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Tuesday 13 November 2012

The Introvert's Guide to Parenting

I like solitude. I generally like my own company, even though I sometimes worry about the slightly nuttier depths of my overactive imagination. All of that is kind of fortunate really, as I spend a lot of time working from home, devoid of any sort of human contact other than that which comes as a disembodied voice on the other end of a phone. I appreciate it would probably drive seriously extroverted types completely bonkers, but being happily far along the introverted scale, it suits me down to the ground.

There's only one slight snag to this whole thing, however - you see, I went and had children.

The discomfort starts with pregnancy - all of a sudden, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers start to make small talk about intimate details of your anatomy. Doctors and health workers poke around in places normally reserved only for the most intimate moments. Your body is suddenly no longer your own, and sometimes you wonder if your mind is, either.

Maybe you start going to ante-natal classes. More complete strangers you suddenly find yourselves thrown together with. Actually though, you think, it's not too bad. At least you have something in common, so the small talk comes fairly easily. Heck, even the dads start showing an interest and doing a spot of male-bonding over their collective fertility.

The general indignity of the actual birthing process passes you by in a haze of gas and air. "Student midwives? Hell, yeah - the more the merrier! Come and look at the stitches on this!"

The first few weeks are weepy and sleep-deprived, and you wish you still had that gas and air handy. But, generally, people at least appreciate that you kind of have your hands full, and are happy to ask if you need help or appreciate company. Soon, however, there comes a point when you can no-longer use newborn chaos to delay your return into society.

Then comes the dreaded baby group.

Is there anything worse for an introvert than the prospect of a noisy room full of other people and wailing children? You don't want to seem like too much of a grump, but really all you want to do is quietly read your book in a corner while little Tarquin* plays with the building blocks. That would be "weird" though, so you reluctantly feign interest in conversations about nappies, weaning and sleep patterns.

Really though, it's not that bad. Worse is yet to come. Your children start to communicate with you in ways other than screaming red faces. And once kids start to talk they generally don't stop much. Permanent chatter fills your home from the time they get up to the time they pass out from over-stretched vocal chords. The endless questions wear you down as much as any arguing or shouting (if someone could invent a volume button for children, please?) and the endless chatter. Oh God, the endless chatter. The commentary about EVERY LITTLE THING makes you idly wonder if someone would employ them to do those audio descriptions for deaf people. Still, they're your kids, you love them, and they can be kind of amusing at times, so you kind of forgive them and put up with it, silently looking forward to the days when they toddle off to childcare or school.

Rookie mistake.

Yes, the start of school gives you more time to yourself, but it also brings with it the introverts greatest fear; OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN. Your own children will insist on inviting them round as play dates, where they will jointly cause absolute chaos in your homely sanctuary.. No longer can you ignore the infantile whys and hows as you can with your own kids - you have to show an interest in the little dears, despite the fact you patently really don't have much interest in them other than as playmates to keep your own children from bothering you.

So, one day, when your now 5 year old youngest daughter states that she doesn't "like people talking AT her", you smile, and advise her under your breath never to have children of her own...

(*just stating for the record that Tarquin is not the name of either of my daughters)


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