Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

The pandemic, motherhood and faith

The exhaustion of balancing health, family and Christianity during COVID-19

I’ve been struggling to come up with this week’s blog post. In fact, my blog post planner for this week simply said, “Something spiritual.” But the truth is, my spiritual well often runs low right now.

I haven’t turned away from God. I haven’t stopped believing in Him or His goodness. I’m just weary. I’m weary for all the reasons that have been going on universally with the pandemic. And I’m weary for the additional workload I’m under. I’m also weary from isolation.

Living in isolation

I’m an introvert. In fact, I’ve never scored anything close to extrovert on any personality test I’ve ever taken. I am who I am, and I’m OK with that. My happy place is my home. I get energy from time alone.

But, let’s be honest. This pandemic isolation isn’t regular time at home or time alone. We have continued to be as isolated now as we were when this began last March. It’s been challenging. Our circle has shrunk so that it includes only my parents and my husband’s parents.

My family is part of the often overlooked or forgotten about high risk young(er) people. We don’t fit the mold of what high risk looks like. And yet here we are. So my family continues to isolate, because our state is basing vaccines solely on age. I understand that approach as well, but it means we won’t get the vaccine any time soon.

We are also continuing to isolate from church. That’s difficult. I’ve had many feelings about the church in general during the pandemic. I’ve also had some feelings about my own church in particular during the pandemic.

I know the truth is most of us are doing the best we can to navigate this new twist in life. Nobody was prepared for it. We didn’t think about what life in a pandemic would look like.

Feeling forgotten

Yet, I also feel a decent amount of people have dropped the ball. Instead of showing love and concern for vulnerable populations and doing something as simple as wearing a mask, they balk at the idea. They proclaim their faith is enough or wearing a mask is living in fear. Or they are positive masks don’t matter. Or any number of other reasons.

But the message sent and received is quite simply: you don’t matter enough for me to be uncomfortable. Your health doesn’t mean anything to me.

And that’s difficult for me. It’s not a debate I’ve engaged in publicly or an opinion I’ve shared openly until now. I can’t tell you for sure what is right or wrong within this pandemic. I can only tell you the risk for my family is too great to be nonchalant about it.

So, I am left continuing to isolate because I can’t trust those around me to show love, even when they are people who are supposed to be known by their love and sacrifices. I continue to avoid going anywhere in public unless absolutely necessary. Shopping is all done online. Dinner out, movies and other fun activities outside of my home are out.

The harsh reality

I share this not to ask for sympathy. I don’t need sympathy or pity. But I also don’t need judgment. I share this for all of the others who are like my family and doing our best to survive this time of isolation. We are working hard to keep our children learning and engaged while also not endangering our family.

It’s an awful position to be in. I often wonder how my children will remember this time. I think about what long-term effects they will have from this time. And I truly don’t know all the answers. I just know we are doing the best we can with the information we have.

We haven’t made this decision for isolation lightly. My husband and I have done research and spent much time in prayer. We know what is right for us. Sometimes knowing you’ve made the right decision doesn’t make it any easier. That’s where we are right now.

I am struggling with things like vaccine envy. I am missing connecting with other humans in a real way. Small talk isn’t my jam, so I don’t miss it. But I do miss deeper conversations with friends over a meal in a restaurant or at Bible study.

I miss not having to work on the weekends in effort to make up for the time lost to virtual schooling. I miss not being able to go to church in person on Sunday mornings. And I miss seeing extended family members.

Finding hope and strength in the struggle

But through it all, through every single moment of this challenge, I also know I’ve not been going alone. The pandemic careened into my life with such overwhelming force as I was the caregiver for my husband after his shoulder surgery (which was the day before my children’s school announced plans to go virtual and the hospital began canceling all elective surgery). I didn’t have the strength to get through those first few weeks when I was up throughout the night with my husband and helping everyone with everything.

Yet, somehow I did get through it. I also know it wasn’t just somehow. I know it was the help of Someone. God has been with me every step of the way. He’s given me strength when mine faltered. God has encouraged me when I felt discouraged. He’s listened as I’ve poured out my hurts and fears.

It hasn’t been so easy, but He’s been there. God knows me. He doesn’t forget this vulnerable population that I’m a part of. He has given me hope, strength and encouragement when I have most needed it. My Heavenly Father has reminded me that I’m not alone even when I’ve felt lonely.

I don’t know when this time of isolation will end. As I’m typing this, I feel hope looking forward because our numbers are the best they’ve been in months. I am hopeful in knowing that more and more people are getting vaccinated and one day my husband and I will, too.

Life won’t go back to normal overnight like it changed seemingly overnight. I don’t know how much normal will actually return. There are so many things I can’t predict or know. But I do know that every step of the way, every moment that I face, God will continue to be with me. And that is all I really need.

The unexpected safe space for introverted children

Helping introverted children find their safe place to regroup might be even easier than you expect!

Growing up as an introverted child, I felt like I was a bit just odd. I wasn’t around all that many other introverted children. As an adult I learned the difference between being an introvert (we refuel our energy solo) and an extrovert (they refuel their energy with others). Suddenly, I made a bit more sense and, quite frankly, didn’t feel so weird.

These days, I can more easily identify my needs better for when I need downtime. I recognize when I feel antsy and irritated because I need some quiet and space to myself.

I had a pretty good handle on my introverted self. And then we decided to start our family. I wondered how I’d manage the needs of an extroverted child without completely draining myself. I wondered if I’d be able to teach an introverted child how to embrace their introversion and find their place in the world.

My extroverted child — the toddler years

When my daughter was born 11 years ago, she was our first child. We were so excited for her arrival. I remember looking into her eyes and wondering what she was going to be like.

It wasn’t long before her personality started emerging. Before she turned 1, she was vocal. She started speaking early and plainly, but even before she used actual words, she babbled pretty much all the time. I used to joke that she’d talk herself awake and asleep — and that was true!

When we’d go to the grocery store, she’d wave at everyone who waved at her. As we’d go get the mail, she’d happily get the attention of our neighbor and chat. It didn’t take me long to realize that she loved interacting with other people.

We hit up library story time once a week for a couple of years so she could hang out with some other kiddos. She didn’t always want to play with the kids, but she liked being around them.

The other thing we noticed about our daughter early on is that she is pretty even-keeled. Of course she got upset about things and wasn’t happy all the time, but she was so verbal that we could talk about things with her to keep her frustration to a minimum. She was neither overly happy nor overly unhappy.

My introverted child — the toddler years

Then my son was born three years later. He started off a bit more challenging right away. In fact, he was born not breathing and was “Code Pink” (the infant version of “Code Blue”). He spent about 20 minutes needing help to breathe before he breathed on his own.

But as he grew, we noticed right away that he had big feelings. He was happy or he was sad. The kiddo didn’t have much middle ground. He definitely was more physically attached to us. Our son loves snuggles.

He was also an early talker. While he was a friendly toddler as well, he was also a bit more laidback about it than his sister. He seemed fearless to us in some ways because he wasn’t nearly as cautious as his sister when it came to trying things.

We learned that whatever he did, he’d do full force and woe to anyone or anything who tried to stop him. He liked things like library story time enough but he wasn’t as excited about them as our daughter was.

My extroverted child — the school years

After a couple of years of part-time nursery school, my daughter started kindergarten with nary a fear. She was so excited and happily waved good-bye to us on the first day.

She soon made new friends. And we were careful to talk with her about her leadership skills so that she wouldn’t be too “bossy!” Her ideal birthday party was inviting everyone she could. I had to limit her to what was manageable or she would have invited all 44 kids in her grade.

She has remained this way. These days she prefers birthday parties with a few close friends to spend the night. But I’m pretty sure she’d invite even more if I agreed.

I have never had to wonder if she’d speak up for herself or talk during class. She can happily chat with adults and kids anywhere she goes. She has no qualms about talking to people and I’ve seen her work to include quieter classmates as well.

When I went on a field trip with her last year, she opted to sit with her friends on the bus instead of with me (with my blessing). She’s happiest right now when she’s on her tablet video-chatting with friends. During this time of isolation, we have continued to check in with her and help her connect safely when she can. We are so thankful for video chatting!

My little extrovert happily messages and chats with her teachers. She thrives and re-energizes with others.

My introverted child — the school years

When my son started kindergarten (again after two years of part-time nursery school), it was a bit different. While he didn’t have a complete meltdown as his dad and I left the classroom on day one, I saw tears spring to his eyes briefly as he waved good-bye.

For the first week of school, he came home drained and sad for having been away from me all day. He continues to have big feelings. He is happy or sad.

When I have gone on field trips with him, he most enjoys being with me as much as possible. Even when I suggest he sit with a friend, he still picks me.

At home, he is chatty and plays. He has an exceptionally good imagination and can easily give me long explanations of plans he comes up with to solve pretty much any problem someone could have.

He likes tagging along with his sister when we are out. Before the pandemic, he was happiest when he got to be with her like during children’s church. He would often pick hanging out with her over hanging out with other children.

For his most recent birthday turning 7 (pre-pandemic), he asked only for his three best friends to have a party with. He found the idea of inviting the entire class or too many extra people appalling.

Yet on the playground after school, he plays with a variety of classmates and comes up with some great imaginary play ideas as well.

I had a couple of people tell me my son was quiet and was surprised at first. I didn’t see that side of him like his Sunday School teacher and ninja zone teacher did.

It wasn’t until we started virtual schooling that I realized how quiet he is. The chatty kid I know is not so chatty in group settings. Unlike my daughter, he doesn’t strike up conversations with anyone and everyone. But when he is in smaller group meetings for school, he is more inclined to speak up.

When we are in the car, especially just the two of us, he will ride quietly for a couple of minutes and then we will have deep discussions about things he’s thinking about. He has some serious ponderings for a little dude!

I have realized that my son is an introvert like I am. I can’t say for sure he will always be this way, but from what I’m seeing right now, he is skewing much more introvert than extrovert. He loves when we can just stay home and not go places. (Good thing since we are staying socially isolated!)

The pandemic isolation hasn’t bothered him as much as it has my daughter. He’s enjoyed some video chats with his friends, but he is more reserved about chatting and doesn’t do it very often. (And I also know that his age and gender probably play a role as well.)

Finding my introverted child’s safe place

Having my kiddos home again all the time during the pandemic has given me even more insights into them and their temperaments. And I’ve been thinking about it.

As an introvert, I understand the need for a safe space. While I often think of my home as my safe and happy place, the truth is anywhere I am either alone or with those closest to me (my husband, children and parents) is my safe place.

I shared once about how being inside a tent in the middle of a busy theme park automatically put me at ease. I could breathe easier knowing that I was away from strangers.

How to help your introverted child find their safe space

I’ve wondered about my son’s safe place. Of course I think he feels safe at home overall, but I think his safe “place” is actually me. He is happiest and most content when we are together.

In fact, at first I thought he was an extrovert because at home he much prefers being with his dad, sister or me than being alone. That didn’t seem very introverted to me as an adult when I find myself craving alone time. And then I thought about it some more.

I realized I felt the same way growing up. My mom was my safe place. When we were out somewhere with lots of people or even just a few people I didn’t know, I’d gravitate toward her. I remember her lying in bed with me some nights when I was really young because that’s what made me feel safest and happiest.

I’ve seen other introverted kids act the same way. During uncomfortable situations for them (which can just be a noisy, busy atmosphere), they gravitate to a parent or trusted adult.

You are the safe space for your introverted child

So that leaves me thinking that one of our roles as parents of an introverted child is to be their safe space. Behavior that may come off as clingy may really just be your overwhelmed introverted child seeking consolation.

One of the things I established with my son a couple of years ago (before I really knew whether he was even an introvert) is that he can always ask me for alone time when we are out places. He struggles with big emotions; sometimes he needs to regroup. In talking with him about it, I realized that he regroups best with me.

Whenever he starts to feel overwhelmed, upset or like nobody is listening to him during times we are with other people — whether in a large group or small — he knows he can ask for one-on-one time and I will make it happen. We may make a trip to the restroom or go into another room if we are at someone’s house. But, he can trust that when he’s overwhelmed, I’ll be his safe space wherever we are.

So far every single time, after a couple minutes of talking privately together he has happily resumed the activity. It’s a strategy that works for him right now — and that definitely works for me!

I’ll keep learning as I go through phases of parenting how to best meet the needs of my extrovert and my introvert. Of course as two different people, my kids aren’t identical in what they need. With two opposite temperaments, those needs may be very different sometimes. My job is to keep paying attention and tweaking strategies to help them most.

A message for extroverts

Bridging the gap between extroverts and introverts

Most weeks I stumble across at least a couple of posts about extroverts versus introverts in my social media news feeds. I’ve blogged about being an introvert myself. In fact, if you go by Myers Briggs personality types, I’m an INFJ, which supposedly the rarest type.

I’ve spent my entire life with people telling me I’m too quiet and wanting me to talk more. I get exhausted when I’m around too many people for too long. Crowds wear me out quickly.

Introverts and extroverts re-energize differently, but they have similarities. The quarantine offers a chance to help bridge the gap in an unexpected way! #introvert #Extrovert #personality #PersonalityTypes #Unity

Add in some social anxiety as well, and social interactions tend to make me cringe. I am paranoid that people don’t actually want to talk to me or that the remark I just made was ridiculous. I don’t easily walk up to folks and make small talk. It goes against who I am.

Living the introvert life

I do my best to get outside of my comfort zone when appropriate and when possible. I try to overcome random anxiety and fear, but I also know I will most be able to relax and recharge when I’m home without people around other than my family.

If I’m being honest, there are also times as a mom that I need to be alone and apart from my chatty, active children.

During the quarantine, I’ve found that I have more on my plate than ever with trying to keep up with my work, the kids’ schooling, a HUGE amount of dishes, laundry, feeding us and so forth. Yet, my tank is fuller sometimes because I don’t have random social interactions with other people.

I don’t have awkward moments waiting outside my kids’ school where I feel like I ought to talk to other parents but I don’t know what to say and I don’t really want to just make small talk. As an introvert, I want real connection or no connection.

What extroverts can learn

But here’s the thing about introverts: we are the minority. Of the world’s population, the majority of people are extroverts. Most of our world and activities are created for and by extroverts. People who are quieter or comfortable being alone are viewed as odd or different sometimes.

What I’m hoping is that with the quarantine, maybe extroverts can understand just a bit more how we feel. I don’t mean in that they have to be alone more often right now, but the drain they feel in being alone. The yearning they have to be with other people and get energy. The desire they have for physical contact or even small talk.

Imagine, extroverts, that most of the world is opposite of you and tells you the thing you most want (contact with others) is odd. Imagine that you must be more by yourself than with others most of the time. That yearning you feel for being with others is the same yearning we feel for being alone when we have been with other people too much.

How we’re alike

While our feelings are opposite of each other, they are still the same feelings. Extroverts need to be around others to recharge and feel drained without enough interaction. We introverts are the opposite. We need time alone to recharge and feel drained with too much interaction.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to talk. We’re not weird (at least not just for needing time alone!). Many of us aren’t even shy or anti-social. (I really don’t consider myself as shy any longer, though I did for years.)

Introverts and extroverts are just wired differently. And it’s OK. Neither of us are right or wrong; we’re just different.

Maybe in the midst of other lessons learned throughout COVID-19, we can get a better understanding of each other. I don’t personally have the same longing for being with other people as an extrovert does, but I can completely see where they’re coming from. I’ve had the same feelings from the opposite side of the fence many times.

Happy World Introvert Day!

Today is World Introvert Day! Usually at least one or two of my friends will share this information with me each January 2, because it’s no secret that I’m an introvert. I’d guess most of us introverts are excited to celebrate today individually in our own homes. (Ha!)

While information about introverts abounds way more these days than ever before (seriously, as a kid and teenager I had no clue why I behaved the way I did and why many others didn’t understand me), people still get confused about introversion. We still get mistaken as being people who are shy and quiet. And sometimes we are. Most times, we just come across that way to other people (usually extroverts). We are really just people who re-energize with time alone and quiet rather than with other people and talking. We can get worn out, irritable and moody when we are with people too long.

But what does introversion look like? I can’t speak for every introvert, but I can speak for myself. One of my best examples of introversion happened the past two summers. An amusement park a couple of hours away offers a package for families of four to camp in their park overnight. Campers arrive just before closing, have some time to do things after hours, sleep in their own tents and are served breakfast before the park opens. We did this in both 2017 and 2018 and had fun.

Amusement parks are noisy and crowded. They’re an environment in which I can get easily overwhelmed and overloaded. In fact, at events like these I usually end up exhausted with a headache after a few hours. Both years, I felt a bit stressed as we arrived, lugged all of our stuff to the area where we could camp (right in the center of the amusement park!) and kept track of the kiddos. After we decide where we’re pitching our tent, we get it set up and I head into it to get the beds all made up and ready. Both times going into the tent gave me a strong sense of relief, and my stress began to dissipate.

And that’s because inside the tent, I can still hear all of the noise outside. I can still hear people talking as they walk by and other campers setting up their camp sites, but I am out of sight of them, and they are out of sight from me. I get to be in my own little bubble of sorts with my family, and it’s wonderful. I immediately relax.

That’s introversion. We don’t want to shy away from experiences or other people. Introverts don’t want to always be quiet and aren’t anti-social, but we do relax best and become our true selves when we are in our own space. We replenish our energy by being alone. If I could take a tent with me to every large event or gathering, I would. (But I’m not trying to be a freak, I promise!) I wouldn’t stay in it the whole time; I don’t at the amusement park either. But I would go in when I just needed a few moments alone to decompress.

I can’t take a tent in places, but I have found other escapes. When we go to a gaming convention in a nearby city each year and are exploring the exhibit hall packed with booths, vendors and other gamers, I get on overload. I have learned to avoid a headache and utter exhaustion, my best bet is to take about 20 minutes here and there to sit out. My husband will keep going through the booths and I’ll go sit on the side of the convention hall (most often on the floor) and just close my eyes. I don’t usually fall all the way asleep (though I totally did the year we went and I was eight months pregnant). I just have my eyes closed and am able to be in my own head space for just a while. I can still hear the noise, but it gives me a chance to regroup and go inside of myself rather than be totally involved with all that is going on around me.

Other times I can’t sit on the sidelines with my eyes closed without seeming like a crazy, anti-social person, so I find other ways to regroup. Sometimes it just means going to the bathroom and staying in there an extra two minutes alone. (This is where having bladder problems comes in handy, because I really do have to go to the bathroom a lot!)

And this is life as an introvert. It’s not bad. It isn’t weird. It’s just how I’m wired, and it’s not all that different or unique. There are quite a few of us around. We tend to understand extroverts perhaps a bit more than they understand us, but that also may be because we tend to be quieter and listen more. It could also be because our world and culture are geared very strongly toward extroverts as the norm.

So when your introvert friends say that they just need a few minutes away or when they head to the bathroom at a party and don’t return for five minutes, just leave them be and know they are going into their own tent, their own bubble to regroup. They don’t want to be away from you or not be part of the group. They just need a minute of downtime to process information and relax. It’s not shy or weird. It’s OK. That’s just how they’re wired.

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