Saturday, February 1, 2014

The obligated introvert

It would seem that the more children I have, the more introverted I become.  As a refresher, extroversion is when you are energized by being around others.  Introversion is when you are energized by being alone.  I hesitate to say that one is an extrovert or an introvert, since there are varying degrees.  In theory, we all lean more towards one or the other.  That is, if you believe in that theory.  I do.  Sure, it's stereotyping.  I'm all about stereotyping to a certain degree, especially when it helps me understand others and myself.  I'm also all about having time to myself, and all other significant aspects of introversion.

And so, since it is emotionally draining for me to be around others, can someone please tell me how I should function as a mother of four little people?  Four little people that require my services for what seems like every hour of the day, and even a few hours at night.  It's not that I don't want to be around my kids, or that I mind expending energy on them, but just that it's no surprise that at the end of the day, or a particularly long week, or perhaps in the middle of a very cold and snowy winter, I'm just fresh out of juice.

New way to accessorize: winter hats!
 Every once in a while I get a chance to recharge.  Both girls happen to take a nap at the same time and I ignore all those warnings floating around the interwebs and let my boys watch TV.  When this happens, I can score about 30 minutes to an hour of re-energizing time.  But most days, the baby doesn't sleep when I want her to and the toddler prefers to sing songs or talk to her wall for an hour-and-a-half instead of nap, and the boys just can't seem to clean up their mess in order to watch a show.  Those are the tough days.

I think you can imagine what my fellow introverted mamas and I feel, then, about obligations.  Just the sound of that word makes me shudder.  Right now, we have few obligations.  In the future, I don't know what to expect.  When I talk to my sister-in-law and mother of four boys between 8 and 13, I get a glimpse of a life full of obligations.  Sports practice, music lessons, swim class, clubs, youth group, PTA meetings.  Oh gosh, it fills me with fear!

Mama's famous last words: Sure, I'll help you re-build your Lego fire station ... 3 hours later... 
Because as difficult as this brief period of raising 4 preschoolers is, at least I can do most of it in the safety and comfort of my own home.  But every once in a while life throws us a curveball, a busy week, a few obligations.  I'm not even talking about preschool or church, I mean, things like doctor's appointments (two in one week, people!), the grocery store, and even Target (not the fun trips, the trips when we run out of diapers and have to go.)  These are all things that must be done, and for me they require mental energy.  Energy that I feel as though I am constantly running low on.

Please don't think that I'm rude or anti-social.  I truly love spending time with people.  We had some Coast Guard friends over for dinner on Saturday (which was preceded by an exceedingly long and unexpected doctor's appointment for Julia the day before, preschool the day before that, a snowstorm the day before that, and Joci's check-up appointment the day before that - obligations).  The last time we hung out with this family, I was still pregnant, that's how long it's been.  And it was a great time, as well as a late night for the kids, which was fine.  The next day was church, also fine.  Followed by our small group meeting at our house.  We enjoy our small group and love hosting, but after days on end of obligations I was more than ready to call it an early night.

So far, the winter of 2014 has been everything we've dreamed of!
And then Monday arrived, which was a dinner party with my MOPS ladies.  Now generally, I steer clear of Mom's Night Out things.  It sounds awful and I feel rude, but seriously, at the end of the day, after my kids are in bed, the last thing I want to do is get dressed up, go out and socialize.  Do you get it?  I just don't have the mental energy.  But this was a little different.  A mentor mom was making dinner for just my table.  And I love the mamas at my table and certainly couldn't turn down an opportunity to eat in peace and quiet and have some conversation with a handful of wonderful ladies. So even though what I really wanted to do was stay in my yoga pants and catch up on "Sherlock" and "The Blacklist" I donned the jeans and boots and ventured into the wild after putting the baby to bed.

It was a lovely night.  I was the first to leave at 11:00pm.  In case you didn't know, that's way past my bedtime.  Particularly as I was up with the baby numerous times the night before.  I was having a hard time keeping from yawning.  And by the time I got home, topped off the baby (in hopes it would prevent her from waking me up a few hours later) and changed Julia's dirty diaper (that I could smell the moment I opened her door, but which she slept through completely), I was wiped.  All I wanted to do was get in bed and stay there, all through the night, straight through breakfast, maybe even through lunch.  Not even sleeping.  Just laying there in peace and quiet.

When she's up extra-early in the morning I tuck her in next to me.  And even though I rarely fall back to sleep, at least I can breathe in that fading new baby smell.
Well of course,  Because Tuesday is preschool day.  And because it's preschool day it's also errands day.  Because if I don't go on a preschool day then I have to take all four kids to the store, which is something I try to avoid at all costs.  Some people ask why I don't do my grocery shopping and stuff at night when Jon is home.  Well as you may have figured out by now (a) I'm too mentally exhausted and (b) that's when everyone else is out and it's much too crowded for my fatigued little self.


When Wednesday arrived I declared it a "home day."  I wasn't leaving the house for anything.  Not even milk, or diapers, or delivering "specimens" to the medical lab.  Jude instinctively knew of my plans before I even said anything because he immediately put on his "home pants" - these ugly gray sweatpants that I never allow him to wear out in public.  And that was exactly what I had in mind, sweatpants, laying around, reading books, playing quietly, you know.  I'm sure you also know that is NOT how things went down.  It wasn't even 10am before my Fantastic Four had the entire house trashed.

Jack in the living room.

Julia in the family room.

Jude in the girls' room.

Jack dragging stuff up two floors to store in his bed.

Julia playing in my make-up and putting blush on her lips.
And me creating dust in the kitchen.  Because "home days" almost always include baking.
And so while I met my goal of staying home, there wasn't one relaxing minute to that day.  Perhaps now it's becoming clear to you why we institute a 7pm bedtime in our house.  Because that's right about the time mama has had enough.  And it gives me just enough time to catch up on a show or a few chapters of a book (or work, unfortunately) before collapsing in bed long before most people my age.

Thursday was supposed to be simple, just preschool and back, then preschool and back again.  But the doctor called the night before and asked if I could bring Lia back in for another test.  (We're dealing with an "unsolved" mystery here that has involved collecting and depositing a few "samples."  I'll leave the rest to your imagination.)  What I will say is, I'm kicking myself for not getting this girl potty-trained yet.  I imagine collecting a urine sample would be much, much easier on a potty-trained child.  As it stands for us, there was a lot of waiting.  And waiting.

I brought her along on the second trip, because the first time I left her sleeping and then ended up spending over 2 hours at the doctor's office and fielding phone calls from a stressed Daddy!
And roller-racing on the doctor's stool.

And doing the "pee pee dance."  And lots of begging on my part.

And then we go back home and wait for the "other sample" that we need.  Which always happens soon after leaving the doctor's office but not soon enough that I can take it back before preschool is over.  And so I deliver said "sample" in 13 degree weather, with four kids in tow, plus all of their Polar Vortex gear ... I'm only explaining all this because it's happened TWICE in the past two weeks.  On a positive note, when you walk into the lab with two loud preschoolers, an active toddler, a hungry baby, and a bag of "samples"... they usually don't make you wait.

"Hmmm, maybe this will be good for my sore gums!"
Needless to say, I had reached my bottom of my energy tank before lunchtime.  And there was still a MOPS steering team meeting to get through that evening.  And then cooking all the next day for a MOPS mama that needed a meal.  Followed by delivering the actual meal, a 40-minute round trip that turned out to be a blessing because the kids had quiet book/tablet time in the car and that was the only decent nap Joci took all day!

She kept calling herself "fwend."  Maybe not my introverted child...
All this to say, when Daddy walked in the door slightly earlier than he had all week, a wave of relief followed immediately behind him.  It's not just a home day, we're having a home weekend!  Everyone's in their comfy clothes this morning.  And while the rest of the nation is having Super Bowl parties, I'm going to use tomorrow evening as an excuse to have some time to myself.   Time to gear up for the next week.

42 degrees nothin'!  We're grabbing fresh air while we can!

And blowing bubbles like it's not below-freezing!
Because while things are looking light in terms of obligations, there are four significant events showing up in the weather forecast.  Which means a couple of [kids-trash-the] home days.  And if you are one of the elite that ends up snowed-in next week, and you find yourself with a strong desire to "get out of the house."  Think about your introverted friends who are happy to stay in, minus the company, of course.

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