As long as I can remember, I have enjoyed the company of people. I love public speaking, meeting new people, and having meaningful conversations with random strangers at the park, a conference or even on an airplane. I am not shy and—as long as I feel emotionally safe—I have no trouble expressing myself.
And yet, I dread large crowded spaces. I'd rather be in an empty train than a loud and crowded one. Please do not invite me to an indoor music concert. Friday night dinners in a bustling downtown spot have never been my idea of an ideal weekend activity, and I've always preferred a restorative yoga class to wrap up my week. I'd rather go and spend a few days in a secluded cabin than a hustling, bustling resort.
But for a long time, I continued going to yet another networking event, another happy hour, or another loud birthday party—only to find myself incredibly drained and exhausted.
But I kept at it because I wrongly believed that's what I needed to do to fit into this world.
I always felt that people who were quieter and spoke less in group settings perhaps lacked confidence and somehow needed to be fixed. I feel so sad even as I type these words on how wrong, naïve, and arrogant I was.
Several times while reading, I found myself in tears. It has been one of the most transformational books I have read, as it helped me understand myself a little better and accept myself a little more. It has helped me to be kinder, more compassionate, and more respectful of other introverts in my life—of whom there are many!
However, it wasn't until I became a mom that I realized how much I valued quiet time, soft music, one-on-one conversations, and simple walks with the stroller.
Being around a toddler who is constantly asking questions, buzzes around from one activity to the next, and has a million needs that need to be met each day means that my quiet self needs even more nurturing.
It is only through this self-care that I have the headspace and emotional energy to be present, loving, and accepting of my child.
Have I cracked the perfect code? Not really. There are times I wish we could all have five minutes of silence in our house. I have tried various techniques with my toddler but haven't quite mastered them yet.
Here are five things that help me thrive as an introverted mother:
1. Genuinely accepting myself
This is the foundation for me. I need to accept, love, and respect myself for who I am and not compare myself to the people who can spend a Saturday going from one social engagement to another and feel energized at the end of the day. Those parents are beautiful in their own way but I am not one of them. I need to make choices that honor who I am.
2. Prioritizing nature
Ask me any day, and I would choose a few hours at a park over a crowded indoor museum. I have even done informational interviews and mentoring meetings on a Saturday morning at the park while my son plays in the sand. Family vacations typically mean cabins and tents or spending time at a national park.
3. Savoring long bedtime routines
My husband and I love celebrating our son's bedtime. It's so peaceful when we're all together in our bed. We keep this time long, rich, and full of hugs, cuddles, stories, singing, and quiet time. It's something I look forward to every night and is my most precious time with my son.
4. Saying "no" to crowds
I have learned to politely decline (most) invitations to loud, crowded parties and to express my love and gratitude in other ways. Sometimes, I try politely suggesting a one-on-one activity on a different weekend or sending a handmade birthday card.
5. Finding alone time
Most importantly, I have learned to prioritize, schedule, and appreciate quiet time. Time alone in the car without turning on NPR. Solo walks around my house. Blocked calendars to work in silence at my office. It means waking up at 5am on a Saturday to write in silence or to enjoy a meditation class. It means connecting with myself so I can have a richer and more purposeful connection with the outside world.
Are you an introverted parent? What are some of your unique ways of nourishing yourself?
A version of this post was published August 12, 2016. It has been updated.