The best part of being an Introvert Mama is that I am totally comfortable both with navel gazing and with ignoring other people entirely. This means I’ve spent my tour of duty in the Mom Wars not in the frontline trenches. Rather, I’ve been safe back at headquarters, doing some light filing and having tea with biscuits. It’s nice back here. No one takes much notice of me. I can enjoy the benefits of postmodern parenting practices without having to engage in fierce social media battles or playground politics defending them. But you don’t need to be a natural born introvert to take advantage of this arm’s length approach!
If you have been frustrated by the pressures society places on your parenting, consider my five Introvert Mama steps to bypass the madness:
Step One: Refuse to Engage, or “Talk Less, Smile More”
As an introvert, I take special care where I spend my social energy, and with whom. The minute I get an inkling a person I am interacting with, be it online or in my daily life, holds a strong view about an aspect of parenting that does not align with my own, my shields go up. For example, say I run into a woman from work at the grocery store. She sees I am purchasing baby food, raises her eyebrows and makes a snide comment about children eating “real” food. Response? Smile and ask her about her favorite local farms. I do not – repeat – DO NOT – respond to her comment in any way, except with an imprecise smile and a conversational pivot. I know I cannot spare the social energy to debate something like my child’s nutrition with a person whose opinion does not matter to me in the least.
My extroverted friends often fall into this trap. Since they build their energy in social interactions, they do not instinctively shield themselves from pointless conflict. Sadly, as a result, they get very upset and even hurt by interactions with people who do not have their interests at heart. If the person you are interacting with is not someone whose opinion you truly value, smile faintly and change the subject. Be vigilant against the trolls, be they on the internet or in your family tree! NEVER FEED THE TROLLS.
Step Two: Pick Your Battles and Vaguely Lie
When someone has been going on and on about a particular parenting practice, they clearly are not truly interested in your opinion. There is a qualitative difference between a person who asks a question and one who puts forward a bold statement and demands you respond. When you sense someone is looking for affirmation, and the topic they are so gonzo about does not matter to you very much, smile and nod. Example: Your friend is adamant about limiting screen time for her preschooler, but you consider Daniel Tiger to be your personal time savior. When she says, “I think no one should let their kids be hypnotized by television, don’t you?” – What do you do? In this scenario, consider these three questions:
- Does it matter if this person has an accurate snapshot of my opinion?
- Do I care about my position more than she cares about hers?
- Is she advocating for something I know to be a clear danger to her child and/or the community?
If the answer to all these questions is no, consider the introvert’s little friend “White Lie”. While I do not generally endorse lying as a social tool, agreeing with an assertion you deem harmless can simply keep the discussion moving. Be aware of your non-negotiables. If it really, truly matters to you, you should raise your voice and defend your position. But I do not think arguing about screen time limits will in any way improve my life or the life of my friend. I let her think I agree with her.
Step Three: None of My Business
Scenario: an imaginary new mom in a local Facebook group posts several times a day about how her child is exceeding all the milestones, and she’s worried he might be too smart. That is none of my business. I ignore the posts. Mom Wars: Averted!
Scenario: my imaginary sister-in-law is going vegan, and therefore so are her three small children. That is none of my business. I smile and nod. Mom Wars: Averted!
Scenario: my imaginary neighbor wants her son to succeed in hockey, and spends far beyond her means to get him extra coaching and ice time. That is none of my business. I wish the boy great success and move on. Mom Wars: Averted!
Repeat after me: how other people’s families work is none of my business. Unless you see evidence of damage or abuse, there is no reason to meddle in other people’s choices. I have observed my extroverted friends have a harder time with this step. It seems meddling comes more naturally when your social connections sustain you. But unless you have a very compelling reason to engage, your perspective on another’s family’s choice is insignificant. Save your passion for your own world.
Step Four: Consideration is Your Gift
Introverts like to look at the world from many angles, to synthesize their research and come to careful conclusions. I find I get much less worked up about snarky or poorly credited Facebook memes than my extrovert friends. Those social media missiles often grind out the ridiculous Mom Wars by spreading misinformation and fear. Introverts can and do jump to wrongheaded conclusions, but we usually need more than one source to convince us, either way. In the era of constant media bombardment on parenting best practices, I feel such relief that my natural inclination is to view all claims with skepticism. Mulling options slowly keeps me from getting too carried away, and the extra thinking time gives me reassurance that I am weeding out the nonsense from the valuable information.
Step Five: Remember Who Matters
My daughter hates brushing her hair. I force her to brush twice a week, but it is not a priority for either of us. We spend more time and energy on having clean clothes and healthy food. I know that when we are out together, her tangled hair has earned me many looks of scorn and judgment from other parents. Guess how much that matters to me? Zip. I am not responsible for their perceptions. The people who matter to me are the people whom I trust – my children, my partner, my close friends and family. Being an introvert, my circle of trust is a select and elite crew. I listen to their concerns and seek their judgments. Their perceptions matter to me. Random old ladies at the grocery store do not.
Peace can begin within!
If you find the bickering and backstabbing Mom Wars tiresome, consider stepping back into your own world! Being a Mama Introvert can be a comforting umbrella when stormy fights and judgments rain down on the public square. Come on over, sit quietly with us – we promise not to worry about your choices, and you won’t have to worry about ours.