I often find myself overwhelmed in a single day of parenting. Not simply because parenting is tough and has its excessive moments of exhaustion and feeling generally wiped out by the constant needs and wants of our little offspring. But rather my intense desire to down tools and find time by myself, away from the kids, the house, and anything that may possibly need my attention, is because I am an introvert.
"We can tell what our natural state is by asking ourselves what we do when we hit a crisis," says Dr Hilda Burke, psychotherapist, life coach and couples counsellor. "Do we want to retreat (introvert stance) or do we want to summon our friends and family and share the pain (extrovert strategy)? Generally speaking, extroverts tend to feel more energised through spending time with others and introverts more through being alone in their own space."
My brain is wired for me to want to be by myself, especially if I become overwhelmed. Being a mum of two has meant this has impacted on my parenting style. It has meant that while my husband will happily engage in playtime with the kids, I will find solitary activities for them as I find imaginative play mentally exhausting.
My husband may play for an hour, but I find 20 minutes pushes the boundaries. I find other ways to entertain the kids while still being able to be with them. Ways that are less taxing on my introverted mind.
On the opposite end of the scale, stay-at-home dad, Ross Good considers himself somewhat of an extrovert. He writes a parenting blog, the Stented Papa, and has recently launched two websites, Booky Wooky, a personalised book website, and Daddy Bear Gifts. With so much going on, Ross' personality keeps him uplifted with juggling his various projects and family life.
“I consider myself to be an extrovert, just not the full-on kind,” he says. “While I’m definitely not an introvert, I don’t think you need to be an ‘out and out’ extrovert to be classed as such.
“I thrive on engagement with other people. I’ve zero problems getting involved with group activities. However, I’m not the centre of attention either. There are situations that make me quite uncomfortable, but if I’m called upon to do something in a public manner, I’ll do my level best to get involved. Which is exactly what I did last month when I learned how to dance the jive for a ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ fundraiser for my eldest daughter’s primary school in front of 400 people.”
Would an introvert hold a child back by sitting on the sidelines? Would an extrovert push their child beyond their boundaries and characteristics?
As an introvert I often choose the safer, quieter path which could possibly be due to my need to have order and planning to my day. While you may also see me on stage dancing the jive at some point, it’s after the dance that my mind needs recalibrating and refocusing. A time-out if you will.
I imagine this need for calm after the storm will have an influence on my children, as the choices I make for them in their younger days may affect their own actions later on. I asked Dr Burke if this is the case. Does our personality impact our parenting? “Parenting can be challenging for all parents, whether introvert or extrovert. The pressure to be ‘on’ for their children when they’re exhausted and feeling drained can be hard. For introverts it can be even tougher, especially with a first child, when they were previously used to being able to have time alone for themselves,” she says.
Ross believes his extrovert personality has helped him with parenting. “Children are so susceptible to their parents’ demeanour. To our actions, our behaviour, our mannerisms, to our words and how we speak, basically, how we behave. I’d like to think that having an extrovert mindset can encourage my daughters to have the want and drive to go and do things other children might shy away from,” he says.
Alan Herbert writes a family and food blog at OMG Family Life and Food and classes himself as I do – an introvert. He sees this personality trait as being separate from his parenting style. "I don't think it affects my parenting. Although, I do worry it might affect my kids personalities, considering they copy what they see. I don't deliberately shield my children, though, subconsciously, perhaps I might," he says.
Oana Popescu, a writer and illustrator, defiantly recognises herself as an extrovert and believes it helps her with parenting her son. “As an extrovert, I can be pretty chill with a lot of things related to parenting. And this helps a lot in my relationship with my son. I love that I can also show him how to be fun and easy-going,” she says.
I wondered if introverts and extroverts had a habit of encouraging their children to behave in line with their own personalities. Would an introvert hold a child back by sitting on the sidelines? Would an extrovert push their child beyond their boundaries and characteristics? The answer is possibly, but it’s not confined to personality type. An extrovert could impress their opinion and choices on their children as much as an introvert would. As Burke says, “An introverted intellectual type could be as likely to ‘push’ a child in a direction that doesn’t suit them.”
As such Ross stipulates, “I’m going to do everything in my power to allow them the freedom and backing required to help them become their own person with their own personality.”
Oana concurs but recognises that her son is conscious of her personality. She says, “I don’t want to push my son beyond my own personality. I want to give him the freedom to be who he wants to be, with his own limits. My son is affected by my personality, meaning that he is copying me a lot. In many ways it is okay because I want him to be outgoing and fun and open-minded.”
Burke notes that your personality is engrained in you and that another person can not necessarily encourage you to act or behave against your temperament. “Being an introvert or extrovert is innate, something you’re born with. That said many of us can and will adapt if other ways of being are prized in our families,” she says.