Why Singles Need A Break From Big Families


Singles & family: Do you need a break? | Illustration by Bruno Nadalin for CatholicMatch

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?






4 Comments

  1. Nilda-834707 August 31, 2012

    Hello, Robyn.

    Even though I am choleric, I do need quiet time away from my large family. As I get older I find I need it more often. I think my family needs time off from me too for various reasons.
    I hope you are well, an am happy that CM has provided me with a venue for catching up with former colleagues and friends.

    God bless.

    Nilda

  2. Blanche-871821 September 1, 2012

    My mom and Dad had 16 Children, And was very glad we didn’t have to go and search for friends, they were built in. Our neighbors always looked down on us, but when they had to look for their kids, they were always at our house. We didn’t have much growing up, but we still had a lot of fun. Take the kids of today that most of them have all they want but are still not happy. Because the parents are not there for them. out working to buy a bunch of junk that just ends up in the garbage can. Parents buy things for their kids so they don’t have to spend time with them. Enough said. I could go on for a lot longer but I won’t. Just love your family and thank God for them. If you have trouble with one of them ask God to help you with them. Because when they are gone you really miss them. There are only 11 of us left. Sure miss the other 5.

  3. Rafael-871481 September 3, 2012

    I heard once someone say “it’s great to have a large and loving family… in another city”. It think beyond the funny statement, it is a deep truth for introver types as you describe.

  4. Manfred-1062189 February 20, 2014

    I know, I have a Brother back in Germany, we where never close, He is a total introvert, Had no friends,
    last everything he ever had , has 6 locks on his door , smokes and watches TV . He looks down on me, and tells me how stupid it is to believe in God. I don’t visit anymore. How I always wanted to have a real Brother,
    But then again I was blessed with a wonderful sister, and fantastic friends, and wonderful children.
    I could never understand what happens, except that he got more brutalized by our Father then I did, after the War. I forgave him , but he never could. It’s a tough call . I have seen real hate between siblings, and it hurts,
    May God grand us wisdom in dealing with those things.

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