For the two months Squidge has been going to to nursery three days a week instead of two, meaning that our routine now goes like this; I look after Squidge on my own for two days, I go to work for two days and Squidge goes to nursery, I have a day to myself while Squidge has a third day at nursery and then the Northern One and I look after him together for the weekend.
Even though I only look after Squidge by myself for two days a week, by the end of both of those days I am exhausted, both physically and mentally and after spending two days at work I need a full day to myself to recuperate. I’m sure many mums would jump at the chance to have a whole, blissful day to themselves but wouldn’t feel able to justify the cost of an extra nursery day when they’re at home to look after their child. The Northern One and I decided that the extra nursery day was worth every penny even though we could have saved the money or spent on other things.
This isn’t because because Squidge is particularly demanding or naughty or because he’s spent the last hour having a tantrum or refusing to eat his dinner. It’s simply because I am worn out from having my personal space invaded and from the level of interaction that Squidge needs from me. When Friday comes and the Northern One gets up to himself ready for work and Squidge ready for nursery I hear the kitchen door close and I breathe a sign of relief because I know that for the next ten hours I can just be me.
Much as I beat myself up, none of these things make me a bad parent, any more than my somewhat precarious mental health does. Needing a set day each week that I know I’ll have to to doesn’t mean that I don’t love Squidge and the Northern One, it just means that I’m an introvert.
Even as a small child I found play dates and sleepovers (either at my house or the friends) difficult and tiring and tried to avoid them as much as possible, much preferring to spend time on my own reading a really good book. I liked having friends (and still do) but I was much more comfortable seeing them at school when I was part of a large group. It meant there were lots of other people to fill make up for my social failings, lessons where we had to be quiet and I knew exactly what time I could go home and just be by myself.
As I got older I found social situations more and more difficult and all sorts of things that people find so easy; meeting for coffee, girl’s nights in, hen do’s all had the potential to cause my anxiety levels to go into overdrive and for panic to set in. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I am never going to find the company of others easy but what I didn’t realise is how difficult it would be to reconcile being an introvert and a mum.
While I imagine there are very few people that find being a mum easy, being an introvert makes being around Squidge that bit more difficult. Even though Squidge goes to nursery three days per week, I still spend more time with him than I do with any other person. Not only that but, because he’s fifteen months old he has absolutely no idea about invading personal space and has developed the delightful habit of screaming the place down if I go to the bathroom on my own.
I know some mums who can’t wait for their children to wake up so that they can begin playing; thriving on the noise, chaos and social interaction that their child brings. They relish going to playgroups, arranging play dates, meeting up with other mums for coffee and lunch and all sorts of other things that I find so difficult and scary. Recently I’ve been making myself take Squidge to sensory time once a week but even after just an hour and a half of being in a room with other parents and their children I’m so exhausted that I need the entire hour’s walk home just to try and start gathering myself together again.
I will fully admit that most days I wish Squidge would sleep for as long as humanly possible. I breathe a sigh of relief when he goes down for a nap because nap time mean that I can do some chores, sit and write or just curl up on the sofa and relish the fact that, even for just an hour, I don’t have to talk to, or interact anyone else. Equally, bed time signals the beginning of ‘me time’; where I can just sit in comfortable quiet with the Northern One without being licked, poked, having my hair pulled or being required to participate in games that involve being jumped all over.
Being an introvert does not mean that I am any less of an engaged or loving parent than someone with a more outgoing personality. I do enjoy playing with Squidge and find the giggles and shrieks that result from a particularly boisterous game of ‘chase’ or ‘eat me up’ particularly cute and rewarding. In the last few weeks he’s learnt to throw a ball so we’ve been playing catch and I love having him snuggle on my lap while I read story after story.
I won’t deny that part of me is dreading the day he’s old enough to have birthday parties or friends over to stay. There’s no way I’d be able to deny him the opportunity to do any of these things but having other children in my house and being being required to socialise with their parents is enough to start my heart beating that bit faster even now.
As part of being an introvert I’ve always found house guests exhausting and find having people to stay for more than one night very difficult. The only person I’ve ever felt entirely comfortable being with for long periods of time is the Northern One. I love seeing our friends and I often wish that we hadn’t all ended up living s far apart but that doesn’t change the fact that after people of left I need to spend a couple of hours in near silence before I start feeling anything like myself again.
This is partly to do with the fact that my house is my safe haven and that, much as I wish I didn’t feel this way, people staying is almost like an invasion of my privacy and personal space. As soon as guests leave I run around the house, picking up empty mugs, putting away extra chairs and generally returning the house to the state it was in before the guests arrived.
Since Squidge was born we’ve had a lot more house guests.
Being an introvert is yet another reason I use to tell myself that I’m a bad mum; another stick to beat myself with when in reality there’s not much I can do about it, short of forcing myself into situations that I find uncomfortable. So I reassure myself with the knowledge that it is far better for Squidge to have a mum who is comfortable in her own company than a mum who is stressed and anxious because I keep putting myself in situations I find difficult because I think it’s what I should be doing.
Clearly I will sometimes have to take a deep breath and take the plunge as far as being sociable goes but the last thing I want is for Squidge to pick up on my anxiety and therefore learn that social situations are scary. By going to nursery Squidge has plenty of opportunity to socialise and learn social skills so it’s hardly as though he’s deprived of contact with other adults and children of his own age.
I know that one day Squidge will grow up and leave home and then I’ll have hours of time to spend in my own company but for now, when my boys get home on Fridays I jump up and run to the door to give them both a big hug and ask them if they each had a nice day. This is something that I do because I’ve had time to recoup and recharge and I’m genuinely so pleased to see them. I do slightly regret the fact that my solitary time has come to an end for the week but it means that I’m that bit more able to enjoy the time that I do spend with them.