I used to keep a journal, from age 15 (bored in HS Chemistry) to after the end of my son’s first year (37, 38 yrs old) . I call this the “before time.” Before life got, not just busy, but overwhelming for me. I used to say, like everyone does: “oh, my plate is full.” I began to realize that my plate is a lot smaller than most others’ plates. Because I’m an introvert.
My experience of the before time and the after time is this: In the before time, my life was like a gentle hike through hills and valleys, with time to stop by cool streams and green vistas to reflect, to write, to calm the storms in my brain. Husband and I had different interests and zero problem spending time apart, even if that meant we were at home together, him watching tv in the living room, me in the kitchen reading a book. I would have time with friends: the occasional book club, breakfast out, hosting a Sunday lunch at my house. Though it was excruciating, usually, to meet new people, I had plenty of time to recover and renew.
In the after time, my life, til now, has been like being chased down a mountain by a bear. Being pregnant was climbing up the mountain, having the baby was cresting the mountain, that first year I started to head down the mountain, –then he turned about 18 months old, and the bear is right on my fucking tail. I’m running as fast as I can, on instinct, can’t catch my breath, terrified, just panicked, and there’s no end to this mountain. Keep in mind, too, that I’m wearing these damn heavy robes, and I’m not a bit fit enough to be running this fast, this hard, for this long. No time to reflect. No time to recover. My face and limbs are scratched, I don’t exist beyond this one function of getting down the mountain away from this bear.
I’m down the mountain now. The bear is still behind me but he’s out of breath too, so we’re now just jogging and I can handle it. But I look back at this journey and I say, “I can’t believe I did that! I just ran down a fucking mountain!”
Having a child, as an introvert, means having someone talk to you. A LOT. Having sensory input. A LOT. Basketball stats. Loud noises just cuz it’s fun to make a loud noises. Youtube videos, dribbling, racing with the dog, telling jokes. And, as a committed parent, I listened, I nodded, I absorbed all that energy and it cost me A LOT. Now that I’m at the bottom of the mountain, now that he’s thirteen and a half, he senses my need for a little bit of space, he’s able to spend time alone and not feel ignored by me. He’s allowing me to catch my breath. And man, it feels really good.
Where’s husband in all this? A lot of the time, he was working nights. And in my house, the mom is the reigning monarch– the prince seeks me out over husband the majority of the time. I have very often fantasized about being a dad, of the type in my house, where you get to play a supporting role– the prince consort, if you will.
Other people run down the mountain–but it seems maybe there’s no bear, or as extroverts they’re just that much more fit than I’ve been. Parenting is hard, no doubt, for everyone– some people are good at it because they’re naturally gifted,– if I’m any good at it, it’s because I’ve worked really hard at it.
My extended family have reached maximum tedium in hearing about my introvertedness, but I keep marveling at the fact that there’s an explanation of why I am the way that I am, why being a parent has been so hard for me. It’s like having fibromyalgia and hearing everyone say, “Yeah, wow, I feel the same, I’m really achy too…” Well, no, it’s not really the same, but to continually say so sounds like so much whining.