I remember how worried I was when my oldest son turned two years old and had not yet said a single word. He was showing signs of significant developmental delays, and we were working with a speech pathologist and a behaviorist from Birth 2-3. We often had multiple sessions per week. I remember how desperately I prayed for him to say something … Anything … And then, he did.
Fast forward three years. He has not stopped talking once in those three years. He talks about anything and everything. He talks about nothing. Sometimes, instead of talking, he just makes the same annoying noise over and over and over again until I feel like my head might explode. Add a second child into the mix, who is now three years old, and there is constant noise, anywhere from excitedly loud talking, bickering, yelling, gleeful playing, tantruming, laughing, screaming, crying, whining, video games, television, talking toys … you name it, I hear it. Every.single.waking.moment.of.every.single.day.
I know how blessed that I am because not everyone’s experience with developmental delays ends as mine did. And, I am also blessed to have two very active, healthy boys. But the constant sounds of motherhood have been nearly impossible for me to bear at times.
You see, I am an introvert.
It took most of my life to put my finger on it because introverts are often misunderstood. Perhaps the best definition of an introvert I have found comes from Urban Dictionary:
“An introvert is a person who is energized by spending time alone … Contrary to popular belief, not all introverts are shy. Some may have great social lives and love talking to their friends but just need some time to be alone to ‘recharge’ afterwards.”
I never really realized the struggle before having kids because there was alone time built into every day. During a social gathering that seemed overwhelming, I could take a few minutes to myself in the bathroom. Before work, I could hop into the shower and think through my agenda for the day. In the car, I could play out discussions from the previous day and what I may have said differently if given the opportunity. And then, when all else failed, I could climb into bed at the end of each day, no matter how stressful, and sleep it off.
Almost immediately after becoming a mother, one loses their ability to spend time alone. In fact, being an introverted mom is practically an oxy moron. I mean, I cannot go to the bathroom without someone barging in, remembering as soon as they see me that they were supposed to knock before coming in, exiting, knocking, and then re-entering all before I have had a chance to say anything. From inside the shower each day as I am washing my hair, I am being asked to open a snack, or referee an argument, or change the television channel. In the car, the kids are fighting, or singing, or dropping things that they want me to pick up immediately. Or my personal favorite: “I want you to hold me.” Ummm, hello, I am driving. I would have happily held you before the drive. I will happily hold you after the drive. But right now, holding you is not an option. And since a good, deep, long sleep is basically out of the question, I wake up every morning with a hangover from the social interactions of the day before.
I am almost never alone. Not even in my thoughts. And in the rare instance that I am alone or it is quiet enough for me to think, I am always aware that it is time-sensitive. The moment will not last. The kids are coming. In fact, the only place that I can escape this feeling and begin to relax my brain is at work – and considering that I am a social worker in a psychiatric hospital, that is saying a lot.
And since a good amount of what my kids say is actually important to me, and I would be devastated if they ever got the impression that it isn’t, after three years of practically living on the verge of losing it daily (and more often than I would like to admit–actually losing it), I have had to give myself permission to set aside time each day to recharge. I have had to accept my limitations so that I am not succumbing to them. I have had to tell my kids to “give Mommy 15 minutes to get my brain working in the morning” before I can help/talk/serve them, and I have had to stop feeling guilty about saying this. After all, they benefit from my sanity as much as I do, if not more.
And in that time, I have started to write again; to read again; to sit again; to meditate again; to enjoy my coffee while it is still warm again; and to even hear myself think again. I have started to feel at peace again. And my kids can feel it too.
“Peace: it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart”– author unknown.