We’re back with another round of “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life, to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Tuli King narrates the ah-ha moment when she finally realized that her parenting style had much to do with zeroing in on her personality type. -JKM
I have three children under eight. I do love these individual bundles of personality and charm, but there are some days that I really struggle to live in close proximity to them. They are often noisy, messy, and demanding. And, the pressure I feel to to fix something, find something, and feed and organize them can be seriously taxing. I’ve given up chasing after them and cleaning the debris in their orbit. The place is a bomb. I’m a shell. The kids are a circus.
At least that’s what I think it is they’re playing at. The sheets are strung across their room. One of them is jumping off the bed, while the another is laughing hysterically and waving a stick around. And, the little one is prancing around naked. I think to myself, “I’ll just lie down.”
No sooner do my eyes relax that my older daughter calls desperately for me. She is very dramatic, you see. “I’m in here,” I say as quietly as possible, fulfilling my motherly duty, but trying to shirk it at the same time.
“Where!?” She calls at the top of her lungs. She has big lungs, too, you see. I don’t engage. I am quiet. If I raise my voice over a loud whisper I sound like I am shrieking, so I don’t. How did I end up with a daughter with a voice like a fog horn? She finds me and she has the 18-month-old.
“Mum, she’s trying to climb up the bed, ” she declares. “Well, stop her.” Seriously, these kids lack initiative. I would not employ them. “I tried, but she keeps doing it,” she rebuttals. “Okay. Leave her here then.”
The baby’s saving grace is that she is 100% adorable. Everything she does is alarmingly cute. Even when she is crying for milk in the wee small hours of the morning, in her ninety-decibel voice, she still melts me. So, even though I now have to monitor a baby, while being one-quarter asleep, she weasels her way into my tired heart and I can’t help beaming at her. Somehow this wakes me up and I forget about the tea I have sitting next to me. I will return to it seven hours later and finish it off, cold.
I take her downstairs and we find something to do. Food usually does the trick, but before too long, I have the other two tromping downstairs trailing their dress-ups behind them. When they see me in the kitchen, they want food, too. At times like this, I feel rather flat. It has been eight years after all. Eight years with nary more than a day’s break a handful of times throughout the long ordeal. Is this why? Is eight years of “homemaking” too much for me?
I ask myself if I am depressed. I’m not. I’m pretty optimistic overall. I have just come to a point where my overriding desire is to be left alone. Like, totally alone, and for a few weeks. I think again. I am a classic introvert. Is this why? Dragging words out of my mouth takes energy and effort, and in the past, I have needed weeks to overcome an especially wordy exchange between adults. The more emotionally draining, the longer the recharge time. You don’t get recharge time with kids. It was the hardest thing for me: learning to talk out loud through what I was doing, what we were going to do, where we were going, what we were seeing. This then turned into my daughter repeating it all back to me and, well, she hasn’t stopped yet. I find all this exchange of information delightful (sometimes), but so exhausting (often).
In the early days when I noticed that I wasn’t doing as many crafts with my children as others appeared to be, I wondered why. It could be that my eldest child was not-quite-autistic. Her teachers have been puzzled by her, suggesting strategies to improve her focus or sensory processing disorders, which seems to be the fallback for children who are on the edge of the “normal” scale. We still haven’t figured it out and she still puzzles her teachers.
One day, I stumbled upon my Myers Briggs personality test. It delivered many insights that resonated with me and also served up the pièce de résistance–my parenting style. I had an “ah-ha” moment.
I am an INFJ, and I parent to the adult. For me, the joy of having children is the joy of raising independent, stable, confident people. Our time together is one where we are both learning and growing. This parenting style was a revelation to me. So, this is why I find the spontaneity and non-linearity of childhood confusing. I find lack of goals curious, and I don’t understand the irrationality of many thoughts and discussion. I can’t do “make believe” the way they do. Learning this has allowed me to accept them and accept me. Now, instead of confused, I am amused. Instead of bewildered, I am accepting. I don’t have to join in on their crazy games, but I can let them indulge in it themselves.
I noticed, too, that INTJ parents encourage the pursuit of knowledge. ESTP parents, on the other hand, are hands-on and appear as the perfect parent, doing all the crafts. And, ESFJ’s are warm and affectionate, but must beware of becoming overprotective. I have friends who cover the gamut of personality types and parenting styles, and by knowing and accepting each other’s differences, we can actually parent better together. I will happily talk about the meaning of the universe with your child if you can make cubby houses in your living room with mine.
There are a number of diagnostic personality websites out there. I’ve never used them to box myself or others in, but I do find them incredibly useful for putting myself in other’s shoes and for understanding people who have puzzled me a lot in the past. If you’re curious, try looking at 16 Personalities, Kiersey Temperament Sorter, and Helen Fisher’s Personality Test. There are many others out there, and like any tool, if used well, they can be incredibly beneficial. I know it was for me.
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