We all have a need to rest, recharge and restore in order to be our best selves and achieve optimal energy. Our energy levels are often related to something that most of us don’t think about consciously that thing is our temperament. Our temperaments are often hereditary but can also be developed through our interactions with our primary caregivers. The way that we intuitively recharge is determined by our temperament. For some, they recharge by talking and exchanging energies with those around them, people who recharge in this manner are referred to as Extroverts. Without this exchange, many Extroverts feel drained, tired and bored by solitude. On the flip side, Introverts recharge their energy by having some solitude and time for reflection. Both temperaments are important and have strengths and areas for improvement. There is a third temperament referred to as Ambivert where they recharge by being around others and by being alone.
Introverts have recently gained more popularity in our culture. Many introverts are often misunderstood as being “Anti-social.” Introverts enjoy people just as much as anyone else but they tend to take longer opening up to others and revealing their true selves. With introverts, it’s quality over quantity and they often have fewer friends but much deeper connections with those friends. Introverts thrive when they are giving doses of quiet time and have calm, soothing environments that are not filled with lots of people or small talk. Now that we’ve established a clearer picture of how some of us recharge and what it means to be an introvert imagine for a moment being an introverted parent.
Good parenting is often defined by how much time we sacrifice and give away to our children. Most moms can attest to how much love they have for their kids and would do anything for their children, even in the midst of those children displaying annoying behaviors. Many stepparents, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of attachment or bonding with their stepchildren to make the challenging aspects of parenting feel like a more rewarding pursuit.
Now that you’ve imagined being an introverted parent take some time to imagine being an introverted stepmom. In our society women “should” be outgoing and touchy-feely when it comes to children, even children who are not theirs. Anyone who has ever experienced being a stepparent or stepmom, in particular, knows that it can be one of the most challenging roles within a stepfamily. Stepmothering can be quite an adjustment due to the lack of privacy, unrealistic expectations of partners, conflict with the ex and challenging stepparent stepchild dynamics.
Keep reading for insights on how to feel more comfortable in your home as an introverted stepparent.
The cold hard truth is that it’s hard for many women to have patience and understanding with children they did not give birth to. I know what you’re thinking “I know women who love stepparenting and who aren’t having a hard time at all, in fact, they love their stepchildren as their own.” To that, I say that’s great for them. But the women I serve are riding the struggle bus when it comes to stepparenting.
As step women, you fell in love with a partner who has children. You want to try and make things work and give this blended thing a serious chance, you love your partner but find yourself feeling drained and overwhelmed when you are around your stepchildren. You’re starting to feel shame and embarrassment for how you feel and the fact that you need “alone time” during their visits.
Being an introverted stepparent can make it feel impossible to blend families especially if your partner and their children are extroverts and need very little alone time. As an introvert, you value your alone time, binge-watching your favorite shows like Power or Stranger Things, reading and thinking about the events of the day you can still do those things, love your partner and keep your sanity within your stepfamily.
How’s that working for you?
Right now your solutions include retreating to your bedroom when your stepchildren come to visit. Or you might retreat to your bathroom to hide out for some much-needed peace and quiet when your partner’s kids are around. If you’re a fulltime stepmother, your current solutions might include taking impromptu trips to the store more often than you or your wallet can stand, just to get a breather from being overstimulated with noise.
You feel yourself becoming more and more irritable because you feel trapped when you can’t get time alone. You wonder if you’ve made a mistake and if you have what it takes to be a stepmom. It’s beginning to affect your relationship with your partner because they can’t figure out “what your problem is?” You might be thinking why do I need to do something different why can’t they just get it?” By all means you can continue to do what you’re doing and continue to feel on edge, anxious and trapped, on the other hand, if you would like to be more relaxed, less on edge and able to feel comfortable in your own home check out some of these suggestions below to begin feeling less stressed and in more control within a stepfamily home.
Feeling more comfortable in your home and with your stepchildren as an introverted stepmom and honoring the way you recharge.
Despite all the information on social media about introverts and its positives (deep connections, ability to concentrate for long periods, empathy, and understanding of others), many introverts still question their nature by asking “What’s wrong with me?” “Why do I need so much alone time?” “Why do I get so annoyed or anxious so easily when I’m constantly around people?” These are all legitimate questions because in our society values extroversion as the holy grail of personality.
There is nothing wrong with you, you’re just an introvert it’s okay to enjoy reading, seeking out the sound of silence, daydreaming and getting lost in your own thoughts. The world needs both introverts and extroverts. As a stepparent, you may feel pressure to “turn on the fun” every time your stepkids are around. Some introverts navigate the world as pseudo extroverts because of their chosen professions or because they got the message long ago that it’s not okay to have a more quiet and reflective nature.
Accept who you are, this is the person your partner fell in love with initially and decided to introduce his children to. This is you who you are, this is your home too and the same way you are expected to accept your partner and your stepchildren for who they are, guess what? You deserve to be recognized for who you are as well. You may not always be in a headspace to entertain your stepchildren, so it’s best to be yourself. Do your best to exercise kindness with your stepchildren but also honor your needs for solitude.
The reality is when your stepchildren visit they are visiting their parent, so let them visit their parent while you slip away to read a book, catch a Yoga class or visit with friends. Being pleasant, greeting your stepchildren with warmth and continuing with your plans is the best thing for you, your relationship and your stepchildren. When you are being yourself, you are indirectly teaching them about accepting themselves and being authentic to who they are. It’s also great to model for children that downtime and quiet spaces are not so bad.
Sometimes being an introvert can mean that you have difficulty with being assertive. Asserting your needs and who you are in your home is hugely important in feeling comfortable with your partner and your stepchildren. If something is bothering you, I encourage you to say something to your partner. I know it can seem hard to talk to your partner about his or her parenting style and how it’s affecting your relationship and mood, but holding onto to how you feel without expressing yourself can lead to pent-up frustration and resentment, which is horrible for your relationship. Try making requests of your partner and your stepchildren for example “I would like it if you used your inside voice when you’re in the house.” For teen stepchildren, you might want to say “Can you please…”
It’s important to keep in mind that assertiveness is not about making others do what you want them to do, it’s more about expressing your thoughts and opinions about how their behaviors affect you. Assertiveness is also about setting and enforcing good boundaries. Assertiveness is about having self-respect and self-love to let others know what’s on your mind instead of holding it in. Avoiding uncomfortable discussions only hurts you and it leads to a decrease in your optimal energy levels. As a woman, a stepmom and an introvert you need to nurture yourself. You can’t be available to your partner, his or her children, your other loved ones and your career if you are depleted and feeling drained.
A little conflict and disagreement is not always a bad thing. It merely means you are teaching others how to treat you. If you need more help with chores or you want to implement quiet time for the kids then speak your peace. Talk to your partner and your stepchildren try saying something like this “It would be helpful, and it would make me happy if I could get some help keeping the house clean. Do you think you can help me with that? I’d really appreciate it.”
Educate loves ones about your needs
Talk to your stepfamily about the meaning of introversion, see if they are familiar with this term and what are their opinions of Introversion? Talk to them about how people recharge their energy in different ways. Talk about the fact that there are different ways of being in the world and that all of these ways are okay. Talk to your partner and get their support related to having a discussion with the kids about different temperaments/recharging and how they affect that way people interact with one another.
You can take this online quiz to determine who in your family is introverted and who is extroverted. It would also be a great idea to read Quiet by Susan Cain to help you begin to feel more comfortable with your temperament. During your family meeting explain that some people are like cell phones that can be fully charged while continuing to talk on them, but others need to recharge by being left alone. This might help them develop a better understanding of what it’s like to be an introvert. They may not get it, but the point is to let them into your inner world by sharing something about yourself and how you experience things, sharing this with them may create a stronger bond between you.
I know step parenting and parenting of any kind can be hard, but with the right support system and tools, you and your family can have a happier more peaceful home life. If this scenario feels familiar and you would like to learn more about working with me to help you and your family get on a better path toward understanding, please contact me for a free 15-minute consultation. As a stepfamily therapist, I can assist you with feeling more empowered and less irritable about your experience as a stepmother. If you’re not a stepparent and this information still resonates with you, call anyway, and we can determine if we are a good fit for one another.