The Introvert Parent

There are roughly a million articles online discussing the common characteristics shared by introverts. I suppose introverts are the ones sitting around writing all day, so that's probably why there seem to be a disproportionate amount of articles about them.

There's usually a reference of some kind or another to something I'll call the gas tank. The idea, as it goes, is that introverts can be just a social as anyone else, but that they have a limited amount of energy to do so. It's like a gas tank that, once empty, takes a long, long time to refill, and there will be no socializing until the tank is at F.

This isn't just applicable to socializing. It applies to anything that requires a lot of mental or emotional energy, anything that requires interacting with anyone other than ourselves. And it's a very real thing. It is very often the bane of my existence.

I'm not moody, I'm an introvert.

What's difficult, then, is realizing that the time you spend with your child is siphoning the tank.

I love my son more than I can possibly explain and I love spending time with him. But it is exhausting; it would be exhausting for an extrovert, let alone an introvert.

That's hard to reconcile, because no one wants to think of the time they spend with their child as being a problem.

I don't know how it is with other introverts, but I also have a habit of burning brightly when I engage with people. I am all in and often over the top. I'm a man of extremes and when I'm switched on I will be as on as is humanly possible.

With my son, at least, I'm choosing to be that way, but the end result is still the same. Whereas I might actually enjoy interacting with my son, I'm still tapped dry. And I never burn brighter or hotter than when I'm choosing to.

It's a difficult realization to come to, the idea that something you ostensibly love doing (spending time with your child) can also be sucking you dry.

To follow the metaphor to its end, I need time to refill my tank. But being a parent means not having a ton of time for yourself, which means refilling can be that much harder -- and take that much longer.

If I had a dollar for every time I said to myself that I needed to start going to bed earlier then I could quit my day job and I'd have plenty of time to refill. As it is those few hours after my son falls asleep are the only time I'm able to prepare myself for the next day, and that time is often not enough.

I'm regularly running past F and after a few days or weeks of that, I start to lose it.

It seems like a simple matter of being overwhelmed, of thinking that perhaps the work/life balance is off or the division of labor is off. Or maybe my son is just having a hard time lately or maybe I'm just moody for some other reason that I can't put my finger on yet because I'm painfully oblivious to my own emotions. The reality, though, is that I've been running on empty for days and I've reached my limit.

So I try to take long lunches at work. I try to leave early. I try to steal a few extra quiet moments to keep myself afloat.

And I try to make sure my son never sees me grinding to a halt.