Two years ago, I had my daughter and in the same week became a stay at home mom.
For the first time in my life I wasn’t in a mandatory daily social group. Unlike school and work, there was no community I was forced to encounter, except for my immediate family. This was the most freedom I had ever had to construct my social life, almost a blank slate. Yet as a new mama, my schedule was constricted, no longer my own. I could make social plans and join mom groups, but if Evelyn was sick I had to cancel. I gradually learned how to build community that worked for me as an introvert and young mom.
Here are four strategies I picked up. (They work anytime you have to build community from a blank slate, like a new job, a moving to a new town, or starting the next phase of your schooling.)
1. Notice + study your loneliness.
During the first several months, I wasn’t lonely. The newness of being a mother was consuming. Between doctor appointments, nursing, and recovering physically, my schedule felt productive and full. Around six months when a routine felt comfortable, I began to miss my colleagues and work. I noticed that motherhood wasn’t offering the mental stimulation I had expected. With a child too young to teach, I felt starved for deep conversation. You see, introverts’ loneliness comes from a lack of emotionally and intellectually rich relationships.
My husband couldn’t meet all these emotional needs. His daily routine was the opposite, surrounded by adults. I really needed to have a support system of women who were available during the day.
2. Go deep instead of wide.
I joined two bible studies for moms. In the end only one group worked for me. The other was mainly focused on reading answers to our bible homework with little in the way of community or conversation. So I cut my losses. As a perfectionist and chronic non-quitter, this was a difficult decision. Every person has limited social energy, and moving on to find a friend or group with the time to connect on a deep level is a valid move.
I also started praying that God would bring me a friend for this new season of life. I assumed it would be a neighbor or church friend who had a little girl the same age as mine. Instead I was asked to join The Influence Network team and the five women I work with have become some of my dearest friends and most trusted allies. I would totally recommend The Influence Network to find women online who will stand beside you.
3. Save energy for motherhood.
Motherhood is my number one job right now. When Evelyn turned one, she suddenly became social and talkative. Plus we added another little person to our family, Thomas. They are noisy and need my full attention. As they explore and learn daily, being present with my immediate family is crucial. I can’t constantly try to escape the noise or chaos of little kids. Reserving enough social energy for my kids helps avoid burn out as an introvert.
Introverts are uniquely gifted as good listeners and keen observers. One of the greatest gifts I can give my children is to listen to them, observing their unique temperaments and strengths. I can show them that they are valued, loved, and known.
4. Set goals for growth.
An introvert’s brain is constantly processing information. If I don’t feed my brain, I fixate on things and go a little bit crazy. So, I wrote down a few daily habits for myself. I also made five big goals that I wanted to pursue. Waking up in my thirties and realizing I had lost myself in my kids was not an option. I chose ways to grow deeper as person, and this gave me the intellectual depth to carry on conversations with my husband and friends without just talking about our kids.
If you want to learn more about introversion, I’d love to recommend my ebook, I Like People Too: A Field Guide for Introverts. You can buy it on Amazon for an e-reader or just purchase the pdf to download on your computer.