My Teens Are Learning to Manage Their Health Conditions — So Where Does That Leave Mom?
When I was eight years old, we moved to a different state. Our first day there, I was sitting on our lawn, watching a bunch of girls roller skate. I didn’t know how to skate, but I talked my parents into getting me some skates that day. We couldn’t afford the tall, white, lace up ones all the other girls were wearing. I settled on some stiff, metal, adjustable things that fit around my sneakers. As soon as we got home, I wobbled up to them and asked them if they would teach me how to skate.
They did, and I spent my summer days skating in circles with them around our neighborhood, stiff skates be damned.
My report cards came home with average grades and lots of comments about how I was “too social.” My teachers told my parents I would do much better in school if I didn’t talk so much. There was no talk about how I fit in socially, made an effort to make friends, and always included everyone; I was just the annoying girl who talked too much.
In high school, I had a big circle. We would run together after school, go out for ice cream, and get together every Friday night for a sleepover. My job was bagging groceries, which I loved because my friends worked with me. We saw each other in school, then after school, and on the weekends. I never remember feeling like I needed space from them, or downtime.
My younger sister, though, was the opposite. She was (and still is) an introvert and I didn’t have a single introverted quality about me. I was loud, could talk forever, and always got lots of energy from being around people. She would often get up and leave the room without any notice. I’d follow her and ask her what her deal was, to which she’d respond, “I need to be alone now, sorry.”
I never understood why she did this; it was as if she turned into a pumpkin during social situations after an hour or so. I never want to be like that, I thought.
When I got pregnant with my first child, I invited my entire family into the delivery room with me. My husband wasn’t happy with me: “Can’t it be just us for once?” He generally liked the fact I was social and used to work the room at parties. I was always up for anything and planned get-togethers at our house all the time. However, he had his limits, and this was one of them.
I took his feelings into consideration and we were the only ones present at our son’s birth. However, I made sure he called everyone we knew while I was in labor to invite them to our house that weekend to see our new family member. I had spent time making sure the fridge was always stocked and our house was always clean, because I planned on having lots of company. I would be the best hostess now that I wasn’t working full time, and I couldn’t wait for this chapter in my life.
But holding my son for the first time in the delivery room, I felt my heart ache. I’d never loved anyone so much, and putting him down was physically painful. When my family members trickled in and wanted to meet him, to my surprise, I didn’t want anyone to touch him. I wanted everyone to leave us alone. I told myself it was just the exhaustion, and the hormones.
The next day, more visitors came and my feelings of not wanting to see anyone were stronger. I wanted quiet. I didn’t want to be bothered. I didn’t have the energy to talk.
I’d never had these feelings before, and I asked the nurse about it. “Give it time,” she said. “New life adjustments take at least three weeks. This will be longer. He’s a big deal, and motherhood changes you.” She smiled and rubbed his bald head.
As planned, traffic came in and out of our house that weekend. My best friend from college drove five hours to meet him. My husband’s parents drive four hours to see him. My high school and work friends were all there. I was so thankful they wanted to be there — it was what I’d asked for.
But the feeling of everyone wanting to take something from me grew louder. On Sunday, all my husband’s friends piled in and I took the baby and went upstairs. I couldn’t stop crying.
Monday, my husband went back to work and I locked the doors, unplugged the phone, and hid upstairs. There were a few knocks on the door that day and my heart started to pound. The old me would have run to greet them. Actually, I would have been waiting outside on the deck with lemonade and homemade cookies. But this woman? I had no idea who she was or what to do with her.
The months passed and I began to feel a bit more social, but not much. I liked my time alone. I found I needed it to recharge. And that feeling of people taking something from me? It was my energy they were taking. I could feel it leaving my body. Voices were louder, and as soon as I’d had enough interaction, I began to feel anxious until I could be alone again. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Our daughter was born two years later and no one was invited to the hospital. I didn’t ask anyone to our house. Instead, I told everyone we’d let them know when we were ready for visitors, and to please not come by unannounced.
That was nearly 20 years ago and I can honestly say I am now a full blown introvert. I hate small talk. I need to recharge every day. I have no desire to go up to everyone at a social gathering and talk. After a few hours and conversations, I am ready to go home. I have zero FOMO, and would rather be home reading or watching a television show any night of the week.
Motherhood turned me into an introvert. That’s not a bad thing, but the hardest part has been allowing myself to be this new version of me. I tried to fight it, failing every time. I knew becoming a mother would change me, but not like this.
I no longer wait for myself to “go back to normal” — because this is who I am now. I don’t have the urge to try and be my old extroverted self, and I have found that finally giving in to my less-social self, rather than railing against it, feels right. I just do what my sister did, I walk out of the room and say, “I need to be alone now.”
Honestly, I’ve never been happier.
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