A while ago on Facebook, my husband’s cousin shared this great comic strip about How to Live with Introverts, with the joke line “this has saved my marriage.” (I haven’t posted the comic here as I don’t know about copyright, but do go and take a look or this post won’t make much sense. Come back though, please?)
For those of you who haven’t just read the cartoon, it starts with the statement, “Introverts live in a human-sized hamster ball” of personal space. It goes on to discuss how extroverts get their energy from being with other people, while introverts give energy to others and need to be by themselves to replenish it.
It then lightheartedly explains how to interact with introverts – who do like company, but don’t want to waste their precious energy on ‘bad’ company. It ends with some top tips including, “Don’t take silence as an insult – it isn’t!” and “introverts get lonely too.”
My favourite line is the last one: “Be sure to hug your introvert today! (with permission of course)”
I loved it so much, because it explains who I am in a nice way rather than in an ‘I’m an abnormal anti-social freak’ kind of way. It also explains me and my husband: He is both an introvert and an extrovert. He feeds off company, but needs time alone to replenish. He has his own personal bubble but he thrives off continual physical contact.
It also explains (possibly) why I find parenting so hard. I don’t know if this applies to all introverts, because actually I would guess most of my friends are extroverts, but for me it makes sense.
Being with children continuously, fielding questions continuously, going to baby groups, play dates, soft-play centres, with chatter and noise and stimulation, continuously, uses up all the precious energy. And there is no time to replenish.
I snapped at my kids today, “No more questions, please!” It’s been relentless recently, from both of them, and husband has retreated into his bubble, which leaves me giving out all the non-existent energy. I don’t often get a chance to read and replenish (or sleep and replenish) and so am constantly frayed and exhausted.
This is particularly bad when hubbie isn’t working. Much as I love him, I need space away from everyone – him included – to truly feel refreshed. Even if he’s pottering in the garage and I only see him at lunch time, that isn’t the same as being in the house by myself. The vibe isn’t the same. The battery doesn’t charge as well.
I feel, instinctively (without a shred of evidence) that the introvert/extrovert might explain some of the difference between the parents who write on Facebook about how much they love spending every minute of every day with their children (making me feel like a bad parent) and the ones who ask if it’s bedtime yet.
Are there any other introvert Mummies out there to help me prove or disprove my theory? Answers on a post card (or in the comments will do!) please.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“Wait up, Claire.”
Claire turned, surprised to be called by name. She recognised the girl from breakfast at river valley, the one with the long black hair. Searching for a name, her brain threw up a card.
Bethan fell in alongside Claire as she walked from her room to the kitchen.
“You staying in the Windy City for the weekend, too? It’s the Queen’s birthday, so there’s bound to be loads to do. Shame about the poxy weather.”
Claire glanced over at the girl, trying to work her out. She looked to be about twenty and Claire guessed she must be from Thailand or the Philippines or somewhere in that part of the world, although she had a blended accent that was hard to pinpoint. Not having visited the East, except for beach holidays, she had a very loose understanding of the area. With a shrug she decided it didn’t matter: the girl spoke English.
Bethan gazed at her expectantly and Claire realised she hadn’t answered the question.
“Yes, I’m here for at least one more night. Why do they celebrate the Queen’s birthday here? I don’t think we even register it in the UK.”
“Oh, they’re big on the Royal Family in New Zealand. She’s still head of state, and they love all that pomp and ceremony. They laugh at them too, but they wouldn’t be Kiwis if they didn’t.”
“You sound like you know the country quite well.”
“I’ve been here for a few months; you pick up a lot travelling round.”
The girls arrived in the kitchen, and Claire searched her meagre supplies for something to eat. There never seemed to be time to buy food and the hostels didn’t always offer a cooked breakfast like they did in the UK. She watched in envy as Bethan located a frying pan and pulled out the ingredients for pancakes.
As if sensing her jealous observation, Bethan turned to Claire. “Do you want some? I got totally addicted to them while in the States and they’re dead easy to make when you’re travelling.”
Claire nodded, “Yes, please.”
Bethan turned back to the stove and Claire sought for a topic of conversation.
“How long were you in America?”
“Two years,” Bethan called over her shoulder. “I was studying for the first year, and then I stayed on to do some travelling.”
The information surprised Claire. Bethan didn’t look old enough to have been away from home that long, or to be travelling by herself. She felt a stab of emotion which, after a moment’s analysing, she realised was disappointment at herself: so many people had achieved great things before she’d even left university.
I’ve lived a safe existence. Good grades, good degree, good career, for all the good it did me. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the living life?
Bethan came to the table with a bottle of syrup and a stack of thick pancakes. She loaded several onto a plate and slid them across to Claire. The two girls sat munching in companionable silence until the plates were empty.
“What about you, Claire, how long have you been in New Zealand?”
Claire looked up from scraping the last of the syrup off her plate. “What day is it today?”
“Saturday. It’s the 1st of June.”
“What, already?” Claire’s eyes opened wide. “Then I’ve been here–” She did a mental calculation, “–nearly two weeks. Gosh, is that all? It feels much longer.” Then she realised how much further there was to travel and that she’d only planned to be away for a fortnight, and her stomach lurched.
With a sigh, she said, “I guess I probably shouldn’t stay in Wellington too long. I need to get home.”
Bethan looked sympathetic. “Have you got to get back to work? I’m so lucky I don’t have a job to go to.”
“Neither do I.” Claire didn’t feel that lucky. She wanted to ask Bethan how she afforded to travel without work, how many places she had visited, even how old she was. The young girl intrigued her. Her British reserve forced her to hold her tongue, and silence fell.
Eventually, Bethan stood up and went to wash the dishes. Claire grabbed a tea towel and while they worked, Bethan asked, “What plans do you have for today? The weather’s meant to be rubbish. I was going to go to the Botanical Gardens on the cable car, but I think I might go to the museum. Do you want to come?”
It felt strange, making her own decisions. Claire had got used to the bus driver telling her what the next activity to do or place to visit was. A museum sounded a bit boring, but at least they’d be out of the rain. And it would be nice to have some company.
“Sure, why not.”
- Introverts: A Field Guide. (elephantjournal.com)
- The Introverted Traveller (theorientnomad.wordpress.com)
- Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts (fora.tv)
- 23 signs you’re secretly an introvert… (huffingtonpost.com)
- Are You An Introvert Or An Extrovert? What It Means For Your Career (fastcompany.com)
- 15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You’re an Extrovert (gawker.com)
- The Secrets of Introverts (thechemistryguy08.wordpress.com)
- Mama Is Hiding Under the Bed Because She’s an Introvert, and It’s August. (jessieclemence.com)
- 5 Things You Should Know About Introverts (lifehack.org)