Quiverfull and the Introvert: Where Do You Get Your Energy?

by Barbie Getzreal

“Where do you get your energy?!”

This is a question which is frequently asked of Quiverfull moms by amazed and admiring onlookers who cannot imagine being able to keep up with the exponential demands of “biblical womanhood” including: perpetual pregnancy, child-bearing, adopting sibling groups, breastfeeding, baby wearing, chronic sleep deprivation, raising half a dozen or more closely-spaced, “stair-step” children, homeschoolingyear round through chronic illnesschild-training, character training, tomato-staking, discipling children, homemaking, penny-pinching, organic gardening, baking from scratch, once-a-month cookinghomesteading, sewing modest clothing, showing hospitality, operating a “cottage” business, staying trim, fit and healthy, and of course, serving as loving helpmeet … all without the modern woman’s “village” of helpers: daycare, preschool, play dates, public school, the boob-tube babysitter, pre-packaged and frozen foods, day spas, “me time,” credit cards, government assistance, “allopathic” medicine, Sunday School, youth group, therapistsRitalin for the kids, or Xanax for mom.

Even a cursory perusal of the above-linked Quiverfull blogs will leave a woman feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. “Where do you get your energy?” is the obvious and unavoidable question.

The most flippant, unprofitable, guilt-inducing, and insincere responses often sound the most spiritual:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“With God all things are possible.”

“He will not give us more than we can handle …”

or how about this “encouraging” little pep-talk: “Just like a battery charger, the Holy Spirit dwells in us–with unlimited power and energy!” Oh joy! Christian moms of many just need to get “plugged-in” … and there is a handy dandy list provided of even more things we need to do in order to get “connected.”

Thanks. That’s really helpful. :(

An important aspect of energy which I have never seen discussed in Quiverfull circles has to do with how our interaction with other people affects our energy levels. Specifically, the difference between introverts and extraverts is never addressed in relation to large-family dynamics.

While an extravert is energized by frequent social involvement, an introvert gains energy through quiet, private reflection.  Being surrounded by people makes extraverts feel happy, enthusiastic, animated, and pumped full of optimism, but constant interaction drains the introvert’s energy and leaves them feeling tired, irritable, anxious and angry. It is absolutely essential to an introvert’s health and well-being to be able to get alone for significant periods of time in order to restore and recharge their own personal energy.

While it is popularly believed that introverts are shy while extraverts are out-going and sociable, there are many “social-butterfly” types who are in fact introverts because, even though they thoroughly enjoy the company of their friends and peers, when the party is over and the guests go home, the “life of the party” is wiped-out … sometimes for days afterward. Conversely, there are extraverted people who absolutely need to interact with others in order to gain energy and ward off deep depression, who unfortunately are socially awkward and have difficulty making friends.

Another important distinction is that extraverts tend to think as they talk which means that during conversations they are actually processing their thoughts, while introverts need to think everything through before they feel comfortable verbalizing their thoughts and ideas.

The difference between introverts and extroverts is not some modern psychobabble notion dreamed up by secular humanists to deter true believers from pursuing large families.

Think about it for a minute. Where do YOU get your energy? Do you feel energized after a pleasant chat with friends? If even congenial conversations which you very much enjoy leave you feeling drained of energy, you are probably an introvert. It’s not that you do not welcome the company of others, it is simply that you fill up your emotional energy reserves from within rather than drawing from other people.

With this concept in mind, consider for a moment: what if a person attempting to live the Quiverfull ideal tends to be naturally introverted?

What if all the socializing required for Dad’s job leaves him wrung-out like a wet rag by the end of the work day and desperately feeling the need to relax and breathe in the quiet seclusion of his own home?

In “A Full Quiver,” Rick Hess sloughs off the valid concern of “time” with this pious admonishment:

Worried if you will be able to stand the sacrifice of giving up your time? As one who has been there, let me reassure you that you will be rewarded many times over for giving more and more of yourself to your children.

Already sucked dry? Not a problem! All you need to do is give more and more of yourself …

What about moms like Michelle Duggar who, “spend more time together than the average family that may have two or three children just because we’re home day in and day out homeschooling and doing all our things that go along with that”? If Mom’s an introvert, how does she not go crazy from all of the non-stop interaction with her quiver full of children?

To these overextended women, Nancy Campbell offers a simple solution:

To be an encourager, you have to stop thinking about yourself and give some room in your mind and heart for others. I will never forget some words God spoke to me years ago. .”Nancy,” He said, “how can I reveal to you the needs of others if you are always thinking about yourself?” Oh how true this is.

As troublesome a problem as introversion is for Quiverfull parents, at least Mom and Dad have chosen this lifestyle. They are grown-ups with access to a broad range of coping strategies.

But what happens to the introverted children in Quiverfull homes?

This is not simply a large-family issue, it is specifically a Quiverfull problem because not all large families are as excessively family-centered and discipline-oriented as homeschooling, homesteading, family-integrated, “dare-to-shelter” – type Quiverfull families. I spent a whole day digging through pro-Quiverfull books, publications, websites, and family blogs; all of which poo-pooed the idea that children might actually need their own space and prolonged alone time.

Amy at Raising Arrows acknowledges that having their own space is important for everyone, including children in large families, though she insists that her 13-year-old son likes sharing a room with his two little brothers, and by “giving them space” she means lock boxes for older children, personal shelves, several short “brain breaks” throughout the day for children afflicted with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), headphones, and random one-on-one time with Mom and Dad.

“However,” writes Amy, “we do not allow insurmountable amounts of time spent “alone.

Children left to themselves are problematic. (Prov 29:15)  Minds left to wander without boundaries and guidelines tend to gravitate toward foolish pursuits (Prov 22:15).  And often there can become a craving for escape.  They want more and more and more time alone, and pretty soon you find they are totally disconnected from the family.

I first learned about introversion from my daughter’s speech therapist.  As it turns out, her speech impediment was a symptom of the frustration and extreme vexation she was feeling as a result of not getting adequate space from her siblings in order to recoup all the energy she expended on interacting with them day in and day out for weeks and months and years at a time.  A simple explanation of her need for ample alone time was all her dad and I needed to motivate us to address the problem. We arranged for our daughter to “chill out” by herself and almost overnight, she was transformed as if by magic into a much more pleasant person.  Her speech improved dramatically. She became more cooperative and personable.  Her concentration and study skills improved. She developed a refreshingly positive outlook on life.

And it occurred to me that I am an introvert too.  An introvert who was constantly surrounded by my extraverted husband and a passel of children and a martyr’s mentality which rejected and disdained the very concept of “me time.”  No wonder I felt utterly frazzled, bone-weary, spiritless and despondent.  When I felt it would be impossible to squeeze out one more drop of energy from my bankrupt inner being, I was “encouraged” by the Titus 2 women to persevere even while I was bed-ridden.

Given that those individuals who are prone to careful contemplation and thoughtful deliberation, as well as a significant majority of “gifted” persons, generally tend toward the introverted end of the extravert-introvert spectrum, it’s a sure bet that introverts actually predominate in Quiverfull homes. This may be a key reason why, when dynamic, industrious, enterprising, indefatigable Quiverfull believers finally snap, they crash and burn in the most spectacular manifestation of downright mania.  Men abandon their families. Mothers drown their children. Kids cut themselves and attempt suicide.  How much misery and destruction could be avoided if individual family members were simply allowed an adequate amount of personal solitude?

Discuss this post on the NLQ forum. Comments are also open below.

Read all posts by Barbie Getzreal!

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

  • Evelyn

    What an excellent post! My family was not Quiverfull, but in college I went to a church where many people were, and it of course leaked into all the related ministries. The only “right” way to do many things was the extraverted way, and as an introvert I not only didn’t fit, but I felt like I was a bad Christian because of it.

  • shadowspring

    Interesting. I have always felt, in evangelical circles, that I did not fit in because I was extroverted: no meek and quiet spirit in me, that’s for sure. It seems like it’s a religious tradition designed to make everyone feel inadequate and unworthy, no matter what their social orientation, introvert or extrovert. Whatever you are, woman, is wrong in some way, so just get ready to live with the reality that you are never going to fit the ideal.

    So glad to be leaving it behind!

  • Elyssa Elizabeth

    One thing I really liked about my folks is that they always respected our need for alone time. I think it’s because Mom is introverted…in her job (Pastor) she has to deal with people all day long, so often times she comes home and locks herself in her room for most of the night, because she just cannot handle talking or interacting any more. And she has learned to take frequent (usually monthly) overnight trips away just to get a night alone and quiet. My brother is a lot like her. The rest of us kids, we loved being in a group and spending time together, but my brother had to have space to be alone or he goes nuts. We ended up re-arranging bedrooms to accomodate him having his own room because we realized he was the one that really needed it.

  • Elyssa Elizabeth

    Also, I just want to add that when I hear people ask of quiverfull mums, “Where do they get the energy?” my inital response is, “From their poor daughters.” And I don’t mean that like, oh, they’re fed emotionally by their daughters and inspired and motivated because of them (though that may be somewhat true, also), but that, literally, their daughters supply the energy needed to care for the home and children. Of course the mom doesn’t have the energy to run a house, do all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, homeschooling, and caring for the emotional needs of her spouse and kids, all while being constantly pregnant. But she’s *not* doing all that by herself. Most if not all of those jobs are undertaken by the children, mainly the daughters. And, heck, with this new “stay at home daughter” movement (which creeps me out SO MUCH everytime I read their literature), caring for her husband’s emotional needs will soon be another job easily delagated to her daughters (ew). So, yeah, just wanted to add, that. I hate it when these preening moms take credit (even when they do it “humbly” and give the credit to God) while completely ignoring that if they didn’t have free in-home labor, of course they wouldn’t be able to handle it.

    • http://cminsider.wordpress.com Prince Asbel

      Excellent post, Barbie Getzreal. As an introvert, I constantly run into extroverts that just freaking don’t get it, and you’re 100% right. There’s literally no counsel on how to raise children who are introverted or even to acknowledge that they exist, hence introversion is interpreted as a weakness, a crutch, or simply a sour attitude towards others when the introvert is drained of energy to tolerate being in the company of others. In reality the extroverts are the ignorant ones who lack the compatibility to interact with non-like minded people. That wouldn’t necessarily be something to be ashamed of if extroverts at least tried to exercise some effort into learning why introverts are the way they are. What usually winds up happening is that they impose as much guilt-tripping onto the introvert thinking that just piling as much interaction with other people as possible will somehow improve the introvert’s “condition”. In reality, the long-term effects are resentment by the introvert because they finally get fed up and don’t care for the comfort of anyone. Thanks to their ignorant extroverted acquaintances, they now actually do find it hard to interact with people normally simply for the fact that they detest normal interactions from being force-fed like a baby, and fed way too much than is healthy for them.

      Oh, by the way, I’m linking to this post on my blog. ;)

    • http://cminsider.wordpress.com Prince Asbel

      I’ll be quoting you too, Elyssa Elizabeth. Sorry, that was supposed to be in my first comment.

    • http://cminsider.wordpress.com Prince Asbel

      “I hate it when these preening moms take credit (even when they do it “humbly” and give the credit to God) while completely ignoring that if they didn’t have free in-home labor, of course they wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

      You wouldn’t believe how infuriating that is. I’m not only introverted, but I’ve also had to constantly clean up for my parents’ insufficiencies at caring for their kids. We behaved well in public, of course, and people would just be amazed at how well-behaved the younger children were. Who took the credit for such kind remarks? Mom. Never mind the fact that it was all an outward facade and that she’d sooner give up the ghost before generating enough energy to do the job right. Her children were cleaning up more and more of her messes as they got older, including me- and I’m a guy! The guys have to clean up after the parents’ messes just like the girls do.

      If only such women were honest and said, “You know what? I don’t have the energy. I have more kids than I thought I could handle, and now they’re paying the price for it. I should have been more discreet” I’d have ten times more respect for a parent in that situation than one who just keeps pretending like it’s all fine and dandy so that they won’t have to face the fact that they bought into one big “quiver-full” of lies, hook, line, and sinker.

  • http://quietdevotions.blogspot.com/ Karen

    Another blog I follow is Introverted Church, which is all about how Evangelicalism (mainstream, not Quiverful, though I definitely see some overlap on this issue) doesn’t have room or even much respect for the gifts of introverts. I recommend it for anyone who isn’t willing to give up on Christianity yet and wants to be recognized as a fully participating member of the body of Christ AS an introvert.

    On a more personal note, I’m a non-Quiverful/Christian Patriarchy stay-at-home mom of two children, ages 2 and 4 (18 months) apart, and I get overwhelmed by the chaos and constant noise that only two can make. I’m able to get out by myself every now and then for a little down time, but I’ve been alone in my own home exactly once in the last three years, and I can’t express just how much I miss that experience. I love my husband and my kids very much, but sometimes I just want my husband to take the kids and go away somewhere for about two weeks, and let me be alone in my own space, rather than having to ‘run away from home’ for a little peace and quiet.

  • cereselle

    I noticed this with Elizabeth Botkin. Can’t remember where I read it, but I’m pretty sure it was on her blog. Her shyness was trained out of her, as it was seen as unhelpful to her father, which of course is antithetical to her sole reason for being. I remember cringing over that, because if I’d been shamed for my shyness (and my introversion now), I can’t think how I would have coped. I feel so bad for her.

  • http://www.rinamarie.wordpress.com Rina

    I appreciate what you have to say about this and agree that it’s a much misunderstood and ignored topic within the “quiverfull” community. In your article, my blog is one of those you linked to, which prompted me to write my own response on some of the misconceptions I think you may have of those involved in the “quiverful” movement. That article is here:

    http://rinamarie.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/where-do-i-get-my-energy/

    Again, I appreciate the fact that you’ve brought up some points that desperately need to be made, and I hope more people start to address this issue!

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