I was recently surprised to find that my blog had been linked up with several other parenting blogs in which the author lumps us all together by making the following statement:
Even a cursory perusal of the above-linked Quiverfull blogs will leave a woman feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. “Where do you get your energy?” is the obvious and unavoidable question.
Huh. I wasn’t aware that visiting my blog would leave a woman feeling overwhelmed and exhausted! I truly hope that’s not the case for everyone!!! Nonetheless, I can understand and appreciate where the author was coming from, in her article entitled “Quiverfull and the Introvert: Where Do You Get Your Energy?” She writes:
An important aspect of energy which I have never seen discussed in Quiverfull circles has to do with how our interaction with other people affects our energy levels. Specifically, the difference between introverts and extraverts is never addressed in relation to large-family dynamics.
I absolutely agree! This is definitely something I would love to see addressed more on some of the popular “quiverfull” blogs and magazines out there (maybe I’ll start addressing it more often, myself.) The authors description of an introvert is perfect, and fits me well:
While an extravert is energized by frequent social involvement, an introvert gains energy through quiet, private reflection. Being surrounded by people makes extraverts feel happy, enthusiastic, animated, and pumped full of optimism, but constant interaction drains the introvert’s energy and leaves them feeling tired, irritable, anxious and angry. It is absolutely essential to an introvert’s health and well-being to be able to get alone for significant periods of time in order to restore and recharge their own personal energy.
I can completely relate. By the end of the day I often feel emotionally drained from being “on call” for the past 12 hours. I can expect to be asked a question, told a story, hugged, kissed, or cried on by my six children roughly 6,578 times during the day. At the end of the day I’m often exhausted. I can get overwhelmed often and easily. But does that mean, as the author seems to suggest, that I shouldn’t be open to having more children? Does it mean I shouldn’t homeschool? Does it mean that my “family centered lifestyle” is sapping me of all of my energy, and causing me to have an unfulfilled, stressful life? I can’t help but wonder: how do “introverts” in the workforce do it? Granted, not everyone has a job that involves high levels of interaction with others, and perhaps introverts naturally gravitate toward those jobs where they can sit behind a desk with limited contact with people, but for the introvert who has a high intensity, highly social job, how does he or she do it? If they can’t escape into a secluded corner somewhere during the 8 hours, 5 days a week when they’re at work, how do they function??? My guess is that they do what I try to do: get plenty of “down time” (for the introvert this equals “alone time”) when they’re “off.”
The author asks:
“How much misery and destruction could be avoided if individual family members were simply allowed an adequate amount of personal solitude?”
Well, why aren’t they? Who is putting this impossible standard on the introvert moms and dads in the so-called “quiverfull movement?” Who is forcing them to live a certain way? I have friends whom I admire greatly whose children don’t have a a bedtime… they all stay up together, enjoying each other, until the little ones drop off to sleep in their own time. I admire it, but I can’t do it.
So I don’t. We have a strictly enforced and somewhat early bedtime around here and that works great for us.
I’ve read articles by other moms who encourage mothers to involve their children in everything they do – from washing the dishes to cooking, to cleaning the house… they advocate keeping your children close and doing everything with them. I think it’s great advice and could certainly be beneficial to any number of families, but in my own life it only serves to frustrate me and make me irritable.
So I don’t. (At least, not all of the time.) I often solicit my husband’s help (who is an extrovert) when it comes to cooking or cleaning or project-building or crafting with the kids. I go on “special days” with ONE child at a time, where we spend the day together, doing things they find fun and interesting. I look for ways to manage our home so that I don’t always have to oversee everything the kids are doing (more-so the older than the younger children who, in my opinion, still need a lot of direction and guidance) and I try to establish systems and routines that ensure we ALL have a quiet time each day.
The author asks the question:
If Mom’s an introvert, how does she not go crazy from all of the non-stop interaction with her quiver full of children?
The answer? She figures out ways to incorporate “down times” for herself and her family, she comes up with creative solutions to things that stress her out, or she girds up her mature adult loins and deals with it. I don’t mean to invalidate what the author of the article had to say – she makes some incredibly valid points regarding the differences between introverts and extroverts and the reality is that their parenting styles, like their personalities, SHOULD look very different. But just like the introverted medical doctor who goes out and saves lives for a living and is necessarily forced into high levels of social interaction, I have a job to do that entails a certain amount of social interaction and emotional stress. The answer isn’t necessarily for the doctor to quit his job (or for the parent to stop having children or put her current children in public school), but to figure out ways to deal with the stress of the task at hand.
The thing is, some of us happen to believe that raising multiple children, homeschooling, homesteading, etc. are worth whatever amounts of physical/emotional stress might be involved. Should we/could we have things in place to cope with or decrease the stress? Certainly. But at the end of the day, anything memorable or rewarding or significant comes with a certain amount of effort, work, and, yes, “stress.” Should the construction worker stop building because it’s too physically demanding? Should the nurse to stop tending her patents because it’s too emotionally taxing? Should the soldier refuse to fight because it might require his life? Many of us (by “us” I mean the “quiverful,” homesteading, homeschooling niche the author has lumped us together in) live this way because we choose to, not because someone else’s standard has been enforced upon us. In the end, we do it because we love it. We do it because our children are worth whatever temporary sacrifices in comfort or self-indulgent pleasure we have to make in raising them, and the rewards of this lifestyle are worth whatever temporary stresses we encounter. We do it because we feel that there is no higher calling than to be a mother and “no greater joy than to see [our] children walking in truth.” (Unfortunately, that scripture verse has become vastly overused, but it’s accurate and powerful nonetheless.)
I would suggest that if someone is feeling overwhelmed because of their “martyr’s mentality which rejected and disdained the very concept of ‘me time,'” that person should re-evaluate their circumstances and mentality and consider why the opinions and advice of others have such a powerful hold on their emotional well-being and decision making. It’s a nasty cycle I’ve been caught in more often than I care to admit… read an article, get “convicted” and try to adopt a standard that God never placed upon me. It’s one of the reasons I wrote the disclaimer here and link to it often when addressing “hot button” issues on my blog. It’s one of the reasons I’m often reminding others (and myself) that “we must be careful not to adopt the convictions of others as our own without the prompting of the Holy Spirit.” For myself, I choose to reject the concept that as an introvert who can’t follow the advice of every “Quiverfull” parent out there, I’m somehow a “bad” mom, and figure out a way to meet my children’s needs without sacrificing my own. And if I do have to sacrifice my own needs on occasion? It would be a sad world indeed where no one was willing to sacrifice their own needs for the well-being of someone else.
And the fact remains that although the author probably considers it a “flippant, unprofitable, guilt-inducing, and insincere response,” I have been given the Holy Spirit who “helps me in my weakness” (Romans 8:26.) If I’m stressed or overwhelmed or mentally exhausted (which, I admit, I often am) it might say more about my current relationship with God than the current number of children in my home or vegetables in my garden.
PS. As for the authors question: what happens to the introverted children in Quiverfull homes?” I wonder if she advocates homeschooling those children? I can’t imagine anything more stressful to the introvert than being forced into a situation, day after day, where they have to interact with hundreds of people and classrooms full of 20-30 people for hours at a time. My kids don’t have their own bedrooms, but they certainly have the ability to be alone when they feel the need to be. We don’t force them to interact with their siblings, and they’re allowed to play alone whenever they wish to (which actually isn’t often.) Just as the author discovered with her own daughter, introversion isn’t a reason to keep a family small (I’m sure she never considered giving her other children up for adoption to meet the needs of her introverted daughter), it just needs to be addressed in such a way as to promote the health and happiness of all involved. The well-being of my family dictates that I can’t spend all of my time alone, but I CAN impose a strict bedtime and I CAN ask for my husband’s help and I CAN go out every so often and enjoy a solitary activity. Solutions can be found even in the midst of “an extroverted husband and a passel of children.”
By the way, in a misrepresentation of “quiverfull” mentality, the author of this article chose my post on losing weight to link to, in reference to having a large family. I’d just like to state that my pregnancies have NOTHING to do with the fact that I’m overweight – my addiction to food and lack of physical exercise are the root of that problem. Will my body ever look the same as it did 10 years ago? Of course not. But my obesity is NOT a result of multiple pregnancies – it’s a result of laziness and an inappropriate relationship with Oreo cookies.