realise that when I avoid people, it comes off as snobbish and rude. I am trying to change.

Strangely, my method for dealing with my introversion is not to spend more time with people, but to make sure I have at least 15 minutes all to myself, at some point in the day. Whether I’m reading a book, drawing in my sketchbook or watching TV, at least I know I’ve had some time that’s just for me.

So the next time you encounter a mum who may seem unfriendly or snobbish, be quick to sympathise and slow to judge. She’s probably just trying her best to be a parent first, and herself second.

This Glorious Mess is the podcast with stories from the front line of family life. Subscribe in the Mamamia Podcast App ,in iTunes, or listen here:

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