Introvert Mom Surrounded by Children: Tips for Staying Sane

I am an introvert (an INTJ, if you like Myers-Briggs definitions). I have one wonderful husband, five beautiful children (and another on the way), and we homeschool. Which means we spend almost every day together from morning until night. Two days a week my niece stays with us. And for a few hours once or twice a week, my nephew comes over too. My husband even works from home often, which means all family members are in the same house. (And, while we love our house, believe me when I tell you it isn’t large by today’s standards. It’s less than 2,000 square feet.)introvert mom surrounded by children

So, I’m an introvert (which means large crowds deplete my energy) and I’m essentially raising a large crowd. Plus, I do have goals. Things like: writing for this blog. Writing a novel. Homeschooling all my children through high school.

How do I maintain sanity (although, let’s be honest: that’s probably a relative thing on a given day) as a person who craves quiet and order while surrounded by 5 small humans who like to destroy quiet and order?

Here are my tricks of the trade as an Introvert Mom:

1. Sleep

This introvert mom requires a lot of sleep. I used to fight this, but now I accept it.

Bedtime is fairly strictly enforced around here (with notable exceptions for special occasions) because my husband and I need some childfree time before I have to go to bed. So the youngest are put to bed, and the oldest retire to their room for quiet reading (and listening to books on CD) around 7:30 or 8. The oldest are supposed to have lights out at 9, but this is flexible and we only crack down on it if morning attitudes are getting bad.

Homeschooling gives me the flexibility to sleep in later than if my children were in other school situations. We don’t usually “start school” until around 9 AM. And none of my children are super early risers – a fact that I greatly appreciate. We started teaching each of our children at a young age how to turn on a DVD (the only time of the day they watch anything) and get their own bowl of cereal or piece of toast or fruit, if they are up and hungry before mom is up. This gives me the chance to wake up and read my Bible in my bedroom. Alone.

The easy start to the day is key for this Introvert Mom.

Obviously, when we have a new baby or young toddler, this affects our sleep and morning routines, but homeschooling allows us to be flexible even then.

2. Quiet time every day

We’ve enforced this since our oldest was very young. After lunch we have an hour of quiet. For the youngest this means napping. For the oldest it means quiet reading or handcrafts. We divide the children up so they can’t distract each other. (The exception is the current youngest two who share a room. They both nap, or the 4 yr old gets up when a CD is over without waking her brother.)

As an Introvert Mom, I use this time to read or do work of my own (NOT housework!). And when I’m pregnant or nursing, well, it’s my naptime too. (Hey, I told you I needed a lot of sleep!)

Now that my older two have a tougher academic load this can also be time where we focus on Math or Latin without interruption by the littles. It’s not my favorite way to spend the time, but when it’s necessary it helps a lot to have the quiet.

3. Minimize outside obligations

My interactions with my own family are quite enough to meet my socialization needs in a day. Days we spend with others or pursuing things outside of our home are far more draining to me than the days we’re home together.

Even an Introvert Mom can’t avoid activities entirely: we have homeschool co-op or errands to run the same as anyone else. But we try to keep our outside obligations (enrichment activities, athletics, get togethers, etc.) minimized.

When my husband and I were thinking about what our family might look like (before we had kids), I knew that I only had so many “people hours” in me. We decided that spending those hours with people I actually love and care about would be a better use of that time. If I worked outside the home (if our kids were in a different school setting) I would be drained by the time I got home and unable to cheerfully meet my own family’s needs. As it is, my kids see me at my best (before my energy is depleted) as well as at my worst (when I just need some quiet). If I worked outside the home and they were gone all day, I’m afraid they’d only see the worst instead of the best.

4. Meet extrovert children’s needs without my participation

I have extrovert children that seem to need friends and activity. I have introvert children that still like to be out and about more than I do.

How do I handle this as an Introvert Mom? Two main ways:

Playdates for the most extrovert of my children.

We’re fortunate to have another homeschool family in our neighborhood with a child that needs as much activity as mine does. And the other mom doesn’t mind the craziness (and her other children are mostly grown), so she has our daughter over often. This gives her child someone to play with and it gives my little social butterfly a chance to be out. Win-win.

Think like a 1980’s mom.

My kids play with kids in the neighborhood, outside, when the weather is good. I do not set this up. Nor do I supervise it (other than checking in occasionally). We take our kids to activities at our local library but here’s where I’m radical: I don’t go in with them. My kids take the class or attend the program or whatever and I sit and read a magazine. (This mostly applies to my older 3 children, because the youngest attend fewer programs). The programs are for them, not me. I’m confident in their listening ability. We know the librarians. I’m still there if anyone would need me. But I let them have their thing while I have mine.

If this be parental treason in our current culture, make the most of it.

5. Read, write, do work in front of children while teaching them the proper way to interrupt

If I only ever wrote for this blog or read a book or did anything after my children were asleep, I would never get any of those things done. Instead, I work while they’re around me. They’re used to the sight of me typing away or sitting with a book. They can get me if they need help with something. I can mediate squabbles. I can stop and answer questions. I may have to save a draft or use a bookmark, but the fact is: mom working on her own thing or pursuing something she loves (reading) isn’t a strange sight around here.

Please note that this doesn’t mean I get hours and hours of reading or writing done. It’s more like: snatch 15 or 30 minutes here and there, help a child, make a meal, snatch another 15, switch the laundry, read to the 4 yr old, answer a math question, read for 10 minutes, answer some blog related email, etc.

6. Keep external stimuli to a minimum (music, computer programs,etc.) and encourage headphone use

I’m not overly sensitive to noise, but I do try to keep these things minimized. (Not least because some of my children are sensitive to these things.) We do not have the radio on while we do school. We don’t listen to music while we read aloud. The TV isn’t background noise. People doing things with screens (whether for school, work, or play) are encouraged to keep the sound down, or to use earbuds or headphones.

Our children who do need to listen to classical music while they work wear headphones. This helps them focus, but the music would distract the other children.

7. Journal / blog / decompress with husband or friend

Everyone needs an outlet. My friend Mystie is a proponent of the “Brain Dump”. Brains can get cluttered too, so I try to get all that out on paper every so often.

It’s not healthy, even for an introvert, to keep everything inside. Fortunately for me, my husband is a great listener. (Now, remember-er, not so much. Which is a blessing too, really.)

Our homeschool co-op is another great place to vent about homeschool frustrations with other homeschool moms who understand what I’m talking about. (See this post for more about how co-op helps us: 23 Reasons This Introvert Mom Loves Homeschool Co-Op)

8. Combine subjects when possible

This is a homeschool survival strategy. I have 5 children (soon to be six). I can’t teach History or Science six different times. I prefer not to be reading aloud six different books. I combine where I can. Right now that means the oldest two are working on similar history (our third daughter was working with them, but the subject matter what getting too intense for her, so we’ve changed things up). The 10 yr old and the 7 yr old are doing Science together.

I read aloud from one chapter book to anyone who’s interested, although I aim it mostly toward the 7 yr old. We read aloud a picture book to the youngest two at bedtime. History is 3 days a week and Science is two (except for our oldest who is working independently. She works on hers every day.)

9. Remember one on one time

This isn’t scheduled, but I’m always looking for ways to spend a few minutes with one child. Maybe that means a quick cuddle. Maybe it means taking just one child along on an errand (car rides are such great times for talks!). It might mean having one child help with supper prep while the others play downstairs. Those minutes where I connect with my children on an individual level are priceless.

I’ve also learned that I need to work with the youngest first thing in our school day, or it might not happen. So reading together, math worksheets, and so on, need to be done first with the youngest. Then they can go play while I work with the older kids (as needed).

This also keeps them from interrupting while I help the older kids. (“Mom, when can you help me with Math? Mom? Mom, can we get out the paint while we wait?”)

10. Perfect your own systems for managing possessions.

The best way to manage possessions: have fewer of them. We are constantly evaluating whether to keep or get rid of things. We teach our children how to help us clean. (One nice thing about living in a smaller house: it’s easier to clean the entire thing.) We all help pick up at the end of an activity and the end of the day. Everyone (except the youngest) helps put their own laundry away. (And no, I don’t insist that things be folded the way I would or that drawers be kept in some artificially pristine state. This is not a magazine spread, it’s our home.)

I’ve seen the organizing sites and blogs and sometimes I’ve coveted their perfectly ordered systems. But do you know what really jumps out at me when I’m reading those posts?

How much stuff they have.

Seriously: closets full of clothes for one child? I’d go nuts. Legos sorted by color in their own bins? That would work for approximately 10 seconds in this house. (Just long enough for the baby to dump them all out and the 4 year old to “hide” her magnet dolls there so her sister won’t get them.)

We’re not minimalist by any means (and in some things, like books and board games, we’re the opposite of minimalist), but we try to keep possessions limited. And yes, four daughters to dress means that, on any given day, the floor of their bedroom looks like a midnight sale at Filene’s basement. But if everyone pitches in and puts the dirty stuff in the laundry basket and stores the clean stuff, we can usually make our way around the room without peril to our lives.

Those are my tricks for thriving as an introvert mom while surrounded by family. What are your tips?

For more hints and tricks for keeping sanity while reaching goals, be sure to check out this round-up:
Here’s a fantastic new resource (from my fellow INTJ Mom Mystie) for understanding personality as a homeschool mom:
Practical Personality Portfolio

Also linking up with:
Living and Learning at Home

Above, I mentioned my friend Mystie. She’s also written an ecourse for simplifying your life that I highly recommend. If you’re interested in finding out more about this course or her other resources check this out:
Get organized. Stay organized.

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  1. Awesome post!!! I am also an INTJ and so naturally, your posts really speak to me. I am so glad I found your blog. I also homeschool and we just had our fourth child, so these tips are super helpful. I am in that newborn stage and need all the rest I can get. Thanks!

  2. I’m an introvert as well and I am surrounded by extroverts. We are staying with my family while my husband is away and I’m homeschooling my four children which means there are 8 other people around me all. the. time. I’ve been going crazy. I am definitely going to be more mindful about doing the things you’ve mentioned.

  3. Ha! I’m such an introvert and these are good pointers. Thanks for sharing!

  4. As another introvert, I love these tips! Many of them I’ve found my way to implementing in my own homeschool as well. We combine as much as possible, minimize outside obligations, and try to meet everyone’s needs. Thanks for sharing! :-)

    • I think minimizing outside obligations is sometimes harder than it sounds. I’m an introvert but I also hate to let other people down. It feels so radical to say, “No, we can’t do that.” Glad to hear of someone else who has to be careful about that habit too!

      Thanks for stopping by, Sara!

  5. I, too, am an introvert. Like you, I need my sleep. We also have a quiet time each day. By that time (quiet time is after lunch and read-aloud time), I am usually in need of some quiet time to re-charge so to speak. :)

  6. This was a wonderful list! I felt my whole soul relax as I read it, and relieved to know I’m not the only mom who struggles with having a different personality type than my kids. I so appreciate this, thank you for writing it!

  7. Another INTJ here, three kids (and that’s it), homeschoolers, and I’m an artist. Quiet time is an absolute must, although ours is two hours because the youngest takes a two hour nap and I take full advantage of that to get my own work done. I don’t require much sleep but I do have to have alone time before everyone else starts talking to me or I’m crabby. And I’m just discovering the activities thing, which totally explains why my mom (also a homeschooling introverted mother) said we were going to play one sport and that’s it. I’m now telling my kids one sport and that’s it I also work in front of them; my stuff is important too, and I believe I’m setting a good example. I do try to explain that I’m working, I’ll describe what I’m doing (or just show them what I’m drawing or painting). Anyway. Always nice to see how fellow introverts handle homeschooling. It’s encouraging.

    • I love meeting fellow INTJ homeschool moms. There seem to be more of us on the web than in real life. Maybe this is just our natural habitat? ;)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Danielle Adams says

    Loved this article!!! Although I’m an INFP- your lifestyle is incredibly relatable and so helpful for a young mom of three! What homeschool programs do you recommend for pre K?

  9. This is great. I’m also an INTJ, and I sometimes struggle with the chaos that comes with having kids. I’m also an author, so it’s difficult for me to balance how and when to write with noise and mess around. These are helpful strategies.

  10. Hi Karen — I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m an INTJ mom of 3 and Christian (worked in campus ministry for a while, now back to working as a lawyer). Except I took 6 months out last year to homeschool, so lots of this resonates. Parenting extroverts can be a particular challenge for me. My lovely extrovert 5 year old is now at preschool every day, because while I adore him, he NEVER stops talking. And expects constant response. I was finding my days home with him quite tricky, cos I just couldn’t think. Torture. We are all happier now. So I don’t know if you’ve addressed this somewhere, but how do you think about your Christian journey in the light of your INTJ nature? I find many church activities and encouragement are well suited to those fun ENFPs, but not to me. Where do we fit in? Also, my gorgeous daughter (my only introvert) sometimes seems to need more from me emotionally than I am able to give. I try to make up for it with lots of hugs, but I wonder if this is an issue for INTJ moms of girls. Anyway, all so interesting, thanks! Ps I love murder mysteries too, because they’re essentially a puzzle. But I don’t like gory. I enjoy Agatha c and also Hamish Macbeth, but also have just discovered the armand gamache books by Louise penny– recommended.

    • Great questions! I’m not sure I’ve actually addressed these in a post, but I certainly need to. Meanwhile, have you seen this book: ?
      I found it encouraging and helpful as a Christian Introvert.

      I do find my girls can be emotionally draining for me and I’m always trying to make sure I’m deliberately smiling at them (because my resting face is rather severe), hugging and touching more than seems necessary to me, and trying to talk about things before they become huge issues. This last thing really works with my personality, because as a female INTJ I notice “clues” with people more than a male INTJ does (probably). Honestly though, out of our four daughters, most are not feeling types. The one real “Feeler” can really drain the rest of us! An older post I wrote about that dynamic is here:

      I do find that routine, consistent bedtime, and one-on-one time are super important for keeping her on an even keel. We haven’t hit puberty with this one yet, so I’m still waiting to see what happens with her then!

      Blessings to you on your journey!