The challenges of parenting when you are an ambivert

 Photo: Getty Images

If you ask anyone who knows me whether I am an introvert or extrovert, the majority would firmly place me in the extrovert camp.

From the outside, I am a self-assured, outspoken person who can stand up in front of groups of hundreds of people and speak confidently, whether at a wedding as a celebrant or a work-related conference.

I enjoy public speaking – provided I'm familiar with the topic I'm discussing – and this outward confidence gives off a smokescreen, protecting what's really behind it all.

You see, after such events that draw on all of my energy, I often find myself slinking home and going in to a zone where I don't want to talk or be talked to.

My battery is empty, I am empty, and the only way I recharge is by having alone time.

Being around other people is a completely draining experience for me.

Small groups I can handle much better, and while in some situations I may come across as the life of the party, on the inside I am planning my escape, watching the time to ascertain when would be an acceptable moment to make my getaway.

Engaging in small talk bores me, especially when the other party offers up insincere questions that I can see straight through, and while I'm happy to hold fort as the centre of attention while I tell a yarn, I'd prefer the attention moves to someone else when I'm done.

Don't even get me started on what happens when someone I barely know recognises me from this column in real life. Most times I wish for the ground to open up and swallow me whole rather than begin a conversation on that type of uneven ground, where people think they know me and I know nothing about them.


Whenever I completed those Myers Briggs personality tests, I always came up borderline introvert/extrovert and it was confusing to me that someone could be a bit of both, considering the definition of the two were so black and white.

Then, thanks to the magic of the internet, I came across the term "ambivert" one day and it was like a light went off.

An ambivert is defined as a person who has a balance of introvert and extrovert features.

In 1947, psychologist Hans Eysenck came up with the term and described us as being on the sliding scale between introvert and extrovert.

We can switch between features of both, depending on the social situation we find ourselves in, drawing on the hypersensitivity of an introvert and the outgoing nature of an extrovert.

As you can imagine, the life of an ambivert is tough going when it clashes with parenthood.

Turns out, "alone time" isn't an option, especially in the early days of child rearing.

Babies, by their very definition, are extroverts through their incessant need for attention and desire to be close to you at all times, resulting in me feeling very "touched out" by the end of the day.

Little ones have absolutely no idea how draining I find it to engage in constant conversation about wees and poos, the cows in the paddock we drive past or what the difference is between a brontosaurus and a brachiosaurus – brontosaurus are smaller, in case you were wondering.

Truth be told, trying to find that alone time to recharge was probably one of my biggest hurdles when becoming a parent. Even now, I still find it a daily struggle to leave myself with something in the tank at the end of the day so I have enough energy to hold a conversation with my very extroverted husband.

Yes, I married an extrovert. You can imagine the type of discontent that sometimes causes when you're both trying to get from each other what you need. For me, it's often space and silence. For him, it's closeness and company.

My ideal Saturday night is not at a party, or socialising at all really, but instead would see me tucked up on the couch with a good book or Netflix.

I suppose that's the one part that is conducive to parenting as an ambivert; I now have an excuse for declining those weekend evening invitations thanks to the kids.

And I'm not a complete recluse; I have close friends who I love spending time with. But, if I'm forced into a situation with a bunch of people I don't know and my tanks are too empty to put up the extrovert facade, you bet that I will decline the offer and hide out in my little zone until I have the ability to face the world again.

- Stuff