The Introvert In Me
“I need just a few minutes,” I tell my kids through clenched teeth, my voice unnaturally strained. I pick up my iPad, clicking play on an audiobook before I lock the screen and hand it off to my eight-year-old, who scampers off to his room. The voice of the Percy Jackson narrator trails behind him down the stairs as I consider his younger brothers.
I feel my blood pressure rising as I repeat my request to my just-turned-six year old and three-year-old. “I need you to find something to do that isn’t in the kitchen, for just a few minutes.” They stare back at me, not moving. “Go play in your room. Look at a book. Just give me a few minutes, please.”
It’s Friday of the first week of summer break, and we’re stuck at home. My minivan is in the shop due to a broken air-conditioner. It’s only lunch time and I’ve already broken up a million fights. The heat is so oppressive in our backyard that I can’t send the kids out to play, my normal go-to when we all need a reset.
I’m not even sure what sent me from mildly annoyed to the edge of my breaking point. Is it the fact that every time I’ve turned around today, someone has been on my heels? That I was hoping we’d fall into a pleasant summer rhythm easily, and we haven’t? Is it the laundry and dishes always piling up, the toys I could have sworn I just put away magically reappearing in the middle of the floor?
Or is it the thing that I have trouble admitting? I’m an introvert—and I have no problem saying that. It’s what comes next: and that means I need time alone.
I’ve only realized in the last few years how essential time alone is to my well-being. Before the pandemic, it happened naturally—a few minutes in the car here, a quick errand alone there.
Then months and months of being home, never really alone, started to wear on me. I realized how much I craved time by myself—but I felt guilty about it. I escaped on walks and to sit in parking lots, trying to regain a sense of equilibrium, constantly checking the time to see how much longer I could reasonably stay out. Always, always, I felt a sense that I was doing something wrong.
My kids were fine when I returned. My husband was supportive. But guilt hovered over me. A good mom wouldn’t ever need a break from her family, right?
This spring, when all three of my kids were attending in-person school, I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. Finally, my days once again had built-in alone time. The introvert in me could relax.
But when summer—my favorite season—started barrelling towards us, I started to feel anxious. I realized that my days would no longer be structured so I had time to myself. I’d have to ask for it—a struggle for my Enneagram 9 self, who hates to voice her own needs. I told myself I’d figure it out. We’d find a good summer rhythm. I’d have the kids do quiet time. I’d wake up early for alone time.
But here we are, at the end of the first week of summer, and I’m exhausted. Early mornings haven’t happened because of late nights at the pool. The summer rhythm is proving elusive to find. Quiet time attempts are peppered with frequent interruptions. I am frazzled and on edge because I haven’t had a minute to myself to recharge.
I look around the kitchen, finally empty, though I know my three-year-old is just around the corner, ready to pop out again as soon as he feels like it’s been long enough. I take a deep breath and promise myself:
I’m going to ask my husband for Saturday mornings—alone and out of the house. And I’m not going to feel guilty about it.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series "Permission Slip".