I come from a large family. Growing up I can remember friends coming over and asking my mom, “Why are there so many chairs around your kitchen table?” Others wondered if we were a Church group as we piled out of our 15-passenger van.
I can only imagine how many questions my mother received about having a big family.
The legacy of my parents would continue as my sisters would all marry and go on to have their own families (large and small). All together our extended family could make up two baseball teams … with extra relief pitchers.
I love my large family. We don’t need fun; we make it. Many families get together for the popular holidays of Thanksgiving or Christmas, but we pick a less popular holiday so that everyone can get together.
We gather when the weather is good and even though school has started, the easiness of summer is still in the air.
One year that we will always remember, a family friend brought over a huge blow-up bouncy castle and the kids enjoyed it for hours. At one point we kicked out the kids and the adults had a chance to jump around. Even my mom and Aunt Karen tried it out. It was a blast.
It is easy to see that my family is a joy to be around. But like any family, we have our stresses and disagreements. There are lots of us, so when we are all together it can get overwhelming. After a full day of hanging out with the family, I was exhausted and needed a break.
It seems weird that I would need a break from my own family and even my outgoing older sister wondered why I would want to miss out on all the fun.
Then I read Catherine Perry’s article about the different temperaments and how introverts and extroverts gain their energy. She explained, “The most fundamental separation between introverts and extroverts is how they gain energy, feel most comfortable and creative and are best able to concentrate. Extroverts fulfill all those needs through interactions with others. … Introverts gain energy in quiet spaces, preferably in a state of contemplation and intense concentration.”
If you guessed it, I fall into the latter group.
By reflecting on who I am, I’ve learned that I need to take periodical breaks from the big group. It could be as simple as going for a 15-minute walk or grabbing a nap with one of the little ones. I find these healthy breaks keep me from feeling overwhelmed or losing my temper.
As singles, we are not around kids all the time and we might not be used to the pace or the chatter. Even if there aren’t kids in your family maybe you get overwhelmed by the aunt who asks every time you see her, “So, when are you getting married?” Or the cousin who can’t stop talking about politics or whatever awkward conversation you want to fill in.
The truth is, families are a blessing and it is OK to take an occasional break for some quiet time. It is healthy for the extrovert and the introvert.
Take the temperament test on CatholicMatch to figure out which category you fall in.
What about you? Are you energized or exhausted by big groups? Are you intimidated by family gatherings? What advice would you give a single friend who feels over-whelmed in big groups?