To be an introvert can mean any variety of solitude-seeking qualities, but in current pop-psychology (and perhaps real psychology) terms, it has most of all to do with your source of mental and emotional energy. An extrovert’s energy comes from being around and interacting with others. An introvert gets recharged by being alone.
I have always considered myself to be an introvert, but I hadn't put together the connection between that desire for solitude and a person's source of mental and emotional energy. I had never connected the need for solitude and my need for peace of mind, serenity, and, indeed, energy. I had just thought of it as a matter of preference and comfort.
My husband, I remember before we were married, would always ask me what I was thinking because he knew I was always thinking about something. He would even tease me about it. I was always meditating or reflecting on something or other.
Then I had children.
And my opportunities for quiet personal reflection and meditation dwindled. Significantly. Almost completely. I couldn't get through reading a chapter or resting 10 minutes without requests for help with socks, or more water, or needing to change a tushie, or something. Always something. And that is simply the nature of small children.
But for over two years now, I've felt somehow drained. I've felt stretched and thin, like butter scraped across too much bread. (Lord of the Rings just came to mind.) I tried to find something non-exertive for myself to get some rest even during the day while the girls were awake. From Farmville to Kakuru to Facebook ... something that gave me a "break" without requiring much effort on my part. But I still felt drained. They are fun but do not meet my need to recharge.
So I was particularly interested when I read Amy's reflection on the needs of the introvert for alone time to recharge. I don't get much if any "alone" time. Most of my showers don't even fall in the "alone time" category. Felicity doesn't even usually nap anymore, and my girls like to get up at the crack of dawn. So from 6am until 7:30pm, I always have at least one, occasionally two and usually three little girls to look after.
And while they do sometimes play on their own or with each other, Cecilia is about as extrovert as a child can get and wants attention from as many people as possible as often as possible. People with whom to interact make her happy, make her feel alive. And she has the energy for it. Anyone who is at our house is there, as far as she is concerned, to play with her and she will give them a workout. Seriously, if you need exercise or want to exhaust your kids, come on over. She will keep them hopping, running, crawling, skipping, bouncing, building, destroying, dragging, pushing, pulling, jumping, chasing, following, and any other ing you can think of until she is red in the face and they can cancel their membership at the gym or are ready for bed. So it is difficult for her four-year-old interaction-craving nature to understand why I want to just sit and read or rest and think.
Certainly, there is some time after the girls are in bed, but, especially while I am pregnant, I can be too tired by then to exercise my brain much. Certainly my brain isn't devoid of all thought, but I know I used to think a heck of a lot more than I do now. So I am wondering if, for my own sanity and the recovering of my own mind, I should make some time each day when I simply tell Cecilia that it is "Mommy's Quiet Time" and insist she play on her own. Of course, with small children the only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability, so it won't be perfect, but maybe having a structured "Mommy Time" might help me recharge.
Do you have structured "Mommy time?" How do your kids (and husband) handle it?