A few weeks back, I read Amy Welborn’s post (linking to some others) discussing introverted parents. I was fascinated by the discussion, but had no time to write about it until now. Over the years, I have noticed that some people refer to their personality profiles with various combinations of four letters, but I only had some vague college psych class memory of what any of them meant.
Amy’s post sent me searching for more information on introvert and extrovert personality types and I gave myself a little online refresher course in Jungian psychology. I took the personality profile test and got four letters of my own: ISFJ.
However useful/not useful I might find much of modern psychology, I was surprised to find just how accurately this test managed to sum up my personality — in ways that I never really think about but take for granted as just how “I am.” I had my oldest kids take the test and thought it was equally accurate in summing up their personalities as well.
So I am an introverted parent with (some) extroverted kids. What I find most useful about this kind of insight is that it gives me some new perspective on my particular parental struggles. When it comes to large family living, it’s not so much the work I struggle with. I don”t mind being home most of the day and occupying my body with menial work like laundry, meals, and scrubbing out sinks. Really, I don’t — as long as I can be absorbed in my own thoughts as I do the work. I really do feel recharged when I have a chunk of time to just think and not talk. I love breaks from schooling, not because I get breaks from grading papers or other responsibilities, but because I get breaks from the incessant interaction that everyday schooling requires of me.
Yesterday at Easter Mass, after Communion, I wanted to savor a moment of Easter peace for one quiet moment in the pew. I closed my eyes, held my sleepy, snuggly baby, and breathed the incense. I felt my soul embrace Christ in the Eucharist and — “Are we going home now?” one child wanted to know and “Did you bring a drink for me?” another asked.
I sometimes feel like I live my life on the verge of a really great thought that someone always interrupts for a cup of juice. Sometimes I think I might have the makings of a novel somewhere inside of me, but my life is never quiet enough for long enough to tease it out. But this is what God asks of me right now. This is the kind of everyday “dying to self” that is required of me today and tomorrow and for many days to come.
I’m not sharing this to whine. I’m sharing this because it helps just to know it — to see clearly the particular ways in which we are called to sacrifice instead of just feeling it and wondering why it seems so hard sometimes.
Extroverted parents will have different struggles. They have to balance a need for social interaction with the isolation that parenting requires. We all have a balance to find and sacrifices to make, because in the end, whatever our personality types, our worlds and our circumstances are not catering to our whims and preferences.
Just knowing that we have different personalities and preferences, however, can be useful. Now we know that we don’t struggle where other parents thrive because there’s something wrong with us. We struggle because we have different needs and preferences. Now we know that what comes easily to others will come hard — some days really hard — to us.
We know that, though the details may differ, we all do struggle. We are not alone.