Monday, February 9, 2015

5 Realities of an Introverted Wife & Mother

Yes, I am an introvert. No, if you meet me you probably don't know that because I border on some rather extroverted qualities. I am not typically anti-social after my morning coffee, and I like a good party (even more after a glass of wine). The fact remains, which I barely knew myself, that I am an introvert. 

Being married to a greater introvert, my own inclinations sometimes become hidden by his need for quiet and solitary time. As I was recently reflecting on life as we currently know it, a few big old light bulbs went off in my head answering some age old questions and began to dissipate some guilt about differences in myself since marriage...and more specifically having children. Life is just different now, and here are some of those realities.

1) When I was single, I was far more social. I often worked 50-70 hour weeks, hung out with friends, went to concerts/parties/events...did more out of the house. That was then, this is now. I have finally realized that when I was single and living alone, I always had the time to recharge because I came home to silence and solitude. Now, I am lucky if I get a few hours of silence while I sleep. The thought of leaving home after returning from work or the day's activities is akin to dread. It isn't that I don't cherish the friends I have, it is simply that I have no energy or attention left to give them.

2) Marriage is my vocation, and the resulting family an extension of it. While I was single, I may have fully committed to not fall away from all my friendships upon marriage. I admit now that I couldn't fully appreciate the time it takes to not just maintain, but truly attend to your marriage and family...or the desire to do so at the detriment of other relationships. Again, this is not to say I do not value friendships. I do, and they are an essential part of my life and component of living out my vocation still. What I have realized, though, is that being an introvert causes me to have to make more tough choices about where I will spend my time and energy, and that sometimes unless I am forced to do so, I will choose my home instead of out in the world. 

3) 'Social Media can be my best friend...and my worst enemy. I absolutely love that I can stay in touch with my friends through social media, be it Facebook or Instagram. I feel connected to them without feeling exhausted by physically trying to meet up with all of them. Therein lies the shadow side. Feeling so connected via social media can make it less of a priority for me to attempt to get together in person with a large number of friends, and that is a failing. 

4) Some friends just won't understand. The sad reality is that when I have to make the tough choices of where I spend my time and energy, sometimes what I am able to offer now is not going to be enough for someone else. I am still learning to live with that and not drown myself in guilt for being a terrible friend. Some guilt is okay - my needs do sometimes outweigh theirs, and yes, it can be selfish. There will be some friends who were once inseparable from me who now need more than I can give. Just as I need to take care of myself and my spirit by pulling back, they have to make their choices too. I do not begrudge those friends at all. I miss them, but I do not begrudge them. 

5) The friends who get it are your "tribe." You know who they are. They are the ones you can go weeks without talking to and then pick up where you left off like it was just yesterday. They are the ones who know to text before they call when it might be naptime or bedtime because ain't nobody got time for friends who wake the kids without an emergency. They are the ones who know which days are the long days and offer to help, but only if you want them to because they get that after a long day, maybe you don't want to see their faces no matter how beautiful they are. They know that your phone calls will be interrupted by mama-Tourettes, that days you work are long and hard, that toddlers are exhausting, that you barely talk to your husband because you are both dog tired even though you have cats. They know, that for your good, they sometimes just have to demand you leave your house, even if it is in your pajamas (though your husband would object to that). They know that your neglect isn't a neon sign that you don't love them anymore, just a sign that you might have your head underwater with the rest of life...and sometimes they bring a lifeboat. They offer you countless do-overs and make you want to try a lot harder at being a more attentive friend.

While this is my reality for now, I realize that I cannot use it as an excuse to burrow away until such time that I'm not under constant bombardment by people who want my attention at home and work. We will be on our way to the heavenly kingdom if we were to wait for that! Having had this revelation, though, gives me permission to make the tough choices without as much guilt and with some context. I don't remember my parents being out and about a lot, though I may have wished them to go out more. It is okay for me to not compare my social life as a married woman with children to my social life as a single person.

In our own marriage, we know it is important to make time for friends and that strong friendships will help us in our marriage and in parenting. We understand marriage to be a sacrament of service, both to each other and to the world. It is important for us to find a way to engage with our friends more, and to devote ourselves to our community. In doing so, understanding our needs and how they have changed will help us to give of ourselves without draining ourselves to a point where we have nothing to give...or to be so daunted by the thought of giving more that we simply hide under the covers.

Know thyself, they say. So it is that I now understand how living alone in my single years had masked my introverted nature in a way that marriage and family sorely exposes it. For what seems like a drastic change in my attentiveness, my sincerest apologies, friends. I do hope you will choose to stay part of my tribe.

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1 comment:

  1. Totally interesting insights -- I can see myself in this and hadn't thought it through so well!