My daughter is an extreme extrovert. She’s the kind of person who ALWAYS needs someone else around. Well, that’s not completely true, as I have seen her play by herself for about 10 or 15 minutes before she runs over to the closest parent to tackle them. She needs other people around to feed her energy. I am an extreme introvert. For me to recover, I need to be by myself in a quiet room, with a book or some music. Limited noise and stimulation are necessary for me.
Yesterday morning, I was up with my daughter at 6am. By 8am, I was feeling a little worn down from my daughter’s energy, and my wife was still sleeping. I needed a few minutes recovery to try to keep up my energy levels to play with my daughter. I gave myself a “time out” and told my daughter I needed a few minute break. She seemed okay with it (which was a nice change), so I went and sat down to listen to one song with my headphones on.
What was funny was that it was clear her energy was flagging at the exact moments when I was starting to recover so that she would come and find me to ask me to do something just as I started to feel okay which would then consume what I had gained back. It was a funny cycle that didn’t help much.
I think one of the biggest challenges I have parenting my daughter is how we are both pretty high on the intensity scale, but she is full of exuberant energy and very extroverted, while I am quietly focused and introverted. This is a bit like mixing a spark and gun powder some days.
I think many parents struggle to get the time and space they need to recover. I know my wife, who is extroverted, struggles to make the time to spend with others to recover her own energy (having an introverted husband doesn’t help). For me, I feel guilty to ask or take time for myself to try to recover, because I know my wife has been alone much of the day – so neither of us are really getting what we need. I’m certain this leads to significant emotional challenges when we are parenting our child, because subconsciously when we are frustrated with her, there’s a gremlin whispering into our minds “If you didn’t have this kid (or if they were a better child) you wouldn’t have this problem.” That gremlin is easy to ignore when we have high energy levels, but when we are low, it feels like shouting.
Something I’m hoping to figure out this year, is how to make time for myself to recover, and also how to help my wife achieve the same. It will require some compromise. We both need that recovery, and it is becoming clear that this is a significant contributor to our mental health challenges.
I wonder what other parents do to help themselves recover? Do they make the time they need for self care? I don’t believe many do, as they think they have to be martyrs, or just ignore what their bodies are telling them. Its easy to give in to the challenges of life, to be consumed by the business of parenting, and to ignore your own needs. But then life feels like its something to suffer through, rather then something that can be enjoyed.
I’m sick of just suffering through life hoping it will be better some day. I want to start making today that day.
Are you giving yourself the time and space to recover as a parent? Do you know what activities help you feel good? When was the last time you did something for yourself?
I challenge you to plan something this week for yourself. Make self-care just as important as caring for your child.