First off: extrAvert or extrOvert? According to the dictionary, both spellings are correct. 🙂
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A little more than two years ago, when our second child was a few months old, I realized that I was tired all the time. I talked with my doctor about hormonal imbalances (my estrogen-progesterone balance leans toward estrogen dominance) and met with a lovely therapist for a few months to talk through my struggles with perfectionism. It was about that time that I read Susan Cain’s amazing book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. (In fact, I just requested it from the library again–I’m due for a re-read!)
I think introversion is misunderstood in today’s society as shyness, social anxiety, or just a reclusive personality. The truth is that whether or not a person is an introvert simply depends on how he/she recharges their energy. Some people seek out other people, activities, experiences, and action to gain energy (extraverts), some are energized with solitude and reflection (introverts), and the rest are a lovely blend of both.
Well, it turns out that I am an EXTREME introvert. I think my tendency has definitely become more pronounced as I’ve gotten older, mainly because my “alone time” has been extremely limited by this thing called parenting.
When I was single and living by myself, I had lots of balance–interacting at work and plenty of social activities–followed by a night alone with a good book! When my husband and I were first married, our non-traditional work schedules left us some time apart, which I filled with a good book and my husband filled with singing in a chorus and a quartet. (Guess which personality type he has!)
Even after our first daughter was born, I still had “alone time” in the car going back and forth to work (listening to audiobooks, naturally) and while she was sleeping. But once I had two young children with different schedules and no outside job to go to, I was exhausted because I was never alone.
Please understand me, I love my girls and I wouldn’t want to do anything other than stay home with them and homeschool–but those two hours of naptime are precious to me and my sanity. I need time to read and reflect every day or I get run down. Thankfully, my husband appreciates my sanity and arranges his evening schedule with the girls so that I get to rest. (And he gets a night out every week to go out and sing.)
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Our oldest daughter is clearly an extravert. I love to watch her light up around other people! I appreciate it when the moms that she is drawn to take the time to listen to her and affirm what she so badly wants to tell them. She processes information by talking about it, and that means she talks A LOT. She is constantly asking me when we’re going out or which activity is coming up next, when I would much prefer to curl up on the couch with (you guessed it!) a book.
If introverts get their energy from the inside and extraverts get their energy from the outside, there are some days that it feels like Addie is simply taking my “health units” for herself. 🙂
As an introvert raising an extravert, I’ve discovered a few tricks:
- Plan social activities for the extraverted child. If at all possible, plan to host them them so you can control the number of guests and how long the activity lasts.
- Go to the park a couple of times a week. My extraverted daughter is more than happy to play alongside children she has never met before and I can find a quiet bench to sit on and watch.
- Make allowances for an “at home” day at least once a week. It’s beneficial for extraverts to learn how to play independently. Listen to audiobooks if your child needs extra stimulation.
- Channel your child’s extra energy with a hobby! 🙂
- Find your own passion! Even though homeschooling and attachment parenting are huge priorities for our family, I’ve found a way to weave them in with my love of teaching–we host beginning ASL classes twice a week and I also teach two homeschooling classes outside our home on Mondays.
- Make it a point to connect with other moms in real life at least once a week. Facebook and other forms of social media are awesome, but it’s important to have some in-depth face-to-face conversations, too.
- Don’t forget your spouse! My husband is very understanding of my need for quiet time, but I need to remember to “come back up for air” in the evening and ask him about his day. Even if we’re not talking, he appreciates it when I sit next to him while he watches a movie. (And then after I’ve had my fill of “quiet time” in the evening, I tend to want to talk his ear off right about the time he’s ready to go to sleep. It’s all about balance!)
- Teach your child about the differences between introversion and extraversion. Addie knows me well enough that when I say I need a break, she respects my ten minutes of downtime. When we leave an intense social situation, she is usually quiet in the car so I can recharge. It’s not just about me, either! When an introverted friend comes over and needs some time to ease into the situation, it’s important for her to learn how to respect their space.