Introvert Monday: Keeping Sane as an Introverted Nanny

introverts and children

Aside from the chirping birds outside and the fridge humming, my boss’s house is quiet.  I lounge in the armchair as I wait for the children to awake, rotating between gazing out the window and reading.  I soak up the solitude and silence now because I know that once the kids are up, it will be hours before I experience quiet again.  I glance at the clock.  7:55, I should really wake them up, I think to myself.  In less than 10 minutes, I have the kids seated at the table to eat breakfast.  They quickly shake the slow sleepiness of the night and move into the high energy of the day.  Before I know it, they are happily talking over one another and wrestling in the living room.

It’s loud.  It’s chaotic.  It’s everything that the introvert in me tries to avoid.  Why am I doing this job again?

Believe it or not, I do actually like children.  They’re funny and enthusiastic, and I enjoy teaching and helping them.  While I didn’t go to college to become a nanny, there are certainly other professions I could have pursued to help pay the bills while my husband is in seminary.  Nannying has simply worked out to be the best option for me for the time being.  Consequently, I find myself in conflict with two parts of me:  One who enjoys the world of children and the one who thrives in a world of structure and calm.   Obviously, both parts need to compromise with one another in order for me to keep my sanity.  The two biggest helps I have found in balancing my life as an introverted nanny are quiet zones and quiet time.

Quiet Zones

I am acutely sensitive to noise.  The inevitable roar of a large crowd makes me cringe and I have to put my dress watch in my jewelry box so I can’t hear it ticking at night.  When by myself, I often choose to do my hobbies in silence rather than turning on the radio or television.

However, children are noisy creatures.  Whether it’s by increasing their volume during play or making odd, unconscious sounds during quiet activities, kids suck the silence out of any situation.  That’s just the way they are.  I realize it would be unfair of me to expect them to keep their play quiet.

To find a compromise between my preference for quiet and the needs of my nanny children, I try to ignore the reasonable noises they make.  Sounds like a happily raised voiced or an occasional burst of loud bangs or crashes should be tolerated.  However, if they start getting rowdy or continue a loud noise for several minutes to the point where I can feel my nerves tingling, I give them choices.  Either they can switch to a different activity or go play somewhere else, like the basement or outside, where they can make all the noise they want.  Sometimes they choose to find a different activity, sometimes they choose to go elsewhere, and sometimes I wind up choosing for them to go elsewhere after they have been already warned to keep the noise down.  Usually they sulk for the first few minutes after I choose for them, but soon they are happily being noisy again in a place where they won’t get into trouble.  After a few minutes of quiet for myself (often I’m doing something like cleaning the kitchen), I’ll go and join them, able to participate another round of loud, rowdy play.

Quiet Time

Like a stay-at-home-mom, I don’t have a real break .  Since I am the only adult in the house, so I can’t punch out for an hour and tell the kids to leave me alone. This can make for a very long day.  Consequently, finding some sort of reprieve from childcare duties for at least an hour after lunch is vital for me to keep functioning at my best (or at least keep me from become a blubbering mass before a parent comes home).

Naps are a useful way of making quiet time.  Ideally, you tuck the child in and they’ll sleep for a couple of hours.  Of course, no child likes taking naps, especially as they get older.  This means some compromises maybe  needed to create a quiet time in the house.   For kids not yet in kindergarten, sometimes I put them in bed with a couple of books to look at (sometimes they’ll even fall asleep reading!).  For older children with their own bedroom, I’ll let them play with quiet toys in their room.  This year I have permission to show a movie for the older kids while the younger child naps.  While this isn’t as the quietest option, it still gives me a chance to drink a cup of coffee and stare off into space for awhile.

This quiet time can be good for children as well as introverted nannies, even extroverted children.  Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D., explains in her book The Introvert Advantage, “Many extroverted children don’t want to miss out on anything, which can really be exhausting for parents, even extroverted parents.  Schedule quiet time even if your children don’t want to slow down [. . .] Even every extroverted children can do too much.  They need opportunities to practice introverting,” (pg. 148-149).  Just like children need adults to help them understand how their bodies need healthy foods and when their bodies are telling them to use the bathroom, they also need adults help to teach them that their bodies need rest.

Preparing for the Future

While nannying isn’t exactly the same as parenting, there are some things that overlap.   Consequently, I feel that learning how to handle my days as an introverted nanny will help me when I become an introverted mother.  Of course, this could be an overconfident delusion, but one can always dream.

What tips do you have for other introverted nannies?  Do introverted parents have any survival tactics they would like to share?

Here’s another nifty list of how to handle being an introverted parent: http://creatingafairhaven.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/10-survival-tips-for-introverted-parents/.  I’m not saying that I would implement every rule she has created, but I admire her for realizing that she needs to care for her introverted nature in order for her to function as a mother. 

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