Can introverts be parents?
Over the summer I read an interesting article about the challenges of introverts as new teachers. You can read it here. It posed the question, “Extroverts thrive in noisy, chaotic classrooms. But what if you crave calm and order?” This got me thinking not about the classroom, but about my own home. As an introvert, I find noise and chaos to be extremely draining. With two intense little kids (3 and 5), living in a smaller home (1400 sq ft, but we spend most of our time in the 900 sq ft ground floor), a weekend at home can be a profoundly tiring experience.
Introverts make up between a third and half of the population. According to Susan Cain, whose book Quiet: The Power of Introverts is an international best-seller, there is one key difference between this group and extroverts. “Introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well,” she writes. “Introverts feel just right with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle or read a book. Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slippery slopes and cranking up the stereo.”
The key to surviving parenting comes in acting out of character, for a limited period of time:
Introverted teachers can tap into what Little refers to as “free traits”: the ability to act out of character for a limited period of time. When Little delivers lectures, for example, he is a charismatic speaker. But his introversion means that he needs solitude afterwards, to rest and recharge.
And the key to not burning out over the long-term comes in finding restorative practices:
He advocates the use of “restorative niches”, which are times and places where teachers are able to revert to introverted type. Edinger’s dog-walking, for example, functions as a restorative niche. And, after his own, relentlessly gregarious, pseudo-extroverted lectures, Little has on occasion resorted to hiding in the toilets, in order to guarantee vital restorative time alone.
Introverted parents, how do you thrive?