I have a confession. I’m an introvert. I mean I’m an INFJ, which, according to researchers, is the “rarest” personality type, which feels like a nice way of telling me “you’re weird.”
But I know I’m not alone in my introverted ways.
In fact, there are now websites devoted to the woes and perks of the introvert living in an extroverted world, and I, generally, am learning to do just fine with my introverted self.
The problems arise when it comes to parenting. I work online, so I could, technically, just hide in my house and become a hermit. But there’s this other little human being I helped bring into the world, and he needs to see people. So I do my best, but as we enter the holiday season, I find myself filled with introverted dread about what lies before me.
It’s now officially holiday season, which means parties and gatherings and events. It’s all a little bit too much for the introverted mom sometimes, but I have a plan to help me get through it all. I think it can help others.
I got a little taste of what’s to come this last week thanks to Halloween parties. My introvert’s nightmare story goes something like this.
About a month ago, one of my mom friends posted to Facebook that she needed volunteers to bake for the school district’s Halloween party. I somehow got it in my head that this must be for the cake walk, so even though I can’t bake pretty things, I can bake yummy things, and I decided to sign up to bake. I mean, yummy and not-so-pretty is perfect for a kid winning a prize at the cake walk, right?
Plus, I know myself. I knew that if I didn’t have external pressure to attend the Halloween party, I would find some excuse not to take my son, and he would miss out. I didn’t want that to happen.
So, the day before the party, the baking begins. My son and I baked cupcakes for the party. My son, who is 7, wanted to help, and since I’m thinking it just needs to be yummy, I welcomed his cupcake-decorating skills. When we were finished, we had six looks-like-a-third-grader-made-them Jack Skellington cupcakes I decorated and six orange and unusual, Picasso-like cupcakes my son decorated.
I’m not going to lie. They looked a little rough. But I knew they were yummy, and, again, I’m thinking “this is for the cake walk.” I mean, second graders aren’t that picky when it comes to cupcakes.
And then we arrive at the Halloween party.
On top of my usual fear and panic for such things, upon entering the school premises and inquiring about the cupcakes, I find out that our cupcakes are for a bake sale! A bake sale! I’m pretty sure your cupcakes are supposed to look nice if you sell them.
I’m pretty close to a panic attack at this point. Because we homeschool, I don’t know many people at the school party, but I try to face it all bravely. I head over to the woman running the bake sale and avoid making eye contact.
She makes room for our cupcakes, and right next to some adorably-decorated owl cupcakes, complete with neat eyes and wings, I place our cupcake conglomerations. Still, I avoid eye contact.
Every fiber of my being is telling me to keep the cupcakes, take my son by the hand, tell him I made a mistake, and take him home. As an introvert, I really, really just want to go home. But I push through. I don’t want my son to feel ashamed of our cupcakes. He can’t know how I’m feeling inside.
Growing up, I was one of the “poor kids,” and even though my mom was this beautiful, amazing, proud woman, members of the community found a way to let me know what my place in the world was. I had a lot of shame growing up, and there was no way in the world I was going to let my kid feel shame of any kind, at least not that I could help. So I forced those damn cupcakes out of my hand, onto the table, and then I left as quickly as possible. There would be no running and hiding and giving into my introvertedness that day.
It was the best I could do. I had to be a good mom.
I managed to make it through the rest of the party without too much trouble. I noticed that no one bought our cupcakes, so I assume those cupcakes made their ways to the trash can, which feels a little sad to me.
The important thing was that I survived. It was hard. I had to make some small talk. I had to avoid crawling behind the bleachers and hiding from everyone. But I was relatively successful.
Son attended party. He got to play Bingo and trick or treat. Mom win.
But how in the world am I going to make it through the holiday season with all the parties coming up? The first part of my plan involves letting the world know how introverts may feel during this time of year. The second part of my plan involves finding a mom buddy.
So, first, dear world, please know that some of us amongst you are introverts. We’re not snobby. We’re terrified and stressed, and we have a hard time processing when we’re under stress from speaking to people. There’s even some research that shows that introverts actually have longer paths to take to retrieve information in our brains, so please bear with us.
And, second, dear introverted moms, I have some ideas to make things better. These tips helped me survive raising my oldest son, who is now 19, and I’m sure they will help me during my second round with my youngest son.
- Find a mom buddy you can confess your struggles to and ask her to help. It will probably have to be someone who loves you enough to be your conversation buddy for most of the evening, but try to find someone. If you can have a buffer you feel comfortable with, it will make the holiday parties much easier.
- Be sure to eat before you go. If you’re like me, even if there’s food at the party, you won’t be able to eat in front of people. Eating plus talking plus standing just equals impossible. And you really need to make sure you blood sugar levels are good for that kind of stress, so grab a bite before you go. It helps!
- Make sure your kids eat something healthy and substantial before you go to a party. There’s going to be sugar, and sugar often equals meltdowns if your kiddo has an empty stomach otherwise. Since you can’t really disappear into the floor as you wish to be able to when your kiddo is having a public meltdown, it’s best to avoid them. Take some time before you go and get some healthy food into your kiddos’ tummies.
- This sounds crazy but it helps, give yourself some pep talks before you go. Tell yourself you can do it. Try to prepare yourself. You know it will be difficult, but you will live. I mean, you’ve done it before, so you can do it again. It helps if you have a partner willing to help you with said pep talks. My husband is also an introvert and totally understands and helps.
- Finally, do a little reading on introverts. I have found that reading the research and understanding that I’m not alone, that I’m not “the one weird mom” helps me.
I think, with this list of tips and maybe a few others if you’re willing to share, introverted moms everywhere will, somehow, find a way to make it through another holiday season of parties and events.
Now, I just have to find that mom buddy…