Zibby is joined by Julie Vick to talk about her latest book, a parenting guide for introverts titled Babies Don’t Make Small Talk (So Why Should I?). The two discuss what makes someone an introvert, an extrovert, or an ambivert (and why they’re both introverts), as well as how the pressures of parenthood could feel even heavier with the added weight of social anxiety or shyness. Julie also shares she found her way back to writing after having her second child and how she cultivated a platform for herself on Twitter.

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Zibby Owens: Welcome, Julie. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Babies Don’t Make Small Talk (So Why Should I?): The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Parenthood.

Julie Vick: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Zibby: This is definitely one of the funniest in a very clever, smart, almost tongue-in-cheek sense of humor books that I have ever read about parenting. Every chapter, it was so refreshing, even, I Might Actually Be Here to Make Friends: Finding Parent Friends and how you talk about how to call a stranger to ask about childcare. That’s so funny because I’ve had to do that so many times. Problems with common advice people like to give you and then your whole chart of thirty totally ridiculous reasons your baby isn’t sleeping, If You Overthink Things and You Know It, exercise class — anyway, I could go on and on. It’s hilarious and great and useful and all of the rest.

Julie: Thank you so much. That’s great to hear.

Zibby: Let’s start with this whole introvert/extrovert thing because I’m constantly in my head about whether or not I am an introvert or an extrovert or — what did you say? Ambivert is the middle one?

Julie: Ambivert is the middle one, yes.

Zibby: How do people know if they’re introverts or extroverts?

Julie: I think it is confusing, partially because there are different definitions. I think maybe sometimes you might feel extroverted in some situations and not others or vice versa. One common definition is just about energy. If you are someone who draws energy from socializing and people, then you are more likely an extrovert. If those sort of socializing and social situations drain you, you’re more likely an introvert. If you’re drained by those situations and then you kind of recharge by being alone, that’s more classically introverted. Whereas if those situations give you energy and you need them to recharge yourself, then that’s the opposite. Then ambivert is somewhere in the middle. Maybe you’re an ambivert if you’re not sure.

Zibby: I don’t know. Did you always know you were an introvert?

Julie: It’s funny because I don’t think — when I was growing up, I don’t feel like the term was as well known.

Zibby: It wasn’t a thing.

Julie: I got called quiet and shy a lot, which I did not really love, but it was probably accurate for how I was as a kid too. I probably sort of knew the term, but I don’t think I really knew what it was until maybe in my twenties. I started reading about it more. There was this famous Atlantic humor piece about caring for your introvert. I think that was the one that talked about this thing about draining energy, feeling recharged by alone time, quiet time. That’s the first thing I really started to think about it. Then this famous book, Susan Cain’s book Quiet, goes into a lot more detail and became very, very popular. She has a more cultural definition of an introvert in there. I think I fit that very well. I related a lot to that. I think I probably always knew I had these qualities, but I just didn’t know what the label was.

Zibby: I feel like it depends on which people. Some social situations that are fun are very different than draining social situations which are boring. I think it’s harder to —

Julie: — It is harder. It’s different for me, too, if I know the people. It gets confusing because there’s also the shyness and social anxiety element in there. I think I have a bit of that too, but the same. If it’s people that I’m comfortable around or situations where I’m having fun, I do still feel like I need to recharge after. I enjoy it in the moment if I’m enjoying what’s going on. If I have a very socially booked weekend or something, then I feel kind of drained. Especially if I have a really busy, scheduled week, then I kind of want a weekend to not have stuff on the schedule and not have a lot of socializing.

Zibby: Are you saying that extroverts don’t like staying in bed all day and reading? I love that. That is a dream day.

Julie: Yeah, you love that. That is ideal. I think they would have to speak to that. Probably, sometimes everyone gets drained. That’s why it’s confusing too. Everyone feels, probably, worn out or there are social situations — most people don’t love small talk and those sorts of things, whether you’re extroverted or not. I think if you have a preference for those quieter environments sometimes, then that might lean you that way. Maybe you’re kind of both. You think?

Zibby: Yeah, I know. Of course, it doesn’t really matter. This doesn’t help anybody listening. I’m sorry. The funny part about your book, or the most interesting, is that as a parent, you’re thrown into constant social situations because you’re trying to socialize your children so that they can make their way through awkward situations thirty years later when they’re . It’s our responsibility to help them do that. It’s not always so easy, whether you’re at Little Maestros in the playground — I remember when I had little kids. I went to a music class. I was like, oh, maybe I’ll meet my mom friends here, but I didn’t. Then I’m looking around. How am I going to make friends? What am I going to say? Plus, I’m such a rule-follower, I didn’t want to miss the music part of the music class. God forbid I miss a tambourine shake or something.

Julie: I do think that’s one thing that I didn’t appreciate going into parenting, just how much you have to be in these new social situations. By the nature of it, you’re trying to socialize with different people, new parents when you first become a parent. Then when your kids are older, it’s about negotiating playdates and all these classes or things and trying to find what the right fit for you is or how to even, like you said, approach people in situations too. I think I didn’t appreciate that going into it. That’s part of the reason why it felt like I hadn’t quite read a book like this. Something like that that would’ve been helpful for me when I was younger or when I first became a parent would hopefully, maybe, be helpful and also just comic relief, right?

Zibby: Yes, totally. Are you going to write one of these for the kids?

Julie: Oh, like for introverted kids?

Zibby: Yeah.

Julie: I haven’t thought about that. It’s funny because some people have asked me, what about for older kids? This book is aimed at pregnancy to preschool. I’ve had a couple friends be like, also, we need one for college-aged kids and things like that. I’ve thought a little bit about that, but no concrete plans for any of those right now.

Zibby: Kids themselves are constantly around people. It’s hard.

Julie: It is hard.

Zibby: I have four kids. I have a mix of introverts and extroverts. Some people really get excited when we have to go to whatever places, and some definitely do not. It’s hard to navigate. It’s really hard to navigate.

Julie: I agree. I think that’s a whole other thing to navigate, and then trying to figure out how much to push them out of their social comfort zone. I think a little bit of that is okay, but then also letting them be who they want to be. That’s a whole other thing, for sure.

Zibby: This is probably against every rule in your book. I went to this birthday party for a new class with my son a while ago. I didn’t know any of the people. He didn’t know any of the people. He was hanging out at the very back. I was like, “Go, go, go. Go sit up there.” He was really little. He was like, “No. I don’t want to go.” He refused. I looked around. I was like, “I don’t really want to go up there either,” and so we turned and ran out. It’s so bad. I’m the worst mom. I was like, “You know what, I don’t want to push you any more than I want somebody pushing me.”

Julie: I totally get that. You’re not the worst mom. Especially with kids, putting yourself in their situation — when my kids were younger, it seemed like it was more common to have these full-class birthday parties, like in preschool. I remember we would walk into some of those, and they would just be freaked out. You would think they know all the kids from class, but it’s a different environment. It’s somebody’s house. There’s all these parents and all this stuff going on. Adults, that’s hard to walk into sometimes too, and kids too, so I think remembering it’s going to be hard for a kid too.

Zibby: At least we have some guidebooks.

Julie: I know. Yes.

Zibby: How did you end up writing a book to begin with?

Julie: I was writing before I had kids. I studied creative writing and journalism in undergrad. I wrote a little bit, and a little bit of humor. Then after I had my first son, I didn’t write for a while. Just trying to figure out parenting was a huge thing. Then after I had my second kid and I had less time, for some reason, I was more motivated to write again. I started getting a lot more into writing these short parenting humor pieces, like McSweeney’s-type pieces that run, partially because I could write something in small chunks of time that I had. As a mom, as you know, you don’t always have a ton of time. I felt like I could fit it in. Then I just started reading it more and practicing more. Then I had some success with it. I had some pieces published in bigger parenting publications like Parents. I kind of had always wanted to write a book. When I was thinking about topics, it made sense to do something in the parenting/humor realm because that’s what I had been writing and what I enjoy doing. Just thinking about the book that I feel like would’ve been helpful for me as a parent that didn’t seem like it was out there, that’s how I came around to it. I wrote a proposal, as you do for nonfiction books, and then queried it, sent it to agents and signed with an agent, and then went down the road — it took a while because we had to revise the proposal and work on building platform and all the stuff that you hear about. Eventually, she sent it out on submission. That’s how the book came to be.

Zibby: Very cool. How did approach it when she said you had to — who did it get published by, also? Look at this, I can’t even see because of my glasses.

Julie: Countryman Press is who put it out. They’re an imprint of Norton.

Zibby: When she said you had to build up your platform and all that, what did you do? You took a deep breath, and then what happened?

Julie: I had heard that. I kind of knew that. I had written a nonfiction book proposal before this that didn’t go anywhere and, in retrospect, was probably good that it didn’t go anywhere. It was a travel-ish, essay-ish book. I was pretty young. I don’t think I really knew what I was doing. In writing it, it was helpful because I knew that I needed these marketing things and to sell myself. Then in the intervening time, platform has become such a conversation. I think a lot of nonfiction writers hear that. What we did — I had a lot of publications in bigger places like Washington Post and Parents and Real Simple. I tried to keep continuing doing that and getting more out there and then also just building up social media, which is a thing. Twitter, it was kind of my social media of choice. It’s popular in the comedy world. When I got the agent, I had a decent amount of followers on Twitter. She was like, “You don’t have to be on every platform, but find one to focus on.” Twitter is the one that I focused on and just tried to be active on it, tried to share things on it, be a good literary citizen and share other people’s things, and connect with writing groups and writing communities to help support each other in those ways too. That was one of the focuses, was just building up social media. Now I like Instagram too. I feel like Twitter was my original one, so I’m still on there. I think that was it, and then just thinking through other ways I could try to promote a book. That’s what you’re trying to do with a platform, is say, this is how I would reach the readers that are out there.

Zibby: It’s too bad we can’t just line them all up. All right, readers, where are you? Come on out. We’ve got some new books for you today.

Julie: I know. It would be nice.

Zibby: Like a school assembly.

Julie: These are the ones. I know. It’s an ongoing thing to try to figure out — with the book out, I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the process of having the book come out. It’s something to figure out.

Zibby: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Julie: One thing that helped me when I started writing again after being a parent, just having small chunks of time is that you can get a lot done with a little bit of time each day. I heard somewhere if you write a couple hundred words a day, you can write a book in a year. I think I previously had this notion that I just needed the remote cabin in the woods to go have this amazing time to focus on a project. With parenting, I just don’t have that, so realizing that you can get stuff done in small amounts of time if you need to and then just figuring out what it is that works for you. Maybe it’s one weekend day that you can work on it for a couple hours. Maybe it’s a little bit each day. I think just figuring out ways to find little bits of time. Then that can add up to something longer in the long run.

Zibby: Love it. Amazing. Thank you for this conversation, two socially anxious people trying to have a conversation. It would be so funny if we just got a whole Zoom of thirty people who identified as having a history of social anxiety and being quiet and basically tried to get them all to talk.

Julie: I know. It’s funny that you do what you do, but you’re getting other people to talk, right?

Zibby: Yeah. I’ve also learned. As a kid, I couldn’t even speak. I’ve learned and learned and learned. I’ve gotten practice, especially the last four years doing this over and over again.

Julie: I think as you do something more, there is this exposure therapy.

Zibby: I feel very comfortable in my own Zoom room.

Julie: That’s good.

Zibby: But not so much at pick-up or whatever.

Julie: School pick-up is a whole other social thing to navigate. Even extroverted parents have told me that they don’t love it. That’s a whole thing.

Zibby: The other day, I had a Zoom meeting. I really had to get off, but I couldn’t because it was important. It was about another one of my kids who I wasn’t picking up, so I had to listen. I ended up going to pick-up on Zoom on my phone picking up my two other kids, forgetting one kid’s friend, but then I went back for him, then on the street back into the car on the way home. I was like, if you’re looking for a way to not be social at pick-up, this is the most obnoxious thing you could do. I used to like pick-up a lot more when it was inside. Now it’s on the sidewalk. It’s just so hard.

Julie: I know. It’s a different thing. It’s tricky.

Zibby: Hang in there.

Julie: You too.

Zibby: Solidarity.

Julie: Thank you so much for talking to me.

Zibby: You too. Bye.

Julie: Bye.



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