Julie Vick and "Babies Don't Make Small Talk"
An interview with humor writer Julie Vick about how to help the introverts in your life and why it's OK to give your kids (and yourself) some down time.
I’m so happy this week to bring you an interview with humor and parenting writer Julie Vick. Julie’s introverted parent humor book Babies Don't Make Small Talk (So Why Should I?) is HILARIOUS and heartfelt. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Real Simple, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and elsewhere.
Tell me a little bit about how the book came to be:
I obviously am an introvert, and there are a lot of books out there on introversion, but the focus is less on parents. So I felt like there was kind of a gap in parenting books for introverted parents.
I read a lot of parenting books — I think this is a little bit of an introvert thing, I felt like I really wanted to try to prepare, and I like to try to think things through and observe other people. But sometimes I would read stuff and be like, “No, that’s not a good fit for me.” There's so much conflicting advice out there. Trying to wade through that advice was difficult for me as a new parent.
In a typical week, what are some moments when you find yourself in conflict with one or more of your kids?
Screen time: how much they can have, when to end it. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about that, too. The sort of "standard" rule is trying to limit it to two hours a day, but then with the pandemic, I feel like a lot of that has gone out the window.
When I was a kid, I remember we watched a lot of TV, and played a lot of Nintendo, but we also had a lot of playing outside time, so I do try to balance it with getting outside and doing something else. But it is different than when we were kids, because they have so much access — they can always find something new to keep them engaged. Whereas we would eventually get bored of that Nintendo game or run out of things to watch on TV, and go outside to play.
Do you feel like you are parenting your kids differently than you were parented? If so, why do you think that is, and what are some examples?
I think I am in some ways for sure, and in other ways not. It’s partially a sign of the times — I’m a Gen Xer, so when I was a kid growing up, the culture was more toward free-range parenting, although we didn't necessarily call it that at the time. I feel like I grew up a little bit more loose with what I could do, or maybe bedtimes weren’t as super strict, that sort of thing. As a parent, I have embraced a little more of a schedule — for me personally, it’s easier to have a schedule where my kids go to bed at a certain time.
We live in a suburban neighborhood, so my kids do play outside, but I definitely have a little more anxious personality than I think my parents did. I tend to be a little more concerned about things like cars in the street. And I don’t know if that’s different personality types, or different times.
I think we are definitely living in a time where — you know, people get the police called if kids are alone somewhere. So it’s not necessarily that you think it’s unsafe, it’s that someone else might think it’s unsafe. And actually, one thing my husband and I have talked about a lot is that, when I was growing up, other parents in the neighborhood didn’t hesitate to sort of step in, tell another kid to stop doing something, and I think now there’s a more of a hesitance to parent other people’s kids. So I feel like culturally it has shifted a bit.
What’s your top piece of advice for introverted parents who might find themselves overwhelmed by all the ways that the world kind of intrudes on your little bubble once you become a parent?
This applies to introversion as a personality trait outside of parenting, but it’s helpful to understand who you are and what your triggers and challenges are as an introvert, and not feeling bad about it. Don’t feel bad that you’re not scheduling 20 play dates with your kid. I know I couldn’t be overscheduled with kid stuff, because it makes me too fried. We do play dates and activities, but I think there’s other people who can handle a much higher volume of it than I can. Just know a bit about how you are, where you get your energy from, and what’s going to overwhelm you and make you melt down a little easier. You want to be setting up scenarios that are going to make you a better parent.
And what are your tips for the extroverts among us — if we encounter an introverted parent in the wild, how should we respond?
I think just being understanding that it’s a different personality type, and if they are saying “no” to something or are not doing as many activities, understanding it’s not about you — it’s about them needing a certain amount of down time to recover their energy. I actually really appreciate when extroverts do more reaching out, because I feel like I don’t always get around to that, because it’s sort of at the bottom of my list. So don’t be afraid to ask them to do something. Or think about if there’s a different way to get together, like meeting up one-on-one rather than a huge social gathering.
Thanks again to Julie for speaking with me for this week's newsletter! Please buy her book! Also, I have a writer Instagram now! If you click over there, you'll probably read something you just read, because such is the endless feedback loop of digital content 🙃 but I promise more new + different content is also coming to that space. If you haven't done so already, won't you consider subscribing to Think of the Children? It's free and also I will love you forever if you do.