It can be tough out there for introvert parents. By nature, introverted people need more time to recharge. They tend to take in more environmental cues and thus need silence and solitude to process it or else they become overwhelmed or spent. Introverts need to be more precise about managing themselves and finding that alone time, because if they do become overwhelmed they become drained and can be short or seen as antisocial.
For introverted dads, little things that may seem inconsequential to most people can chip away at your parenting confidence. Introverts make up 25 to 40 percent of the population, but for many of them that’s a sweeping statistic that does little to make them feel anything but alone. Adding the responsibilities and stresses of parenthood into the mix can easily exacerbate an introverted dad’s struggle with daily life and doing his best to raise the kids he loves.
Introverts need to have specific self-care regiments to ensure they are everything they can be for their families. But these can make them seem antisocial or even awkward. Introverts are also, often, anxious. And this is why they deal with such misconceptions as they don’t like people, don’t like social situations, aren’t leaders, and are helpless when trying to make conversations. But, while they may prefer a quiet, solitary afternoon over a raging playdate at a crowded park, they’re still loving, caring, and capable as husbands and fathers.
We spoke to a dozen self-professed introverts, all of whom have struggled with specific challenges related to their personality type. They offered great insight into how they think, what they think, and what battles they’ve fought trying to be the best dads they can. Here’s what they had to say.
The Lack of Downtime
“As a new parent — my wife and I just had our first child this year — I don’t really get much time to recharge and unplug. Even when my wife is handling the parenting duties, it seems like there’s no time for me to take a breath. As an introvert, I need that time to think to myself, to listen to myself, and to let myself just take a few breaths. I have faith that things will calm down. Maybe not soon, but hopefully soon enough for me to mentally reset and feel less anxious all the time.” – Matt, 35, Pennsylvania
The Scrutiny from Other Parents
“I feel like other parents might see me as inattentive and cold. I’m not outward and bubbly with my kids, at least not in public. If they could see me in private — in my house, or in my car — it would be like night and day. Part of the reason I’m so hesitant to draw attention in public is because of the fear I’ll be judged on what I’m doing. Sometimes I’m just concentrating, trying to be a good parent, but because I’m quiet about it, people think I’m sad, or angry, or upset.” – Jeff, 36, Maryland
Teachers Thinking I’m Disinterested
“At parent-teacher conferences, my wife does most of the talking. I listen, but I’m anxious about talking back and forth. So, I get the feeling that most teachers think I’m not interested in learning about my kids. When I do talk, I try to make it meaningful and relevant. So I think before I speak, quite a bit. My wife understands why I’m like that, but it can be hard to grasp for other people – especially those who might not know me as well as she does. They think I’m just distracted.” – Sean, 37, Florida
I Feel Guilty About Everything
“My introversion comes from anxiety, and my anxiety leads to more introversion. I feel guilty that I like being alone. Like, I love being alone. When my wife and kids are out of the house, it’s peaceful, and it gives me a chance to collect myself and recharge. But then I find myself thinking, ‘Well, do I not love my wife? Do I not love my kids? How can I be happy that they’re gone?’ I try to remind myself that it’s not them, but rather the commotion of a moving household that I need a break from. At least, that’s what my therapist tries to remind me.” – Alexi, 35, Ohio
People Think I’m Miserable
“The thing about being quiet and reserved is that people automatically assume you’re miserable and depressed. My kids don’t see me that way, but they’re easier to open up and be silly with. That’s hard to do when I’m out in the world with other parents. It’s even hard to do at family gatherings, especially with my wife’s family. My family knows I’m quiet, but her family doesn’t know me that well. So they always ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ Or say, ‘Hey! Snap out of it! Join the party!’ And it’s just like, snap out of what? I don’t need to be talking to have a good time.” – David, 34, New York
Playdates Trigger My Anxiety
“I love watching our daughters play with their friends. But having to sit and interact with the other parents can be a nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all wonderful people. But the conversation just never, ever stops. We can’t just sit there and watch. It always has to be, ‘So, how are the girls doing in school? How’s work? How’s the house?’ And it’s just not stuff I feel the need to always talk about. My responses can probably come across as short and abrupt when I run out of things to say, but I swear I’m not trying to be.” – Adam, 33, New Jersey
I Feel Like My Kids Get Embarrassed
“I’m the ‘weird’ dad. A lot of the other dads are very outgoing, and sporty, and chatty. And I can tell that my kids wish I was like that sometimes. At home, it’s not a big deal. But when we get around other people and other families, I go into my shell and have a hard time being part of the action. It’s not something that bothers me in the moment. And it’s not something that my kids have ever commented on. So, maybe I’m just projecting my insecurities about being an introvert onto them.” – Jonathan, 40, North Carolina
Other Parents Can be Intimidating
“In general, other people can be intimidating. But, other parents are especially intimidating because their outward confidence makes it seem like they know what they’re doing all the time. And, in my rational brain, I know that’s not true. None of us know what we’re doing. But, as someone who does a lot of his thinking and reasoning inside, it’s hard for me to see these parents working things out externally and not feeling like I’m doing something wrong. I have to remind myself that it’s not wrong, though, and that it’s just different.” – Joel, 37, Texas
I Worry My Behavior Will Make it Harder For My Kids to Make Friends
“When they get older, our kids will be in charge of their social lives. But right now, it’s the parents who are responsible for planning parties and setting up play-dates. I worry that my hesitation to interact with the other parents will mean my kids are missing out on forming friendships. It’s not as difficult for me to accept an invitation, but trying to arrange plans with friends or another family makes me very anxious. I power through, though, because I don’t want my kids to ever feel awkward about making friends.” – Rich, 35, Connecticut
My Kids and I Have Nothing in Common
“That’s how it seems, anyway. They’re both total extroverts. I have a son and a daughter, and they’re both loud and crazy. So, when I suggest things that I like to do – like talking walks, being out in nature, and stuff like that – they don’t get super excited. We’ve kind of bonded over video games, which is great, but I often wonder if there will be anything else we can genuinely share as they grow older. It just feels like we’re always bound to be different. — Shane, 37, Kansas
Sometimes, I Don’t Feel Like a Good Role Model
“How am I supposed to raise my children to be strong and confident when I’m barely able to have a conversation with a cashier without clamming up? They hear what I tell them about being proud of who they are, but it’s hard to compare that to how I act sometimes. And the worst part is, I don’t realize it until after the fact. It’s just me being who I am, and then I’ll think back and realize I was pleasant and polite, but barely said two words during the whole conversation. I don’t want my kids to think there’s anything wrong with being introverted, but I want them to know they don’t have to be that way just because Dad is.” – Chris, 39, North Carolina