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Contrary to popular belief, the lockdown has affected introverts as well. As a new mom, I have issues staying cooped up at home all the time but here’s what helps.
When I was pregnant with my baby last year, one of the most unnerving things I faced was the compulsory socialisation. Doctor visits entailed a chit-chat about my diet and fitness habits. And phone conversations involved unsolicited advice and foretelling “you don’t know what awaits you.”
I pictured noisy playgroups and small talk with other new parents, teacher-meetings at schools, passing time at parks…and a tiny bit of me screamed in terror. Little did I know that during my baby’s first year, the entire world would stay cooped up at home.
After the initial flurry of activity with a newborn, things go silent. Family members return, well-meaning friends leave, and husbands use up their meagre paternity leaves. Meanwhile, I stayed confined to my home in my baby’s early months, learning the ropes, trying to make sense of the chaos. Stepping outside seemed too daunting while I was still unsure about feeding schedules, diaper blowouts, and the tricks to soothe crying spells.
‘You don’t mind it, do you?’ some of my friends tittered over the phone. ‘You have always been a homebody.’ How could I explain that just because I was an introvert didn’t mean I disliked being outdoors?
A research conducted by Durham University in 2017 found that being in nature was the second most favoured rest activity of introverts, next only to reading. But the assumption stood. Likewise, I was supposed to function well without any adult company because hey, I didn’t talk much anyway. Between changing a dozen diapers and cluster feeding an infant for hours, did I have the energy to argue? You gotta be kidding me!
But things slowly changed as my baby emerged from his newborn days. When he was around four-months-old, I steeled myself to venture outside regularly. I would strap him in his stroller and go for a walk around the block. We would meet dogs and cats, say hello to trees, feel the wind against our cheeks.
Sometimes, we would go for coffee or run quick errands for the house. My baby would be transfixed with all the exciting new sights and would shower strangers with generous smiles. I got this, I would tell myself when we returned home. My unrest about the impending social events in my life, courtesy baby, would dissolve for a few moments.
As venturing outdoors became a regular part of our routine, my days felt slightly less lonely. I could see that the world around me was laughing, travelling, reading. And that gave me hope that my life, too, would eventually return to a semblance of normalcy.
No such luck. With India reeling under compulsory lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus, the challenges have multiplied and how.
Being on house-arrest implies that the best I can do for a breather is walk to another room while my husband looks after the baby. But since he is working full-time from home and I am freelancing, his free time is measured.
Even on weekends, I cannot get any alone time. My son is now crawling all around the house, pulling up on things, and suffering from separation anxiety. This means he cries bloody murder if he sees Mama lying down elsewhere. In the absence of quiet time during the day, I find myself getting cranky.
Playing with my baby has gotten more rewarding as the months have passed. He laughs out loud, makes excited noises, and babbles long streams of undecipherable sounds. However, just because my playmate is super-cute doesn’t mean I don’t crave some down-time.
Before the lockdown, I took my baby to the park, and we played on the grass. Sometimes, we would just sit contentedly next to each other, taking in the sights and sounds. But now, the best I can do is move from room to room, invent games and activities for each day, and encourage independent play through new tricks. My baby deserves new stimuli and fun times spent with his mother. But I would be lying if I said it doesn’t sometimes get exhausting.
I dislike talking on the phone, and video calls have me pulling at my hair. Many introverts are reluctant to converse over the phone because of its inherent intrusive nature and lack of non-verbal cues.
But my extended family sees phone calls as a brilliant pastime to survive the lockdown. All day, we get unending streams of ‘What is the baby doing?’, ‘Let us see him!’ and ‘What are you making for dinner?’ Setting boundaries is hard without hurting sentiments, especially when no one has anywhere to go.
Here are a few things I have started doing to keep myself from losing it.
The world has always been confusing, but lately, it feels wild. I am unsure when the present situation will take a turn for the better, and when I will find the courage to venture out happily with my baby again. As an introvert, I am not a stranger to spending weeks—even months—without meeting many people or attending social events. But voluntary withdrawal is very different from imposed isolation. I appreciate the quiet time I get with my baby, for I know he will grow up in a blink and prefer to do his own thing. On the other hand, I miss the moments when I could get into clean clothes without any bodily fluids on them, head out, and recharge my batteries in peace.
Really, life has become a rollercoaster that is exhilarating and exhausting all at once. On days like this one, when I cannot make sense of anything I am feeling, I throw my head back and laugh. My baby, equally clueless, joins me.
Picture credits: Pexels
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