I was born breech, butt first, because that’s how much I wanted to avoid facing people. As I grew up, and into the business of TV and film production, I realized I couldn’t solely serve my introverted self. I needed to interface with people and develop social skills, which have been more useful in my career than the academic preparation I slogged through. Becoming a mom has impacted my social habits more than I expected it would, too. As a result, I'm convinced there are some things things every extroverted introvert moms want you to know.
As a woman growing up in New York City, I was used to getting catcalled. Having boobs seemed to be the only criteria, honestly, but I was not expecting people to call out my motherhood on the street. I felt as if just having children in my presence entitled others to remark upon them, or me, or us as a family. I mean, what mom (introverted, extroverted, or a combination of the two) welcomes random commentary and questions about the need for her 2 year old to be wearing a hat?
Being an extroverted introvert mom has meant that I politely extract myself from unwanted conversations, and then find some place to bury my head for the next hour. I am able to read and respond to social cues, but it takes a lot out of me to do so. It also means trying or get people to realize that just because I'm in the world with my children, doesn't mean I want to carry on random conversations with strangers.
While I appear on the surface to be well-adjusted, friendly, and social, I definitely crave time and space alone. Just because I have kids, doesn’t mean I want to be around them all the time. So, with that in mind, here are some other things every extroverted introvert mom would like you to know:
Maintaining A Lively Conversation Exhausts Us
I once chaperoned a Girl Scout camping weekend and I thought I was going to die, not because of the girls (though they wore me out, as a caregiver), but because of the moms and all the adult conversation I had to engage in. In my opinion, talking to 7 year olds is much less taxing.
We Thing Mom Groups Are Wonderful…
I love the camaraderie. I love feeling like we’re united by parenting struggles, despite our other differences. I love knowing that these women get me like no other group of people in my life. I love that nothing is too gross or too embarrassing or too “out there” with these ladies because, when we get together, it’s understood that it’s a safe place to let your mom flag fly. It’s a relief to not be alone in motherhood.
I hate how much energy it takes for me to be “on” in a group setting. After two hours, I’m spent. Being social doesn’t come naturally to the introverted side of me, so I really have to work hard at casually having a good time.
We Look Forward To Mondays
After weekends with my kids, returning to work on Monday can sometimes feel like a light at the end of a tunnel. I don’t resent the time I spend with my children, especially as a working parent, but if I don’t get some space and quiet after raucous bouts of play (and arguing), I start imploding. Coming to work, even in an open office environment, offers a reprieve from the zoo of movement and noise and demands of two school-age children.
I would never want to work weekends, but I’m grateful to have someplace to go on Monday mornings.
We Dread Girls Night Out…
As much as I love celebrating the successes of our lives with my friends, I have noticed that it can take a toll on my mental wellbeing. A lot of it has to do with being on the receiving end of conversations. Even if we weren’t in a setting with loud music, and clinking glasses, I’d have trouble processing all the stimuli.
Listening to other people, though I’m very good at it, takes a lot out of me. Maybe it’s because I don’t fake my interest and truly in intake mode when other people talk to me, because I would want them to do the same when I’m the one speaking. In a group situation, however, I am doing a lot of intake. So afterwards, I slip on my noise-cancelling headphones and try to find a way to be quiet as a recovery period.
…But Force Ourselves To Go Anyway
I’m often so glad to have spent time with a group of my female friends. The relationships I have with other moms are unique and necessary. I can’t get what I get from my mom friends from anyone else, and it’s vital to my mental health that I maintain those friendships. So as much as I angst about these evenings, I don’t regret them.
Mom Dates Stress Us Out
I have always put way too much energy worrying about what people think about me. Getting together with a mom friend can be fraught with anxiety: about what to wear (I want to look put-together, but not so much so that it’s an inaccurate depiction of myself), what to order (just coffee? What if she orders a scone? Should I get one too so it’s not awkward? But carbs make me tired.) That’s the introverted side of my personality, which inevitably ends up spending major brain power on what others may consider minor details.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been better at managing this energy-sapping behavior, and have been able to go with the flow more. It does help to remind myself that my mom pal is probably feeling a lot of the same things I am.
We're Glad To Have Someone To Hang With At The Playground…
Given how crowded our Queens neighborhood is, there’s always a good chance I’ll run into someone I know when I take my kids to the playground, especially on Sunday mornings when there’s a farmer’s market. I love that I don’t have to plan stuff like this and, instead, impromptu playdates are a common weekend morning occurrence as my 6-year-old son finds his buddy on the slides while the mom and I chat it up from the sidelines.
Of course, our conversation never gets deep, since we’re constantly looking away from one another to make sure we know where our kids are. Still, I like that we can keep our mutual expectations low while we hang out.
…But We're Happy By Ourselves, Too
I’m sure my age has something to do with it because, well, I’m not an insecure teenager anymore. Regardless, I am honestly never disappointed if I don't see anyone I know at the playground. While it does mean my son enlists me as goalie or in a fierce game of tag I am in no shape to be playing, I don’t miss having to socialize.
We're Always Friendly…
The extroverted side of me can’t not be friendly. I get uncomfortable seeing people uncomfortable, so my tendency is to put them at ease with pleasant, if not benign, conversation. Unless you smell bad, I’ll sit next to you.
…But We Don't Have A Lot Of Friends
It may look like I have a lot of friends (if you’re keeping count on Facebook), but these days I feel we mislabel an acquaintance as something closer. I play things close to the vest. I don’t overshare, or post a stream of consciousness on social media. Very few people in my lives have been allowed to enter my “inner circle.” Those that have are the ones to whom I express my fears about being a good mom, or getting fired, or letting the light go out on my marriage. They are the ones who see my vulnerability, because those are the ones I trust to truly help me if I need it. I can sit in silence with these people, with no pressure to perform. Those are my friends. They are few in number, but deep in value to me.
I don’t discount the many other “lighter” friendships I have, but having lived for several decades, and part of understanding what it takes to maintain a true friendship, I realize I could only summon the energy to have just a few “best” friends. I am trying to teach my kids that as well. “You just need a couple of truly good friends,” I tell my tween daughter when she shares an incident of shifting alliances at school. “Quality over quantity.”