Overstimulated October

I can handle two children (or maybe it’s just DC2– DC1 is pretty chill) or I can handle students being around, but not both.

I’m not used to this.

I’m not used to needing the door closed.  To need silence without background noise.

Every day is exhausting.  I come home, play a bit with the children, help DC1 with hir chores, and then I feel like crawling under a desk.  Please everybody just leave me alone.

When DC1 was this age, I could still get work done if I wasn’t actively doing chores or taking care of the toddler.  When DC2 was younger and napped once in the evenings I didn’t feel so incredibly overwhelmed.  When school was out of session for the summer I was mostly ok.

It’s not that there’s too much work to do.  It’s not even that my brain has gotten too much work (although that happens sometimes).  Heck, I’m not even as sleep deprived or as frequently sick as I was when DC1 was a toddler.  I’m just completely overstimulated.

Some of it is introversion, and I seem to have become more introverted.  But it’s not just introversion.  I need silence.  I even asked DH to turn off Netflix the other night because I couldn’t handle the noise.  Because he’s a darling he’s taken to listening with headphones.

I wonder if this is going to go away or if I’m going to need to make a big change to my life.  It’s limiting not wanting to see so many people, to avoid talking to people.  I dread most social engagements and have been saying no to a lot of work activities just because I don’t want to be around people.  I want to be alone.  Someplace quiet.

I do love my family very much… but these days I love them most in small doses or when they’re sweetly sleeping.

(#2 says: I call that “October”.  It is officially Exploding Head Syndrome Month and begins Sept 17th.  I relate to Milburn.  Why do you think I put that ear-protection headgear on my wishlist?  It’s so I don’t have to hear things.)

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45 Responses to “Overstimulated October”

  1. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies Says:

    I can definitely relate. Is there a way for you to carve out more individual quiet time for yourself in your days? That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy running and biking so much – they are mostly quiet solitary activities for me. My colleagues have also learned that if my office door is shut and I’m not on the phone, it’s just because I need a little break from humanity and not to take it personally.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Something that’s helped is to complain about the damn loud student worker whose office is across the hall from mine (there are 4 workers in there, but only one of them has a piercing voice that never ever stops talking). Having hir shut up has made a world of difference. Actually, what really helped was having my chair, whose office is near mine, complain about hir.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        And then there’s the asshole jerks who come by at 8am when you’re having your quiet time and ask if you can hold onto books for the male adjunct (the highly paid kind with industry experience who used to head an important agency but only comes in to teach) whose office is across the hall and become more assholish when you tell him that you don’t know the guy and you are not a secretary and are not going to hold on to his books for him. Leave me the @$#$%@ alone.

        Just closed my door.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Man that jerk really ruined the peacefulness of my morning. And I’m sure he’s now complaining about overwhatever feminists, but I didn’t see him talking to the MALE SECRETARY who is also here right now. (The male admin assistant who I politely asked to take a chill pill after his last pre-8am rage fit. “Upper admin is like Peyton Place,” he complained. “I’m sure it is,” I replied. “But that’s no reason to let it affect your health.”)

        I’m gonna get some water and start my grading.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hm, he wasn’t asking if I knew the highly paid adjunct who actually is across the hall from me. He was asking about the undergraduate adviser for the other department on our floor. That’s like way the hell on the other hallway. Good grief!

        My mint tea and I are settling down to grade now. All is peaceful.

  2. Perpetua Says:

    Amen. I’ve been feeling exactly the same way – like my introversion is getting more intense, and my overstimulation more pronounced, especially since my youngest has gotten older. They are *loud* and energetic, and they talk all the time. I think they are both extroverted, which is enough to drive me into a dark empty room with a locking door (I don’t have this). I’ve taken to telling my partner that I can’t talk to him in the evenings when he’s home. I don’t think anyone realizes how seldom we talk, because I can’t bear the stimulation of conversation in the evenings after work once the kids are in bed and finally quiet.

  3. First Gen American Says:

    I have seemed to re-gain some of that balance you are seeking once my younger one got out of diapers and started to talk. There was about 2 years there where I felt like my life was not my own anymore. It was 100% focused on the catering of other people’s needs..and well that kind of living is not sustainable. Hang in there. It will pass. Can you go on retreat somewhere? I actually welcomed a job with some travel as I was able to have some “me” time in the hotels at night. It did a world of good.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, I’ve done some conferences both with and without the family… they’re hard though because it’s mostly talking with people. I hide out in my room instead of socializing after the main event.

  4. ana Says:

    Oh goodness I so get this. My 2 are not laid back at all, so as soon as the little one starting “talking” and moving (requiring me constantly talking to HIM to ‘Be Careful, Don’t touch that. Don’t eat that”, I exceeded my threshold for noise. That is definitely when I stopped being able to function in any meaningful way after about 8:30 PM (when the oldest goes down). Some days I can’t even hang out with my husband, and have to go to the bedroom and close the door, and turn on the AC/Fan for white noise to decompress. And I never considered myself a classic introvert, either.
    Its worse on the days I do clinical work; being “ON’ all day and chipper, teaching residents and fellows, sweet-talking nurses, and dealing with anxious/entitled/or simply annoying people takes it all out of me. The absolute worst are call weekends, were I go deal with people at work and then have to come home and deal with the family. I generally lock myself in the office for at least half an hour before I can consider coming home on those days.
    I do run and have that solitary time every other day in the mornings, but when I really need the buffer is between work time and the evening rush (the walk home isn’t enough). Or on weekends (I’ve been doing better about just taking off for an hour or so on weekends, and it helps IMMENSELY). My kids both join me in the bathroom, asking me to read books, laying on my lap as I use the toilet, etc… so that trick is no longer useful. Thankfully only 2-3 people know where my new office is (for now!), but one of them does come by several times a day (my tech uses the printer I have in my office. Its a big flaw in the arrangement, she always wants to ask me questions when she comes).
    I notice this need for quiet comes and goes for me. I’ll go through weeks of not wanting to talk to anyone, and then start to feel normal again and find myself scouting out someone to go to lunch with mid-day. I hope you find the right balance soon.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC2 really doesn’t believe when we say things are dangerous… or the curiosity of how it’s dangerous is greater than hir fear. So one is constantly on one’s toes. Thankfully DH usually takes DC2 at 8:30 (when our oldest goes down as well). The evenings when DC2 naps for an hour or two are so much more manageable than when ze doesn’t… unfortunately DC2 doesn’t need much sleep anymore.

  5. Leigh Says:

    Ugh, I know how you feel and I’m so sorry you’re going through this :( In my last relationship, I always wanted to be alone. I could never find enough alone time. And to top it off, we are squashed in pretty well at work. Sometimes it can be a new life transition affecting it though. I find my 2 mile walks each way to work really help with this. Or having alone time in the morning before going to the insanity that is work. Could it also be hormones adjusting after the baby?

    To be honest, this is what scares me most about the idea of having kids. You get to pick your partner, but you don’t pick your kids, so what if they overwhelm you all the time? Some of my extended family definitely does.

    My favorite place for quiet time at work is in the bathroom since there’s usually no one talking there and very few people considering the ratio of men to women on my floor! But you have an office!

  6. bogart Says:

    Oof. I’m sorry, I feel your pain. I mean that.

    I am semi-OK with just plain noise (depending). Dialogue I need to respond to or engage with does me in, and my son is easily capable of 12 hours of that non-stop on weekends (maybe more, after all, he’s awake for ~15) does me in. And I have just the one.

    The 7-year postdoc post (from your links) with its “zone defense” parenting really spoke to me. Is some component of this an option (or are you already on that)? I get one “night out” per week (that I usually spend on horseback), when I get to leave work when I feel like it, have dinner on my own, and come home when I feel like it. It makes a WORLD of difference to my sanity. Extending work-related travel also helps, and yes, in fact, I have at times hidden in my hotel room at conferences and ordered room service and not spoken to anyone (beyond the food delivery bit and perhaps one phone call home) at all for several days.

    Is your institution large enough that you could “disappear” into the library or a similar space and work away from your colleagues and students (without having them stumble on you)? Or a town library (assuming decent wifi, ours is a bit sketchy)? Or the e.g. law library (or chemistry library!) at your school, i.e., some library used by “others” but not “your” people (again, this assumes a decent laptop + wifi)?

    (I also use foam earplugs. I am eagerly awaiting my next set in an Amazon order, having used up/lost the last batch)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My DH is great with the zone defense parenting, especially since school has started. One of the big problems with this semester is that I have so many meetings. So I can disappear into my office (though people still knock) but only for limited amounts of time. I think I work best when I can work from home one day a week but I haven’t been able to do that much this year at all just because I have so many meetings.

      That’s one of the things that happens once you have tenure, I guess.

  7. rented life Says:

    I get like this, more often as I’ve gotten older or am dealing with a depression episode. That’s what worries me the most about baby being on the way–zie will cry and on my noise sensitive days, I can’t even handle the cats being obnoxious. Husband only have noise problems if he’s concentrating on something.

    Two years ago, working was extra hard because I shared an office with someone who either had visitors often, or wanted to talk to me. I started going home for lunch most days just to have time alone.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      baby crying is hard even not on a noise sensitive day :(

      I used to be able to work in a shared office just fine and I could filter out the noise and just not pay attention. Not so much anymore.

  8. Cloud Says:

    I know what you mean, and I’m not really an introvert. I’m somewhere in between. I think it is just the seemingly never-ending demands on me- at home, at work, everyone wants something from me, and no one seems to give a damn what I want.

    Can you take a night away, just yourself? Go to the nearby city (or a small town!) and get a hotel room and just do what you want?

    Failing that, I’ve had luck with consciously scheduling something I want to do for a few hours on the weekend. Even if I end up picking something that involves the family, the fact that I chose what I wanted somehow helps.

    Yoga also helps me with these things, but I live in Southern California, so I am practically required by law to say that. :)

    I hope you find what works for you!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My DH is really good at giving me alone time. And I like spending time with my family– it’s more at work that I’d like less contact with people!

      • Cloud Says:

        I like spending time with my family, too! But since my job requires a lot of interacting with people, if I am overloaded on that, there are only two ways to cut back: take time off from work (like my half day mini-breaks) or take time away from my family.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        My kids are a heck of a lot cuter than my students or colleagues…

  9. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I’m sorry to hear that =/
    I feel the same way sometimes (A LOT OF THE TIME). I love my children but they’re at an exhausting age, 2 and 4. It seems like they only volume level is “scream” right now as well which grates on my nerves. I love them but I’m ready for bedtime to roll around every night. “Everything’s great after 8?”

  10. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    My sabbatical application got denied so people keep dropping by my office to commiserate. LEAVE ME ALONE PEOPLE. I have work to do.

    • rented life Says:

      Put up a sign on your door that says “Yes, I know I didn’t get sabbatical. As a result I need to work NOW, so go away.”

  11. anandar Says:

    For me (and my spouse) this has definitely been a two-kids phenomenon. I my case, kid #2 is actually more mellow than #1, but if having one kid sucked up, say, 50 % of my personal time (happy to give that up!), and two kids sucks up an extra 20-30% (given willingly but not with quite the same spirit of generosity), the overall effect has been to push me much closer to whatever my personal limit on other-centricity is. While I can and do arrange my life to be balanced and include personal time, etc etc etc, it is SO much easier for something (bad sleep, work stress, sick child) to throw me off.

    I expect this to get gradually better with age of kids. I have my eye on ages 8 and 5 (current age = 5 and 2).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Maybe #2 will be a reader too… DC1 learning to read was really a turning point for us in terms of quiet time at home.

    • hush Says:

      Word! I need silence, too. As in: no, seriously, I really,** really** NEED silence. It’s right up there with my need for air and water.

      Amen: “this has definitely been a two-kids phenomenon.” What worked for us was 1) not bringing a third baby into our home, and 2) not letting myself ever be the person to pick the kids up from school and drive them home for 15 minutes. Being trapped alone in a car with two loud-talking, yelling, cranky, hungry children after they both enjoyed a full school day was a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, DH has my back!

  12. NoTrustFund Says:

    This. I always thought I was an extrovert, have always tested as one, although not a strong one. But since having kids I can feel myself needing more time by myself. My new job is in a very open office and I also find this exhausting. Anyway, I’ve been trying to get up early and have some time to myself before everyone else gets up. It definitely helps.

    For what it’s worth, my youngest just turned two and things definitely keep getting easier.

    And thanks for the clarification on the co-ed work bathrooms. My first reaction was the same as Leigh’s :-)

  13. gwinne Says:

    Oh, man. This has been my biggest problem as a parent, and it is unquestionably worse with TWO in the house, largely as they scream at each other. And given that my kid doesn’t sleep at night…I don’t even have quiet then.

    Beyond introversion, I’m pretty sure I have some version–mild–of a sensory processing disorder. I’m pretty sure LG does too. She needs to create noise–literally if she’s not watching TV or with music on, she’s talking, yelling, drumming, singing, banging, etc–and I need it to go away.

    • Rosa Says:

      will she substitute something mildly quieter? All of the “crashing” activities – jumping on a trampoline, jumping onto the couch, skipping rope – and a few other self-stimulation things, like spinning in place – are quieter than the ones you listed and might fill the same need.

  14. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    Yeah, so I went and had the third baby, and it does contribute to the constant amount of people asking for stuff. It’s particularly bad at meals. I’ve tried to get better about planning ahead — everyone has each utensil, even if not necessary for the meal, so no one demands one not on the table. Everyone has a drink, often of milk and water, so the child will not demand the other one. Even so, there’s a lot of asking for stuff. Fortunately, I work at home and usually alone, so there’s lots of quiet time there. But when I went to the library to work last night the librarian kept getting sucked into the most ridiculous conversations with patrons. Like this one man who turned in his books on Sept 28, and they were due on Sept 27, and the library uses electronic tags so the return date is not in question, but he insists that he turned it in at 1 a.m. — technically on the 28th, but he was still awake, so it’s like the 27th. Aargh! This went on for a solid 15 minutes.

  15. oilandgarlic Says:

    It definitely sounds like a little burn-out due to having 2 kids. I have 2 and if one is quiet, the other one needs or wants something. Most times, they both want attention at the same time. I haven’t quite learned to find quiet time but I may start yoga again. Like Cloud said, it’s almost mandatory in SoCal.

  16. Tirzah Says:

    Oddly, I really appreciated this blog, because it’s like looking into the future that I fear and seeing that it actually happens to people (like I’m sure it will happen to me) and that it’s actually ultimately okay (like I’m not sure I will be).

    So thanks.


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