To the average introvert, I’m somewhat of an oddity. Not only do I have children, but I have five. Of those five, two of them are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. I think at this point, one must wonder how I manage to get through the day, let alone find some “me” time.
I never planned on having children (I blame their father). I always wanted to travel, free as a bird, and live my life according to my introverted needs. Unfortunately, I only got as far as China.
So here I am, five children later, knee deep in parental responsibilities, and I know you wonder how I cope. Let me tell you a secret. Train them young.
I have, from the time my kids were little, had a strict bed time. Of course this is slightly more flexible on weekends (please note, I said slightly). This enables me to have my own time. Yes, it’s only 4 or 5 hours at best, but I take what I can and don’t complain. I also have a “nap” in the afternoon. Now, because it’s adults reading this, and not my kids, I’ll tell you this: It’s a lie. I don’t have naps. I lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and have my little mental holiday. My youngest is 11 months old and still needs his nap time, so I use this opportunity to its maximum potential. My elder children, 6 and 10 years old, have learned to sit quietly and watch TV or read a book. My 4 year old twins (the ones with CP) still have an afternoon nap. However, if they are not tired, they have also learned to lie quietly in bed, with a toy or a book and have rest time. Yes, this did take years of consistent rules and tireless planning. But with five kids, what’s the choice?
Of course I have become the master at stealing small moments during the day. Let’s have using the bathroom as an example. I shut and lock my bedroom door, and also bathroom door, ensuring those clever kids don’t wander in asking why is the sky blue, or complaining someone’s taking their toy. Trips to the rubbish bin outside are strictly a solitary event, so is hanging washing on the line. When Dora the Explorer is on, I have 23 minutes all to myself to drink that cold cup of coffee I poured two hours ago. I have learned to schedule my time down to the nearest minute, thus ensuring I can fit in small pockets of sanity saving “me” time into my day. If I didn’t, my mother would come to visit, and find me rocking in the corner, muttering to myself.
Fortunately, it appears most of my children are turning into mini introverts. My daughter thinks entirely outside the box and shuns other children in favour of playing in our back garden alone. One of my twins is HSP and also functions much better when left alone. He doesn’t need (or even like) most other children. His other twin, though more needy, is quiet, reserved and extremely sensitive. My eldest is a rabid extrovert, and I use the term “rabid” lightly. He is always wanting me to meet his friend’s parents (argh), or trying to get me to meet the neighbours, who until this point, I have deftly avoided with impressive skill. Sometimes I look at him and wonder how I managed to create such a social butterfly. A butterfly who I love, and cannot clip his wings, because he deserves to find his place in the world as much as the others.
To the introvert who lives a blissfully quiet and solitary life, this must seem like hell. Yes, it’s incredibly noisy (but I have learned to switch off). No, I am rarely alone (but I steal moments which become all the sweeter for it). Lastly, yes, I have to keep endless doctors’ appointments and make countless phone calls on my disabled twin’s behalf (but their love and soft cuddles make it worth it).
All I can say is to think of me while you drink your hot coffee, enjoy the soft blanket of silence, or get out of bed on the weekend when you feel like it. This Introverted Mama has dived in the deep end. But I’ll tell you one more thing. You would be amazed at what you can adapt to, if life decides to throw it your way.