I love being a mum. Love it. But there are definitely elements of parenting that are completely at odds with the way I’m designed.
See, I’m a textbook extroverted-introvert: if you don’t know what that is, basically it means that when I’m out and socialising, I have the best time ever. I’m that person that convinces you to have ‘just one more shot’, and to stay out ‘just half-an-hour longer’.
I’m that girl who – when she’s out – makes friends with every single person she comes across (my friends used to laugh about how I’d disappear, and they’d inevitably find me holding court with a group of strangers who’d now become my besties). Some of the greatest conversations I’ve had ever have been with taxi drivers transporting my bedraggled butt home at some ungodly hour of the morning. After the last Britmums Live, I spent an hour-and-a-half chatting to the Iranian guy at the hotel front desk about Middle Eastern politics.
But it also means I’m the girl who disappears afterwards for a week, maybe even two. By that, I mean vanishes without a trace: I don’t go on social media, I don’t reply to texts and I most definitely don’t answer my phone. Sometimes I don’t even go outside for 48 hours (it depends on how much food is in the house…).
Because, after expending all that energy, I’m socially spent, my entertaining reserves have run completely dry. When that happens I’m like a drained solar panel, and solitude is the sunlight that powers me back up again.
I used to think I was just a bit of a social weirdo, with my wildly-fluctuating mingling skills. My other friends had no trouble being ‘on’ all the time or were much more balanced – they didn’t have the same crazy social highs or the reclusive social lows.
Then one day I read a story about what it meant to be an ‘extroverted-introvert’ and it all slotted into place. It was so reassuring to read there were others just like me – who booked a social occasion well in advance (because short-notice events freak me out) and couldn’t wait for the day to arrive… until the day arrived.
The night before I’d feel a sense of low-level sense of panic every time I thought about it. Then I’d turn up, have a fantastic time, an amazing chat with the taxi driver on the way home (seriously though – they have the best stories!), send a garbled text about what a great night it had been, and fall into bed with a smile on my face.
Then the next morning I’d wake and the world would seem like a big, scary place and I just wanted to hide away.
Knowing I had the following weekend free brought me the biggest sense of relief – something to look forward to. Alternatively, a calendar booked up for weeks in a row completely stressed me out – I had to have some ‘downtime’ in between, or I felt pressured and trapped.
It wasn’t just big nights out – the same principle applied to work events, client meetings or casual catch ups. I’d be having a great time, full of vim and vigour (none of it put on or faked, I must add, the emotion and animation is completely 100 percent genuine), but then I’d feel my energy levels downshift.
Like watching your phone life dwindle, my own battery would start winding down, draining faster and faster. I’d pull back from the crowds, sitting on the sidelines to silently observe. I wasn’t tired, per se, I’d just run out of social juice. Looking back, I can see now how introverted Jacqui must have been confusing to people, who sometimes mistook my withdrawal for boredom, snootiness or insouciance.
If I don’t get that ‘me-time’ it makes me feel anxious and resentful. I get this irrational sense of being pressured and my patience levels plummet.
I’m a bit like an iPhone – if completely switched off (if I’m by myself and I don’t have to talk or communicate with anyone) I recharge a lot more quickly than if I’m still having to maintain a basic level of socialising (if I’m with the kids/doing the school run/talking to clients).
In a perfect world, I’d recover by completely hiding away reading and watching trashy reality shows on catch up, quite content not to utter a single word if circumstances allowed.
Which, as you other parents already know, circumstances most definitely do not allow.
One of my biggest challenges has been striking that balance between the demands of motherhood, and what I personally need to function at my best. Here are the top five ways I’ve found to achieve some solitude and soothe my introverted soul; my advice for how to cope with parenting when you’re an extroverted introvert.
EXERCISE MY RIGHTS: When I’m desperate for a break, I’ll often head to the gym. I take my headphones so I can listen to music on my iPhone, or watch something on my iPad; even if I’m simply reading online I’ll keep my headphones in, as it deters conversations I’m just not in the mood for.
BATHE THE BLUES AWAY: Is there anything more relaxing than an indulgent, luxuriously perfumed bath? Sometimes I achieve an uninterrupted hour, other times it’s only 20 minutes before someone bursts in. However, every minute is cherished – a chance to restore calmness and reset myself.
SHAKE UP MY WAKE UP: I used to get up as late as I could get away with, but now I choose to get up one or two hours before the girls so I can some precious time just to myself. The house is lovely and quiet, and I can enjoy my cup of tea without interruption. It helps me clear my head and get ready for the busy day ahead.
SHUT IT OUT: Nothing beats that blissful feeling of escaping upstairs and shutting the bedroom door, with everyone else on the other side. Every so often I instruct the girls to enter only in case of emergency (with OH overseeing them, of course) and relish up some precious minutes on my own. I’ll get some blogging done or scroll through Instagram or watch some Netflix, and it’s absolute bliss.
TAKE IT AWAY: Sometimes, when the laundry pile and the housework and the same four walls close in on me, I pack up my laptop and head to my favourite café. I order brekkie and a latté and tap away for an hour or two. For some reason, I just work really well in my little bubble, with the bustle of life going on around me. I always come back feeling calm and settled, and full of ideas and inspiration.
Can you relate, or do I sound like a complete weirdo? Let me know your personality type in the comments!
• read about my solo travelling adventures