He's not alone. To date, none of my kids have had a friend birthday party. We celebrate with family, presents, and cake but not with friends, games, and party favors. For years, I've felt a small twinge of guilt every time one of my kids gets an invitation to a friend's [Lego, bounce house, outer space] party. I should give my kids a themed birthday party with friends. That's what you're supposed to do if you're a mom.
But after reading MotherStyles, I finally understand why I've never had the desire to throw a birthday party, and I think I'm finally okay with it.
I picked up MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths, hoping it would help me identify my kids' personalities. While there were several chapters that talked about children’s types and family dynamics, the majority of the book focused on, as the titles suggests, mothers. And, as it turned out, that was okay. I think I really needed to understand myself first before trying to figure out my kids.
There are dozens of different ways to identify and measure your personality, but this book focuses on the Myers-Briggs method. Most of you are probably familiar with Myers-Briggs since it seems to be the most common test for companies to give to their employees. It takes four areas of personality (introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving) and combines them into a four-letter personality type.
The book takes a very methodical approach to the Myers-Briggs method. It gives each area its own chapter (introversion vs. extraversion, for example), and the reader has the opportunity to take several tests where they rate their strengths and weaknesses for each preference (it’s not the official Myers-Briggs test, but it is still very thorough). After explaining each letter by itself, it talks about them in combination with each other and goes through each of the sixteen personality types. Which is to say, the whole book gets just a little tedious: "Here's what you're like if you're an ENFP: . . . If you're an INFP, you'll be more like this: . . . "
If you'd asked me about the book when I was in the middle of it, I might have said it was too detailed or laborious . . . except that it took me that long, with that many explanations and examples before I felt like I really had a handle on all the preferences. For example, when I first read through the Sensing and Intuition chapter, I understood the difference, and I was almost positive I was an S, but it wasn't until I read about what the S was like when combined with the three other letters that I finally grasped what it was all about and started identifying it in people I knew.
So what I'm saying is, yes, it's tedious, but it basically has to be to give you a solid overview of personality type. Plus, she uses a lot of examples and quotes from all of the personality types that really clear up and confirm the information. It's taken me quite a bit of trial and error to feel fairly confident about my own personality type.
Last week I told you that I'm an ISTJ. I still think that's the case, but I seem to be fairly evenly split between Thinking and Feeling. However, I'm not sure how many of my emotions and sensitivities are due to my gender and not necessarily my personality type. I chose to go with Thinking because I think overall, I lean towards objective, practical, logical decision-making. (Actually, is there a letter that describes being unable to ever make a decision? Because I'm pretty sure that's me.) But I'm sure it will be one of those things that I'll continue to analyze and tweak.
For the most part though, real life has only confirmed my diagnosis. For example, a couple of weeks ago, we went to a Valentine's party that my friend was throwing for her husband. As near as I can guess, my friend is an ENFJ (so almost the exact opposite of me). The party consisted of: eight couples (16 people), dinner, decorations, six games, dessert, and a personalized party favor. I thoroughly enjoyed dinner and the accompanying conversation. The first game was fun (plus, Mike and I won, so instant bonus). But after that, it was like my tank was empty. I was craving quiet and solitude, and I could hardly manage to participate in the final game of charades. Because I was in the middle of this book, it was easy to see the divide between the extraverts and introverts in the room (I wasn't the only introvert) and how it grew as the night wore on; the extraverts became more energized while the introverts slowly retreated to the corners.
In spite of its tedious points, I ended up really loving this book because of how it made me feel. My personality type has strengths and weaknesses, but all of the types have strengths and weaknesses, so I can be a good mom while still staying true to myself. I don't have to feel bad about requiring quiet time every afternoon. Instead, I can feel good about doing what I need to do to recharge my batteries so I can be pleasant and available for the rest of the day.
This book also made me realize why I find some aspects of motherhood so frustrating. In a perfect world, I would wake up early in the morning and begin methodically checking things off my to-do list. I would have a daily cleaning schedule that included annual or semi-annual tasks. Dinner would be in the crockpot by 10am. As soon as the dryer finished, I would take out the clothes and fold them. All of my kids would be following their routines too, and we would be like a well-ordered ship.
But instead, motherhood requires flexibility and lots of attention, and that is why sometimes something so small as finding a sticky spot on the floor can send me over the edge . . . because I just want to have control over something, and sometimes, it feels like I have control over nothing (not even the kitchen floor!). Somehow just knowing why I sometimes feel the way I do made me realize my world is not falling apart as much as I think it is.
I could go on and on. I could tell you about my sister--a poor ENFP in a family of ISTJs (I have so much more sympathy for her now!). I could tell you about how much it explained about Mike's and my marriage when I realized he's a P and I'm a J. I could tell you about each of my children and how I can't tell what any of their personalities are yet, and I'm okay with that because, although it might help me be more patient with them, I might also place perimeters around them that actually don't fit. I could tell you about how I've been asking everyone I know if they know their personality type (and almost no one does).
It was just a really great book for me to read at this stage of motherhood. It was very validating and empowering, and I would recommend it to any mom out there. No matter what your personality type, she casts it in a positive light. She shows how you can be an amazing mom without forcing yourself into someone you're not.
Have you taken the Myers-Briggs personality test? What type are you? What do you struggle with in motherhood? What are you really good at?