Written by contributor Lora Lynn Fanning of Vitafamiliae
I always knew I was an introvert but I knew it in my bones by the time that fifth or sixth child arrived. At first, I thought it was exhaustion that sent me to my room every afternoon during naptime, no matter how much work I was ignoring. I blamed myself for being so lazy.
But then I remembered: I’m an introvert! And there are people here all the time! No wonder I feel overwhelmed!
Now we have seven children we homeschool. My husband works from home. And there’s me, the introvert. That’s nine people at home: all day, every day.
A girl’s gotta figure out how to cope, right?
Admit who you are.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m shy. It just means I don’t derive energy from being around people. At some point, being around people all the time will exhaust me. I recharge from quiet and solitude.
Embrace Who You Are.
I had to admit that to continue our lifestyle and stay sane, I would need to make allowances for my personality. This doesn’t mean that introverts shouldn’t homeschool. In fact, introverts make great teachers because we encourage creativity and autonomy in students.
Being an introvert makes me sensitive to the personality traits of my kids. I understand their need for space and am happy to give it to them.
The Key: Plan Breaks Into Your Day
I love my people. I love serving them, listening to them, spending time with them. So I want to give them my best. But I know myself and I know that in order to give them my best, I need to build in breaks to decompress.
After the flurry of fixing breakfast and getting dressed, I make sure that I drink my cup of coffee before we start school. It isn’t always ideal, sometimes I toss it back in between changing diapers and breaking up squabbles, but I try to take ten minutes to pour some caffeine down my gullet and read a few blog posts. This helps me decompress briefly before we begin school.
We do roughly an hour and a half of focused school time where I am actively teaching. During this time, my kids get my undivided attention.
Afterward, I send the kids off to play or give them a specific assignment and I take a moment for quiet. Now, this doesn’t mean they don’t interrupt me. They do. But I check my email, read a blog post, or some other mindless activity that doesn’t require any deep thinking.
Then I move on to the list of chores I have to get done before lunch.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by the noise, I will grab a protein bar and eat my “lunch” first. This gets my blood sugar back up and prepares me to jump into the lunch hour with renewed gusto.
After lunch, my Littles nap and my older children work on schoolwork that doesn’t require my presence. This is when I disappear for a bit.
My room is my safe place. My bed is my nest and I am always happy to head there.
My children interrupt me for questions about math, but that’s ok. We often discuss how Mommy’s Time Out makes her a better mommy. So they think long and hard about their questions before they disturb me. And likewise, if their question is school related, I am always happy to oblige. My responsibility to my kids still comes first.
While I’m in my room, I will try to do something mindless for a few minutes (word games on my phone, a quick TV show) before I move onto anything complicated like blogging or email.
If I feel like a nap, I’ll give it a try, recognizing that no nap is sacred when my children are home. Sometimes, instead of sleeping, I’ll just close my eyes and listen to a podcast. That way it’s not as frustrating if someone interrupts me.
Recently, I’ve started exercising during this time, but I do it alone, so that counts as “quiet time” for me.
After rest time, I jump back into the fray for the late afternoon and dinner time rush. I know I have a few hours until bed time and then the noise will settle back down.
Develop Time Out Signals With Your Kids and Spouse
Sometimes, it’s all too much. If the kids are being boisterous, the baby is crying, the toddler is whining, and I’ve just finished four math lessons in a row, I think it’s fair to ask for a time out.
The key is to ask gently BEFORE your head explodes.
My kids respond much better when I warn them, “Mommy is feeling overwhelmed, could you lower your voices please?”
Often, I ask them for Five Minutes of Silence. Out of respect for their time, I set a timer and don’t take one second longer than I requested.
I have a similar signal with my husband. Sometimes during dinner prep after a long day, I will greet my husband when he enters the fray with, “Hi. I need a time out. Ten minutes?”
Then I run to my room, eat a piece of chocolate and play a word game on my phone, just to release the pressure from between my ears. When I emerge from my room, I return the favor to my husband (even though, by God’s grace, he’s an extrovert and doesn’t need as much quiet as I do.)
When I request a time out, I try to be respectful of his time and I promise to always come back.
When You’re In, Be All IN.
When it’s time to be “on,” I want to do it well. I tune out the other noise in our lives and focus on the noise of my kids. When I’m teaching, they have my total attention. When four of them talk to me at once, we will back it up and take turns, but I will listen to every word.
I ignore my phone, shut out my computer, and give them all of my mental energy.
And I can do it, because I know that there will be silence later on. I can do it because there is the promise of solitude ahead. And I can do it because I genuinely WANT to hear my people.
My children matter, their words are important, and my time with them is so precious. They deserve my absolute (introverted) best.
So tell me: Are you an introvert? How do you build breaks into your day? Are you an extrovert? Even extroverts need coping mechanisms. What are some of yours?