Even introverts fall in love, and, you know, things take their natural course. And then suddenly book-reading, quiet-loving you, you who shuns parties, you who dies a little at the phrase “meet ‘n’ greet,” you for whom the words “Hey, we’re all going to meet up at the bar” is like a fight-or-flight provocation…well, suddenly you’re a parent. And being a parent means your love of being alone will be sorely tested. Below, 11 things only introverted parents will understand.
1. The invasion of your privacy starts with pregnancy, when everyone wants to talk about constipation. They also want to share really graphic labor tips, like “Waggle your naked tush in the air while you pant—that’ll help speed things up.” And you’re like, um, can we talk about the Braves or the Full House reunion or anything but my panting?
2. Introverts are used to being self-sufficient, and having to depend on other people is startling. When you go into labor at midnight, you feel so bad about waking your husband and the doctor that for a brief, deranged moment you consider delivering on the bathroom floor. Not just a home birth, but a private home birth! It sounds so marvelous and quiet. Until you realize that the epidural is at the hospital, and so you need to get your waggling tush there, now.
3. When you have a family, suddenly there are a lot of people around you, all the freaking time. Like those kids you made with your own body. Plus your partner, your mother, maybe a babysitter and maybe some new mom friends and the people of the PTA. Those long stretches of time alone when you were single, like when you’d wake up and drink coffee and read for a spell? Now you wake up because someone has placed his damp hand in your mouth.
4. Pickups and drop-offs are excruciating. You see the other parents milling around, and you think, I should say something to someone, like a normal human being. But about what? What if you say, “So what do you do?” and they say “fashion” and then look at your shoes, which are a brand called Dawgs and cost $12? Why do some moms look sleek even when they’re just wearing something black and slouchy? Why can’t you wear that kind of drapey, crinkly tunic? Well, because she’s tall and slim, but you, you’d look like you were crouching in a garbage bag.
5. Sometimes you get lost in thought. Wait, what? Oh, there’s your kid, staring accusingly at you from the steps of the school. “Mom, you’re spacing again,” he says.
6. When your kid turns out to be an introvert too, you’ll feel guilty. You hope your genes haven’t ruined his chances for normal social interaction. You’ll try to coach him with your exactly zero expertise: “Ask that kid to play,” you’ll instruct, and your kid will whisper it from 40 feet away without moving his lips. When the other kid doesn’t hear and trots off, you say “I don’t know what happened,” and your son will shrug and head to the library.
7. The moment when “drop-off” playdates and birthday parties become a thing, you buy a bottle of champagne.
8. You’ll develop lurid, detailed fantasies about time alone. Like what you’re going to do the next time you have an hour alone, or a day alone, or even a whole weekend alone. You’ll talk about these plans—the puttering around the house, the cleaning of the junk drawer, the pedicure, the junky meal you’ll make and eat alone, the pint of ice cream and the really big novel—with a kind of wild-eyed fanaticism. “Do you remember,” you say, holding your husband in a Manson-esque grip, “what it feels like to lie on the sofa on your back with a book, and you hold a glass of lemonade on your chest as you read, and the glass is cold and wet and you can just drink and read? Do you remember?” “I’ll take the kids out for the afternoon,” the wise husband says, gently detaching your fists from his shirt.
9. When your second kid is a total extrovert—he comes out of the womb with a lampshade on his head, dancing the cha-cha—you realize how little control you have over these things.
10. When you finally do get that weekend alone, you’ll be surprised at how out of sorts you are. How, frankly, glum. You’ve kind of gotten used to all these little people around. You’re not exactly sure what to do with yourself. You feel a little like a ghost.
11. You realize that kids open up your social life in a way that is totally unexpected. Say you’re paying at Trader Joe’s while trying to keep an eye on your second kid—the one who makes Bill Clinton look shy—as he’s collecting phone numbers from people in the dairy aisle. As you’re struggling to pick up your groceries and put away your wallet and zip your bag, your first, quiet kid whispers urgently, “Mommy, when you die, do you turn into a desert or a statue?” And the Trader Joe’s cashier, helping with the bags as your second child leads a bunny hop through the store, replies matter-of-factly, “a statue.” And you have to laugh, because in your pre-kid existence you would have bought a single yogurt and something called Cowboy Bark and scuttled quietly home, but now you have $900 worth of groceries and 23 new friends. It’s almost like being an extrovert.