Alone Together

The Moms did not become moms by themselves.  So who are Dreamy and iDad? Which mom is married to a fellow introvert? Which mom is married to an introvert in theory but an extrovert in practice?  Read on to find out.

tiffany_head_128Not long ago I was chatting with another mom at a birthday party. After hearing how old Slim and Lunchbox are and that both Dreamy and I work outside the home, she said “Oooh, you’re in the hurt locker.” I laughed and agreed and noted this term must be employed more often in casual conversation.

The phrase rattled around in my head for awhile but, after seeing the 2008 film “The Hurt Locker,” it took on new meaning. I started thinking that, in some respects, raising children is not unlike war: it is an emotionally, intellectually, and physically unrelenting task, involving multiple explosive-laden stages (toddlerdom, teenagers), strategies (sleep and potty training, time outs) and weapons (bottles, blankets, pacifiers). If you are fortunate you have someone in your foxhole for support, a partner who has your back and will support you during the exhaustion, the frustration, and the soul-crushing fatigue. A partner who also knows your strengths and weaknesses and from whom you can learn how best to manage in combat.

Or maybe that’s just my introverted perspective. Fortunately I’ve got Dreamy in my foxhole. In many ways he is an introvert with superhero-strength extroverted abilities. He doesn’t need as much recharge time as I do, for example, and he is infinitely better at some aspects of parenting than I am. I’ve learned a great deal from him and found that implementing some of his tactics can turn a bad day into a pretty darn good one.

Some of his most helpful strategies are:

1.  Have a plan.

Dreamy recently went on a much-deserved overnight trip by himself.  This left me facing two weekend mornings — usually a war zone at our house — alone. Did I panic? No. I thought about what he would do and used preparation, one of my six introvert strengths, to organize a schedule for both days. As much as I loathe the idea of managing and organizing what is supposed to be “free” time the result was positive: two mostly happy kids and one relieved mom.

2.  Get out of the house.

Prior to marriage and family I could stay in my apartment for days with limited human interaction. My offspring, however, think staying home equals a prison sentence. Getting out is exceptionally difficult for me. Weekend mornings used to be about relaxing; now it is difficult to ignore the massive chore list that piles up during the week and shouts for attention on weekends. It is tough to silence the shouts even if it is to everyone’s benefit, particularly the kids. So on Saturday morning I ignored the chores, bundled everyone up and took them on a leaf-hunting expedition in a nearby park. We had a great time and, more importantly, no meltdowns!

3.  Wear them down.

This is a no brainer and more than a little embarrassing it has taken me so long to embrace it. Saturday’s leaf hunt also included a trail walk through the woods, playground time, and let’s-run-the-bases-at-the-ball-diamond time. The best part was we had all the facilities to ourselves, and the only two people with whom I had to interact were Slim and Lunchbox. After lunch, Lunchbox and I napped while Slim went to a playdate. Come bedtime they were out cold. WINNING.

These tactics seem so simple, so obvious, that I wonder why it has taken me so long to get with it. Probably because these activities are not the way I would choose to spend my free time. The proverbial light bulb clicked on, however, and I understood that this weekend wasn’t my time, it was our time. So, check, get over myself and put the kids first. Fortunately I was able to take a few small, marginally restorative breaks.

I suppose my motivation to make this solo weekend different also stems from Dreamy’s last mini-break. When he came home I was angry, exhausted, and emotionally fried. That’s a combination of ugly to which no one should be exposed, especially those whom I hold most dear. What’s that saying about those who fail to learn from the past? Something about being doomed to repeat it?

Overall the weekend turned out well (minus the epic fail that Sunday morning turned to be, but that’s another story) and reminded me that as parents we should constantly be observing others and learning new skills. And sometimes the person with the very best lessons to teach happens to be hunkered down in the foxhole right next to you.

— Tiffany

KathyYou will probably not be surprised to hear that iDad loves computers. He also loves playing music, reading, watching movies, sleeping, and anything that has to do with water. He can go for hours happily immersed in his own world. In other words, he’s a fellow introvert.

I know that often introverts will pair up with extroverts, the whole “opposites attract” thing. And we are opposite in certain ways (me + water = no), but I’m happy I live with someone who doesn’t need to be with me 24/7, who knows I’m not offended when he wants to do his own thing.

Still, parenting with an introvert is trickier than being married to one. I feel like iDad is constantly bailing me out — taking over at the end of the day when Doodlebug was tiny, stepping in nowadays when I need to retreat after an outing. He’s so conscientious about my time that I sometimes worry he’s left holding the bag when I can’t take another minute.

He says he doesn’t feel that way, though, and I think it partly has to do with our different socializing styles. I push myself to stay on for the entire time I’m with other people, while iDad is much more comfortable taking mini-breaks to read a magazine, play some music, or just retreat into the kitchen (even if it’s someone else’s!) for a snack. So even if we spend all day extroverting, he’s grabbing time to himself throughout. I could stand to borrow some of these strategies.

Plus, as we discovered with the HSP survey, certain situations are in fact more draining for me than for him. So maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty if I need to take my time right away, as long as I make sure he has some time to himself later.

Probably the trickiest thing to negotiate since becoming parents has been the balance between family time, couple time, and alone time. Sometimes, with everyone (Doodlebug included) happy to go their separate ways, the three of us don’t spend a lot of time together. Even family time can be draining for me — it’s different now that Doodlebug is older, but there are still plenty of nights when all I want to do is be by myself once she’s asleep.

Now that iDad and I both work at home, though, we have a little more flexibility. We can sneak out to a movie during the day. We can all ride bikes together one afternoon and then he and I can catch up on work that evening. We can eat lunch together if we want. Or near each other, reading separate books. Can’t get much more introverted than that!

— Kathy

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