My wife is an introvert. She needs a certain amount of time to herself in order to “recharge.” Her emotional fuel tank eventually runs dry if she doesn’t have a chance to be alone and think and pray and rest. This is not to say that she is a selfish person who demands “me time” so that she can indulge selfish pursuits. She is pretty much the exact opposite of that.
Being an introvert is sometimes challenging in light of the fact that she is a mother to four children and pregnant with our fifth. This means that there is pretty much always someone near her, talking to her, climbing on her or presenting her with a need to meet. She handles all the demands of motherhood like a champ.
Even so, I have learned over the years of marriage and parenting with her to look for the signs of exhaustion. Early in our relationship, I had assumed all was well if she wasn’t voicing a problem. Then, we would suddenly hit some kind of impasse or point of contention, and she would melt down. That’s when her emotional fuel tank would run dry. It took me a while to figure out that this was avoidable if I helped create the time and space for her to refuel.
Now that we are neck deep in family life, the need for me to protect time and space for my wife is greater than ever. She often doesn’t know if her fuel tank is running low, so I watch for the signs of it. If she is short-tempered with me or the kids, looking drowsy after a full night of sleep, having trouble being decisive, etc., then I know that she needs some alone time.
We have developed some strategies for giving her the time she needs, and I mention them in order to offer all of the other introverted moms out there a few ideas that may be helpful:
1) We have one evening each week when I stay home with all the kids and my wife goes out alone to do the grocery shopping.
2) I work from home one day a week, which allows me to monitor the house during the kids’ quiet time in the afternoon. This allows her to lie down in the middle of the day for a nap.
3) Some weekends, when we have good weather, I’ll throw some kids in the bike trailer and take them out on a ride for a couple of hours.
We have found that the more consistent we are with practicing these strategies, the more she is able to maintain the energy she needs to rise to the challenge of being a wife and mother. When her fuel tank is full, she is more patient, more engaged with our kids throughout the day, more conversational and generally happier. Thus, our whole family benefits when we make it a priority to meet mom’s needs (i.e. time to herself). After all, she gives all the rest of her time and energy to meeting our family’s needs, so it’s the least we could do.