It’s the end of a long day and I’m spent. I am an introvert. This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to those people who know me well. I am very happy to be around others, but by the end of our hangout sessions, I am done. I relish time spent in my thoughts. I relish time alone. My ideal time would consist of me waking up, enjoying a hot cup of coffee with my breakfast, and spending time with a good book, the Word, or writing something new, at my own pace and at my own leisure. I’d most likely peruse Pinterest for some inspiration, as well. I am creative, when left to my own devices.
The introvert life is a thing of the past. Well, it at least seems like I left it in the rear-view mirror a few years ago. My time spent with one young child was a breeze. How I remember those couple of years fondly! Putting him down for his nap meant I had alone time.
So, how am I doing it now, you might ask? I have three kids: aged 7, 5 and 3. Oh boy! I know, some of you are masters in your own 3-ring circus, and yours is probably larger than mine. However, three is a weighty number when it comes to two married individuals who also both happen to be introverted.
In all seriousness, I love our children and realize that they are blessings from the Lord. They are an inheritance, and they are arrows in my quiver. I realize these things. I do often relish the time I have with them.
However, the need for a rest during the day makes things excruciating, because I rarely get one. Let’s face it: all moms need a rest, no matter their natural dispositions.
I once heard of a blog called “Naptime Kitchen”. It is probably a very popular blog. However, the name struck me as this reality to which I said farewell many moons ago. Naptime kitchen? I do not get a naptime kitchen, but it sounds extremely nice. What a luxury!
How do I make things work and how in the world do I function in a world devoid of a naptime kitchen?!
Of course, there is retreating to my room and exercising. But can I also order my day in a way that prompts thriving? This is more than an escape. It is a rhythm.
Here are a few big-picture rhythms that allow me to at least see the light at the end of the tunnel. A few of them are probably unexpected things. I have had to mature and come to a few of these realizations through a process of sanctification. It has been a painful process. Nonetheless, the process has allowed me to grow in wisdom.
Let me preface by stating that I am not an uber-organized human. I love organization and structure, but I am not COMPELLED to organize beyond the necessary. Don’t get me wrong – I love a clean kitchen and feel like I cannot commence my daily activities if I do not clean the kitchen first. So, I suppose I have standards. Who doesn’t? I mean, your standard is surely different from my own, but we ALL have standards. It’s the system that you implement that makes the standards work for you, not the “you” working as a slave to the standards.
If I had to place my “systems” in categories, they would fall under:
- Systems of self-regulation
- Systems of physical organization
- Systems of mental organization
- Systems of atmosphere
Systems of Self-Regulation
Systems of self-regulation are the tools that I use to help talk myself off the ledge. They are emotional and mental regulation techniques. Taking a deep breath before I engage with another irrational human is one such emotional technique. Refuting lies from Satan with the truth of God’s principles is one such mental technique. The mental is related to the emotional. If you believe a lie (mental), you will feel a certain way about this distorted reality. This also leads to physical responses (i.e., increased heart rate, increased levels of stress hormone cortisol, fight-or-flight response). I mean, YES, I was trained as a counselor but it does not take a counselor’s training to arrive at the basics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Do I use these self-regulation techniques often? As an introvert, you bet I should! I also take myself to a “safe place” to regulate again if I am pushed to the brink of an emotional meltdown. You know what else I do? I refuse to engage in back and forth over text messaging (or social media). That is futile. I do not recommend it to anyone.
Systems of Physical Organization
Systems of physical organization really speak for themselves. “I put x over here and my physical space is more orderly”. The process is really a no-brainer, but the motivation is so hard to muster up sometimes. Some of you are probably thinking, “I organize a new space in my home every single day,”. I really want to be more like you one day if I am being honest. I love Mystie Winckler. She is an author and blogs on her website Simply Convivial. She formed a support group with her email community. Together, during the month of February, we are committed to organizing a different, small space of our home each day. YAY! I am in her community, but I am not accepting this challenge, at least not every day (sigh). I know. I must prioritize, and I feel like I am coming from an incredibly overwhelming January. I could beat myself up about not participating. However, now that I know what the community is working on, you know what? I am inspired to do something organizational this month! I really am! Thank you, Mystie! It may not be every day, but it is something.
One thing that has been a help to me is learning how to organize my laundry system. I know, you might be a laundry queen and have it all figured out. That’s awesome! Well, I am not there, YET (saying “yet” helps me feel better). I do have a system, though. My friends are these big dish bins. I color code them (bought these on Amazon), one for each child. I commit to doing one load of laundry a day. (Do not smirk, laundry queen!). Okay, so I do the necessary linens each day, but I commit to washing and drying one load of clothing per day, usually specific to a particular room in the home. I have laundry baskets in each of the bedroom closets. The laundry I wash IDEALLY gets folded and placed in the proper color-coded bin of the respective children. Then, I am done. My son is seven. He puts all his laundry away, not without complaining (something we all need to work on). My daughter puts her laundry away with my help. My three-year-old son perfectly hangs his shirts up. JUST KIDDING! I do all of that for him, but ONE day, he will take the baton. The 5-step habit training system is going to come into play when I see he is ready to begin taking on his own laundry.
What is the 5-step habit training system, you might ask? Well, this is something I stole from Simply Charlotte Mason, so I take zero credit for the idea. I will take credit for this cute “habit tracker” worksheet, though.
Okay, so the 5-step habit training goes like this:
1. I do. You watch.
2. I do and you help.
3. You do and I help.
4. You do and I watch.
5. You do and I inspect.
Do you know I have only used this system on forming one habit, so far? I am a failure (Wait! That’s a lie I must refute! NO, I am not a failure. I am a work in progress. “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV). My son now makes his bed. That’s the one habit.
Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing with you because I would have loved to have this little tool a couple of years ago, but now I have it and it has been working (most of the time).
Systems of Mental Organization
One word comes to my mind when I think of systems of mental organization: LISTS! I love some lists, you guys. However, I used to be such a list freak that I would write down stupid things like, “unload the dishwasher” and plan out every minute of my day. Who has time for that now?
I still use lists. Furthermore, I have a sticky note obsession. It’s the squares, y’all. Those perfect squares help me compartmentalize. When I am finished with one task, I get the satisfaction of throwing that task in the TRASH! I chuck that sticky note!
Just as good as the list is the LOOP. Loop schedules have helped propel me through otherwise daunting tasks or long series of tasks that would cause me to despair if I did not get to one thing. You see, loops are not time-sensitive. They are sequential, but do not have to be completed in any particular time frame. That’s why I love the loop during the morning time, our interdisciplinary studies. By the way, morning time is my favorite time of the school day, so we do not choose to miss it unless we are so far behind. My children all love morning time. At the moment, our morning time consists of:
- Singing doxology together at breakfast
Clean up breakfast, move into living room
- BEAUTY LOOP
Day 1: Poetry
Day 2: Composer study
Day 3: Joke book
Day 4: Picture study
I build in buffer time when I only allot 4 days to BEAUTY LOOP.
- Math word problem
- ANCIENT HISTORY STUDY LOOP
Day 1: Read and children narrate
Day 2: Read and children narrate
Day 3: Map work
Day 4: Coloring page
Systems of Atmosphere
Lastly, the systems of atmosphere are harder to put our fingers on if you catch my drift. However, I love atmosphere because it reflects a lifestyle and is more like breathing than it is like consciously striving. The atmosphere of a home is so important. It is also kind of tricky. So, how does one make a system of atmosphere?
We look to ideas, beauty, and connection to provide atmosphere. Ideas and beauty come in the form of good books and occasional movies, music, nature study, play, outdoor time and the rhythms of meeting together (more on anchors later).
Why Systems for the Introvert?
How do systems help me as an introverted mom? They are life-giving yet provide boundaries. The textbook introvert might be described as lacking strength in boundary-setting, but I am learning that boundaries are exactly what I need as an introvert. At any rate, I think systems will help any person function in the framework of the household. There are so many systems you and I use each day, without thinking twice. What’s your system for communicating with the entire family? The calendar. You probably keep one somewhere. I am not to the point where I display the calendar in a central location where all my kids can read it and write down their engagements, but one day I plan to do this, when it can be utilized by everyone. Systems are easy to spot and easy to create. It’s harnessing them and maintaining them that make all the difference.
Anchors are built-in points during the day that absolutely must happen, no matter what.
We must eat three meals a day.
The kids must go down for bed.
The day must start and school must begin.
You get the picture.
An introverted mom like me is always looking for the anchors in the day. I attach things that may be hard to accomplish in isolation to anchors because they suddenly become inescapable. This is best accomplished when the little people are contained. Sitting at the kitchen table to eat breakfast is a perfect segue into morning time. After morning time is enjoyed, we breathe and move (physically and mentally) to the next task until we reach the next anchor: lunch.
Lunch, for me, is merely survival right now. I used to envision a “literary lunch”. In my mind, I would read aloud to my three children, who would attend to the engaging story and ask the best questions and provide the best insight. Yeah, we are not there yet. Not even close. Right now, it is all about keeping the little dude in his seat to eat his food. It’s also about training them in the way of manners and such. Most days, it’s me trying to keep their plates full and then I eat at the kitchen counter, away from the chaos. So, there is room for improvement.
The next anchor of the day is my son’s nap. This is the signal to my older two that they are on their own for the next couple of hours – an introverted mom’s dream. Yet, I am never alone. No, not really. The only way I could ever really be alone would be to hire a babysitter. Sometimes, that is exactly what I do! Other times, I look at the naptime as my chance to engage with the older two in short spurts, after I clean that kitchen. By the time I’m finally done cleaning, I’m kind of ready to collapse, but sometimes, I really do make the extra effort to do something with them. It might be drawing in the school room. It might be playing outside. It might look like reading to them. Whatever it is, I know I am kind of at the dregs of my bucket. I have just a little more left. So, I need a recharge. That’s when I look at my pockets (more on those later).
The final anchor of the day is dinner. Dinner is when I have a captive audience for storytelling and recapping the day. We also take dinner to narrate to Daddy about the day, or about something we have been learning or something we saw. We attach number facts and phonogram flash cards to dinner. We do this because our son is rusty on his facts and we want to use our anchor time wisely. Plus, when Daddy calls out facts, it is a form of outsourcing. My son gets rewarded with my husband’s reading a chapter from The Hardy Boys. Therefore, I can devote my attention to the other two kids or… I clean the kitchen.
Both my husband and I look to the last anchor of the day (kids’ bedtime) to which we attach prayer, singing, and a short book. Then we hope for the best and say goodnight. We are zapped.
Anchors are a natural part of the day. Figuring out the best use of the anchors in your day will help you feel like you are working smarter, not harder. Which activities will you attach to your anchors?
Pockets are (mostly) enjoyable opportunities that propel us toward the anchors in our days. One of our pockets is music. Can you think of a song you could play to act as a cue to your children that an anchor is about to happen? I’ll tell you about my son in the first grade.
My son was a first grader last year. Our song was “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. I really don’t like that song very much, but it has grown on me, and it is catchy. My son loved it in the first grade. So, that was his cue to come get started with me once I had cleaned the kitchen. It told him that were moving toward beginning our schoolwork. Did this pocket work? I would say it did, 85% of the time. The other 15% consisted of him begging for another song or delaying further with a snack request. So, we had to adjust, and I made the rule that all snack and water must be gathered by the time the song was done playing.
Other pockets for us are: snuggling with the preschooler, a TV break right before lunch, blessing Daddy by cleaning up before he gets home from work, a bedtime story and snuggle.
Pockets bring us some vigor to days that are mundane.
Confession and Repentance
An introvert internalizes a lot of her interactions. Why did I say that? Has that crossed your mind before? Ha!
Sometimes, we just make mistakes and lack a filter in communication.
Other times the things we say are sinful and wrong. The weight of this sin is such a burden, isn’t it?
Remember, we have forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the gospel. I fight my flesh daily. When I give in and sin badly against another soul, I look to David’s Psalm 51. The first two verses are:
1 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:1,2 ESV
(The entire Psalm is so good.)
Recently, I had to read this Psalm. Afterward, I did feel the weight of my sin flow out of me. Then, I was able to breathe again.
In response to Psalm 51, I had to give myself time in my safe place, my “time out” place. I had to admit my sin to myself and to God. I had to turn from it and acknowledge there was something much better. I had to pause and try to realize that it is not a battle of flesh and blood I was fighting. It is against the powers of darkness that we wrestle. “Being right” is not winning, because not a single person on this earth is truly wise. I had to let that go and just look at the One who is perfect and right and offers something nobody else can offer: grace.
You are an amazing work of art that God put into being! Do you really believe it, though? You are smart and beautiful. You are loved. Do you even know it? I think sometimes we women especially devalue ourselves and fail to realize just how special we are.
I know, we are also sinners. Yes, and yes. However, do we go back to the fact that God chose to bring himself glory by creating us? He sent His only Son to die for us, to redeem us, and to bring us everlasting life. He makes us completely His and we are enough. We are made in His image. We are enough, in Christ. If you go about life and fail to realize your worth in Christ, you will fail to set boundaries for yourself and for others. You will also strive to prove yourself constantly. It will be your modus operandi. So, receive the grace that covers everything. Yes, we are worthy in the sense that we are made in God’s image, every one of us. Sure, we are not enough without Christ, but realizing that is beautiful. When we embrace that we are enough in Christ, we can move forward with dignity and wholeness. We can make decisions out of a more secure place. This grace helps me move through my day, even though I sometimes go the entire day without seeing it and taking hold of it. My prayer is that I would be drawn to the reminders of grace when I start my day, when I am in the middle of it, and before I lay myself down to sleep. Grace yields peace and security, forever.
Among the many things to wonder, grace is at the top of my list.
“Wonder: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”
What makes you wonder? What is beautiful and admirable? I’ll tell you what I like to incorporate into our days that can elicit my wonder.
- Nature Study
- Walking outside
So, go ahead and wonder. Build it into your day. Make it a pocket that propels you toward your anchors.
I will be cheering you on!
Books that allow me to wonder these days:
Nature narratives, like: The Burgess Animal Book: Mammal and Nature Education Storybook by Thornton W. Burgess
any kind of good, picture book biography with quality illustrations
Tools Work With Right Perspective
The good news about these tools – systems, anchors, pockets – is that they augmented when I see my life through a lens of confession and repentance, grace and wonder.
The world is a noisy place. Thinking about all the ways we want to implement tools can be overwhelming. Seeing the big picture first helps me. Breaking up the things I want to work on into chunks is key. Outsourcing certain responsibilities can be beneficial. I admit I am weak, but He is strong. Order will come if we pursue it and ask for God’s guidance. Knowing that my time is not my own is helpful, too. Reframing this idea that I am owed any peace and quiet and acknowledging that I am owed nothing and cannot expect a naptime kitchen or a cheerful child is also key. I can be responsible for myself. God will meet me there and has already orchestrated everything, so I can trust his plan is good because He is good. I can let go of control. I can focus on my own obedience in the mundane instead of despising the mundane.
Besides the usual, albeit good coping habits of retreating to a safe place and exercising, I think structure, boundaries and right perspective all help an introverted mom not only survive but live well.
I hope this has given you something to think about. How do you live well?