“Extrovert: A friendly person who likes being with and talking to other people : an outgoing person.
Introvert: A shy person : a quiet person who does not find it easy to talk to other people.”
Merriam-Webster online Dictionary
Growing up, I always assumed I was an extrovert. I enjoyed people, was told in school I talked too much, and wouldn’t have used the word “shy” in a description about myself. However, the older I get, the more I realize I’m really introverted. The signs were all there, yet I didn’t know at the time how to read them.
Two weeks of selective mutism my freshman year when we relocated to another State. Choosing to live at home instead of in dorms at college. Eating lunch at my desk for five years instead of in the lunchroom with my coworkers. Working from home for the past ten years and loving it.
However, as I said before, growing up thinking I was extroverted, I was thrown off balance when I became a mother and realized I was a closet introvert instead. Being raised by two extroverts, our house was always open to anybody who wanted to drop in unannounced or stay for a few days. My mom was born to be a hostess and always has food in her freezer ready to defrost and cook up gourmet style. My parents welcomed any and all of our friends, at any hour – the more the merrier.
Therefore, it was a surprise to me that as my children got older, I realized I tended to lean toward introversion versus extroversion. For a parent, especially one that enjoys quiet time to recharge her batteries, that can be a challenge. The highlight of my childhood years was connecting with friends, attending youth group, and participating in school activities. There were some days while in high school that I left at 7:00 a.m. and didn’t return home until after 9:00 p.m. because of involvement in so many activities. So I had to ask myself the question: Am I going to neglect my children’s social lives because I need more quiet than my parents did or is there a way I can help them reach their full potential while still taking care of myself?
While our kids may not attend every single event that their friends do, there are benefits to having an introverted parent as well. I’m not afraid to tackle tough subjects with my kids. Even though they’d prefer to tell me about the latest movie or videogame, I’m always asking them to talk to me about them. I want to know how they are, what they’re interested in, and share an open dialogue regarding topics of drugs, sex, and other touchy matters. Any friend of our children’s that comes over is welcomed into our home as one of the family. I may not cook a gourmet meal, but I will try and have something enjoyable, like macaroni and cheese or pizza.
For an extroverted parent, the experiences make look different but be equally as challenging. And, when you are introverted but are parenting an extroverted child or visa versa, that brings in a whole new host of issues to navigate.
I wrote this post to be an encouragement to all parents out there. Whatever way God created you, rest assured He didn’t make a mistake. He loves that you are introverted or extroverted – neither one is better than the other. And the children you were called to parent? God put them in your family for a specific purpose as well.
My extroverted children are helping me come out of my shell while I can relate to the introverted aspects of my other children and come alongside them with the added layer of truly understanding what they are feeling. After all, if I can try something new where I’m not comfortable and live to tell about it, they can muster up some courage to take a small step toward that goal as well. Also, I can bring a better understanding of being sensitive to introverts for my child who is extroverted and doesn’t have a clue that some people need quiet to recharge.
However, having said all that, when I took on the responsibility to be a parent, I made a commitment to be the best one possible with my strengths and weaknesses. Knowing now that I’m more introverted than previously realized, I need to make sure to recharge my batteries, as much as possible, before my kids come home from school so that they get the best parts of me and not the leftovers. Same with my husband – He deserves much more than an exhausted wife who can barely keep her eyes open at night. It is my pleasure, as much as possible, to reserve some of my energy so we can laugh together while watching TV or make up new inside family jokes.
What about you? Are you introverted or extroverted? A great friend of mine posted a free questionnaire on her website that can help you determine which category you tend to lean toward. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://marianneclements.org/career/introvert-or-extrovert/.
Extroverted or introverted…just remember each personality type has many gifts and talents they can bring into their own lives and others around them to help encourage, build up, and guide. I believe, when all is said and done, our kids don’t care what type of personality we were born with. For my own, I just want them to know that my priorities in life are God first, then their father, and then them. They are more important than friends, work, or hobbies. If I can succeed with that goal, then I know I’ll have done my job well, introverted or extroverted.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014