This post is a counterpart to Lindsey Kubly's post, shared last week. I was so inspired by her writing, I asked for permission to outline similar strategies from my high-energy, 100% extroverted approach to life.
When I first became a mom, I continued to work full time in my office job, juggling presentations, daycare pick up and dinner time, among countless other things moms juggle. I alternated my lunch breaks between power meetings with coworkers and play dates in Behr's class room. I grabbed coffee once or twice a day with friends to catch up. I spent most of my days surrounded by people and I thrived. I am an extrovert in every sense of the word.
Transitioning to life with two kids and working from home has had challenges I didn't expect. After reading Lindsey's post, I took a hard look at how things have changed for me in the past year. We welcomed a second son into our family and I transitioned out of the fast-paced, ladder climbing executive world into a work at home job requiring 20-30 hours a week. Below are a few strategies I am continuing to learn as I navigate this transition to working at home. (Read: being alone at home without natural adult interaction) Ironically, the more I thought about Lindsey's post, the more I realized that many of the tools I utilize as an extrovert are strikingly similar to her approach as an introvert. I encourage you to read both posts and let me know what you think.
1. Assess your available outlets.
In the beginning, I struggled with relying on my husband and my mom to fill all the hours of socialization I craved. I spent hours talking to, or worse at them, sometimes disrupting their work day with a phone call just to hear myself speak. At the mom's group I attended, I needed to hold back from speaking between every other person. It became obvious that I needed more interaction, I needed other outlets. I began to take the boys with me to Costco, the trip is long and slow, but we talk to nearly every employee along the way. We are pouring into their day and they are helping to fill ours. Now that Behr is in pre-school, I utilize drop off and pick up time more strategically. We arrive early and chat with folks until the end of drop off. This allows me to get conversations in and be energized before heading home to work alone for the next few hours while Hudson naps. Readjusting a few of our regular routines in a way that serves as an outlet means I no longer weigh down my family with the responsibility of being my sole source of interactions. Time spent with acquaintances help me as an extrovert so that time spent with those closest to me can move to deeper relationships.
I have also found an incredible community of online friends both via instagram and The Influence Network. These outlet are rewarding and leading to deeper relationships.
2. Focus on meaningful conversations.
This appears to be counter-intuitive to the first point. However, it is a continual lesson for me. Living in a big city, I am surrounded by people and there is always someone to talk to at the park or at a street corner. Pushing a stroller makes you an immediate target for conversation. But just because I might be lonely, doesn't mean I need to talk to everyone. Similarly, just because I talk to numerous people in a day, doesn't mean I am refilling my need for energy. Exasperated one week I realized that I had tens of conversations that didn't move beyond, the ages of my boys, their blue eyes, and yes, my hair was lighter as a kid too. Repeating the same chatter doesn't serve anyone. Now at the park, I do a quick survey to see if I recognize anyone where I can follow up from a previous conversations. At the street corners, instead of going on auto-pilot, I use these basic conversations to teach Behr social cues. Drawing a distinction between small talk and true conversation has left me more strategic, and better fulfilled.
I have signed up for newsletters from Thrive Moms and The MOB Society. These emails, provide direct encouragement, but also serve as a excellent conversation probes, key in developing meaningful conversations.
3. Save energy for motherhood.
This is the same third strategy as Lindsey's. I echo her sentiments about the role of mom being priority number one right now. Behr is an active three year old and Hudson is on the verge of walking. If I am not giving them my attention first, our day goes downhill fast. If I ignore them, it usually leads to someone getting stuck in a precarious position. My children require my energy and attention. Even as an extrovert, I need to make sure I have energy for them in reserve. I need to be able to pour into my boys without needing them to the source of my social interaction. Expecting my kids to meet and fill my needs is unrealistic and inconsiderate. However, when I have the energy saved for being a mom, we are more likely to engage in activities that serve us all well, like reading out loud, playing thinking games such as "I notice_____, I wonder why?" and cooking together.
4. Set boundaries.
My first few weeks home I packed our schedule so full, no one was happy. I was getting stuck meeting a deadline for work before our first play group and trying to rush lunch before we are off to our second event of the day. I have set a few hard boundaries to make sure I am able to better implement the first three strategies.
- Boundary: One play date per day. If I schedule any more, I am forcing us through the motions instead of enjoying our company.
- Boundary: No more than one new friend (family) per week. We don't always meet new friends, but when we do, I have found that we all do better in smaller doses. If we have friends visiting from out of town over the weekend, I try not to meet up with other new friends on either side. Meeting and engaging with new faces is hard at any age and can be overwhelming. Even as an extrovert, limited the number of new encounters is helpful.
- Boundary: One coffee/lunch date per week. Again, this boundary is about the schedule. If we are so jam packed, our time with friends is less fruitful. (The college econ major in me wants to tell you about diminishing margins of return...) But I also know that having this adult conversation is incredible helpful for me. While the boys are usually in tow, we pick places with room to roam or outdoor seating and the boys get play while I dig deep with friends. More than one date per week leaves me frantic. This is the hardest boundary for me to keep, but likely the most crucial for our family.
- Boundary: Ask before speaking. This is a whole life story boundary. But as an extrovert, I often need to process aloud. My husband and I try to simply approach one another with a question first, "Can I talk about my work problem with you?" "Do you have time to listen to me for a few minutes?" Ir prepares the other person, and leads to a better conversation.
A huge theme of these strategies is developing better conversations. I've been mulling over this topic, how it impacts my activities on social media, how it helps and hinders community, and whether or not you can speed up the space between small talk and deep meaningful conversation. You can certainly expect to hear more from me on this topic in the coming months. I would love to hear you thoughts, both on conversation and community as well as the challenges of motherhood, and how personality types/tendencies impact all of the above.
Finally, wether you are an extrovert or not, I found Lindey's post very helpful. Go ahead and take a read and while you are there, girl has some killer mom style. Check it out.