Since I was small, I’ve savoured time on my own. Some of my clearest and happiest memories are of the hours I spent devouring books (or writing my own versions using coloured paper, pencils and glitter glue) or playing alone in my room.
That’s not to say I didn’t love being around people and playing with my friends. I most definitely did. But after playing outside for hours or play dates, I’d need a bit of quiet time to recharge.
Similarly, before having the children, as an adult I enjoyed time alone. I’d often take a day off work and spend it pottering in the garden and relaxing in the house alone. Again, it’s not that I didn’t want to spend time with my husband, friends or loved ones – I just needed a bit of alone time.
Suffice to say, alone time (rightly) becomes scarce when you’re a parent of a young child or children. When I had my son five years ago, I didn’t fully understand that this need for quiet and space was part of how I was wired.
When I was on maternity leave, I filled our days with play dates and playgroups and spent time with my lovely new network of mum friends. My ideal scenario was going out for a few hours and a well-timed nap afterwards so I could recharge, drink a warm cuppa and catch up around the house. Jackpot!
But on the days on which that nap didn’t happen (which were the majority, let’s be honest), boy was I exhausted. Now some of that was down to my son waking at least five times a night for 17 months and still getting up anywhere between 4am and 5.30am. But the other thing that played a part was not having that bit of quiet time to rebuild my energy.
When my son was one and I was back in work at a new job, we were lucky enough to have a talented colleague who was trained in analysing Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) preferences. Her project saw her working with every team member to agree their MBTI profile and then to map each individual and team after we all agreed to sharing our preferences with each other.
I struggled with it at the time but going through this process has been incredibly helpful to me in and outside of work. Before then, I’d never given deep thought to what my preferences were. Surely everyone got tired after spending lots of time with people? And everyone prefers an email over a phone call, right? No.
It gave me a better understanding other people’s preferences and how to work with and communicate with each other. But it’s also given me a much better understanding of what I need.
Now I have got better at telling my husband when I need a bit of space after a full on day with our lovely, boisterous and chatty children. It’s not that I’m being rude, I just need a bit of time – sometimes only 10 minutes – to recharge. It can’t always happen of course, but I do my best to get the time, quiet and space I need to be the best mum, wife, colleague, friend, daughter and sister I can be.
Are you a fellow introvert parent? How do you get the alone time you need?