Time magazine has had an interesting article about “The Upside of Being an Introvert.” The article did not speak to it, but reading it brought to mind how some childfree hypothesize that there are more introverts than extraverts who are childfree. In my experience the jury is out on that. Whether more childfree are introverts or not, I noticed things the article spoke to that the childfree have in common with introverts…
1. We’re in the minority.
Like the childfree, there are fewer introverts than extraverts. The article indicates that “by some estimates, 30% of all people fall on the introvert end of the temperament spectrum.” More people are extraverts, and as Jungian typology describes, as opposed to extraverts who draw energy from social situations, introverts find such “social interactions taxing.” Social interaction depletes their energy, and they need to be alone to replenish the output of energy from social situations.
2. We go against the norm.
“Our culture expects people to be outgoing and sociable,” says Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness. “It’s the unstated norm, and against that norm introverts stand out as seemingly problematic.” With the childfree, having kids of course is the stated norm, and when they don’t conform to the norms around parenthood, they can certainly stand out in a less than positive way through the eyes of others.
3. We get pressure to be different.
The childfree are well aware of the pressures we get to change our minds and do what “normal” people do and have children, and that pressure comes in a myriad of ways. The more soft spoken, introverted style is also something that many parents don’t want in their children, “especially in a society that lionizes the bold.” It’s common for parents to press their kids to be more social and outgoing that what is comfortable for them.
However, if they want, introverts can learn and choose to be more extraverted when the situation calls for it. That’s unlike the childfree, as we can’t be a parent one day and not the next. There is what’s called the Free Trait theory that says we have three equal but different personalities:
-the inborn, biogenic, personality, the one that naturally wants to be introverted or extraverted (or the newly coined “ambivert–those who fall somewhere in between the two ends of the continuum)
-the “sociogenic” identity–the one that reflects the expectations of our culture, family and/or religion
-the ideogenic identity,which is when we choose to act differently that the biogenic in order to do what matters to us in life,or to reach our personal goals
Introverts and extraverts can have all three of these, but it’s the introverts who get more of the flack for the biogenic. And it’s the childfree who get more of the flack for a lifestyle choice that is not in line with what most people choose.
The childfree may not all be introverts, but these are some ways we find ourselves in the same boat when it comes to societal values that can and should be questioned.
Are there other things you can think of that the childfree have in common with introverts? Are you a childfree introvert? Childfree extravert? What is your experience of being childfree through this temperament lens?