Category Archives: Extroverts

The Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging Mom

Review of MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Janet P. Penley with Diane Eble


The Emperor from Star Wars. Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. O’Brien from Downton Abbey. What do they have in common, other than being cruel, heartless, nasty pieces of work? They’re all INTJs on the Myers-Briggs scale.

Just like me.

I’ve known my type for a while now – iDad and I did a version of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment before we got married. It measures your preferences in four areas, each correlating to a letter:

  • Introversion vs. Extroversion: Do you draw energy from being alone or being with others?
  • Sensing vs. iNtuitive: Do you evaluate information pragmatically or by adding meaning?
  • Feeling vs. Thinking: Do you evaluate situations emotionally or logically?
  • Judging vs. Perceiving: Do you prefer to have a routine or go with the flow?

There’s a much more detailed breakdown on the Myers-Briggs Foundation website. And here’s a quick quiz if you’re interested in finding out your type. I have a strong preference for introversion and judging, and I was more middle-of-the-road on the other two. According to the people making up fun internet graphics, this adds up to being kinda evil.

So that’s why I was glad to read, in Janet P. Penley’s book MotherStyles, that INTJs are also “Individual Integrity” mothers. That sounds much more positive. The book talks about the strengths and struggles each of the 16 Myers-Briggs types faces as a mother. Penley argues that anyone can be a good parent by knowing what works (and doesn’t) for their personality.

Penley herself is an introvert (an INFJ), and she talks openly about her parenting burnout before she understood that fact. But she and her co-author interviewed hundreds of moms of all type-stripes, and after a nice introductory section that explains each attribute in depth, the book lists strengths and struggles for each type of mom.

I definitely identified with the INTJ challenges – the chaos of family life, having confidence in my mothering skills, and living a balanced life. And I will try to do a better job appreciating my strengths (according to Penley, that’s being a non-conformist, being persistent, thinking deeply, and expecting the best from myself and others).

Reading about the other 15 personality types will give you insight into how your own mom, your mother-in-law, your friends, and/or your spouse might operate. (Dads are definitely covered – Penley says 80% of what’s in the book also applies to fathers). One of the basic tenets of the Myers-Briggs system is that no one type is better than another – but people are different. Knowing what lights others up and what drains them is a good reminder that parenting isn’t easy for anyone, and that even though some things you struggle with come naturally to other people, the reverse is also true.

The technique applies to kids, too – starting around age 8, most kids are settled into their personalities enough for you to figure out where they land for each of these traits. Even if they’re younger, though, you can probably guess about certain things. Doodlebug has always loved imaginative play and art, which suggests she’s an Intuitive sort. And reading this book made me realize she falls on the Feeling side of the scale.

You can even type your family – if you know the personality type for each person, you can figure out which traits are dominant in your household. Like I’ve said before, our family is definitely an introverted one, which works great for the three of us. But if Doodlebug had turned out to be an extrovert? That would be challenging, for her and for her parents.

This led me to my biggest lightbulb moment – when I realized exactly why summer is so stressful for me. I always push myself to create a laidback, go-with-the-flow atmosphere for our family, which is exactly the opposite of how I prefer to operate. And, as Penley points out many times, working against your type is possible, but it’ll cost you.

So I will be taking my 2 hours of work time every day this summer. Because if not, I might turn into the kind of person who leaves bars of soap in dangerous locations, shoots blue lightning at Jedi knights, or joins the Death Eaters. You have all been warned.

— Kathy

P.S. There’s a whole MotherStyles website, with more info about the book, articles, and even a mini self-care plan for each type of mom.

Book Review: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

KathyBack in sixth grade, when I couldn’t waaaait for the next Sweet Valley High book to come out, I decided to just go ahead and write my own SVH story. I lost interest after a few pages, but when the real book was finally released a major character died. I felt responsible – how dare I try to take over for Francine Pascal’s ghostwriters? RIP, Regina Morrow.

That remains my only attempt at writing fanfiction — stories using another person’s characters and world. Still, I knew I wanted to read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl the minute I heard about it. It’s the story of Cath, who’s starting college along with her twin sister, Wren. Both girls are huge Simon Snow fans (a book/movie series along the lines of Harry Potter). Or at least they were – once they get to school, Wren is off partying with her new roommate, leaving Cath on her own to finish writing her fanfic epic. To say that Cath has trouble adjusting to college would be putting it mildly.

Why Introverts Should Read This Book

Because you will recognize yourself in Cath, even if you’ve never heard of fanfiction. She’s a hardcore introvert and there were so many times I identified with her, whether she was staying up late to write instead of going out drinking, trying to figure out whether a guy was flirting or just being friendly, or stashing protein bars under her bed so she could avoid the dining hall.

If you’ve been to college, I’m betting this book will stir up a ton of memories and “me too!” moments. For introverts, I think college can be a major improvement over high school – I got to know people on a deeper level, in a more natural, gradual way because I was living with them. But in other ways it’s a real shock to the system: being with people 24/7, not having the level of privacy you might be used to, being reminded again and again that you are not a go-go-go-all-the-time person. Cath struggles with all of this, but she eventually reaps the benefits of college, too.

Why Extroverts Should Read This Book

For exchanges like the following:

[Cath:] “You give away nice like it doesn’t cost you anything.”

Levi laughed. “It doesn’t cost me anything. It’s not like smiling at strangers exhausts my overall supply.”

“Well, it does mine.”

“I’m not you. Making people happy makes me feel good. If anything, it gives me more energy for the people I care about.”

Cath’s roommate’s friend Levi is the quintessential extrovert – even though Cath doesn’t get his personality at first, Rowell definitely does. I loved how there was no extrovert-bashing in Fangirl, just a series of great explorations of how different types of people interact, confuse each other, and try to get along.

Why Parents Should Read This Book

So you can pass it on to your kids when you’re done! Or save it for when they’re ready. This would be a great senior-year read, so I’m holding on to my copy for Doodlebug. Okay fine, and I might reread it five or ten times before then.

Bonus Materials

Rainbow Rowell posts fan art, interview snippets, and other cool book-related stuff on her Tumblr. Also, if you like Benedict Cumberbatch (and who doesn’t?!) you will be very happy there.


Go read this book. Go read this book! GO READ THIS BOOK! And then come back here so we can fangirl about it together.

— Kathy

Alone Together

The Moms did not become moms by themselves.  So who are Dreamy and iDad? Which mom is married to a fellow introvert? Which mom is married to an introvert in theory but an extrovert in practice?  Read on to find out.

tiffany_head_128Not long ago I was chatting with another mom at a birthday party. After hearing how old Slim and Lunchbox are and that both Dreamy and I work outside the home, she said “Oooh, you’re in the hurt locker.” I laughed and agreed and noted this term must be employed more often in casual conversation.

The phrase rattled around in my head for awhile but, after seeing the 2008 film “The Hurt Locker,” it took on new meaning. I started thinking that, in some respects, raising children is not unlike war: it is an emotionally, intellectually, and physically unrelenting task, involving multiple explosive-laden stages (toddlerdom, teenagers), strategies (sleep and potty training, time outs) and weapons (bottles, blankets, pacifiers). If you are fortunate you have someone in your foxhole for support, a partner who has your back and will support you during the exhaustion, the frustration, and the soul-crushing fatigue. A partner who also knows your strengths and weaknesses and from whom you can learn how best to manage in combat.

Or maybe that’s just my introverted perspective. Fortunately I’ve got Dreamy in my foxhole. In many ways he is an introvert with superhero-strength extroverted abilities. He doesn’t need as much recharge time as I do, for example, and he is infinitely better at some aspects of parenting than I am. I’ve learned a great deal from him and found that implementing some of his tactics can turn a bad day into a pretty darn good one.

Some of his most helpful strategies are:

1.  Have a plan.

Dreamy recently went on a much-deserved overnight trip by himself.  This left me facing two weekend mornings — usually a war zone at our house — alone. Did I panic? No. I thought about what he would do and used preparation, one of my six introvert strengths, to organize a schedule for both days. As much as I loathe the idea of managing and organizing what is supposed to be “free” time the result was positive: two mostly happy kids and one relieved mom.

2.  Get out of the house.

Prior to marriage and family I could stay in my apartment for days with limited human interaction. My offspring, however, think staying home equals a prison sentence. Getting out is exceptionally difficult for me. Weekend mornings used to be about relaxing; now it is difficult to ignore the massive chore list that piles up during the week and shouts for attention on weekends. It is tough to silence the shouts even if it is to everyone’s benefit, particularly the kids. So on Saturday morning I ignored the chores, bundled everyone up and took them on a leaf-hunting expedition in a nearby park. We had a great time and, more importantly, no meltdowns!

3.  Wear them down.

This is a no brainer and more than a little embarrassing it has taken me so long to embrace it. Saturday’s leaf hunt also included a trail walk through the woods, playground time, and let’s-run-the-bases-at-the-ball-diamond time. The best part was we had all the facilities to ourselves, and the only two people with whom I had to interact were Slim and Lunchbox. After lunch, Lunchbox and I napped while Slim went to a playdate. Come bedtime they were out cold. WINNING.

These tactics seem so simple, so obvious, that I wonder why it has taken me so long to get with it. Probably because these activities are not the way I would choose to spend my free time. The proverbial light bulb clicked on, however, and I understood that this weekend wasn’t my time, it was our time. So, check, get over myself and put the kids first. Fortunately I was able to take a few small, marginally restorative breaks.

I suppose my motivation to make this solo weekend different also stems from Dreamy’s last mini-break. When he came home I was angry, exhausted, and emotionally fried. That’s a combination of ugly to which no one should be exposed, especially those whom I hold most dear. What’s that saying about those who fail to learn from the past? Something about being doomed to repeat it?

Overall the weekend turned out well (minus the epic fail that Sunday morning turned to be, but that’s another story) and reminded me that as parents we should constantly be observing others and learning new skills. And sometimes the person with the very best lessons to teach happens to be hunkered down in the foxhole right next to you.

— Tiffany

KathyYou will probably not be surprised to hear that iDad loves computers. He also loves playing music, reading, watching movies, sleeping, and anything that has to do with water. He can go for hours happily immersed in his own world. In other words, he’s a fellow introvert.

I know that often introverts will pair up with extroverts, the whole “opposites attract” thing. And we are opposite in certain ways (me + water = no), but I’m happy I live with someone who doesn’t need to be with me 24/7, who knows I’m not offended when he wants to do his own thing.

Still, parenting with an introvert is trickier than being married to one. I feel like iDad is constantly bailing me out — taking over at the end of the day when Doodlebug was tiny, stepping in nowadays when I need to retreat after an outing. He’s so conscientious about my time that I sometimes worry he’s left holding the bag when I can’t take another minute.

He says he doesn’t feel that way, though, and I think it partly has to do with our different socializing styles. I push myself to stay on for the entire time I’m with other people, while iDad is much more comfortable taking mini-breaks to read a magazine, play some music, or just retreat into the kitchen (even if it’s someone else’s!) for a snack. So even if we spend all day extroverting, he’s grabbing time to himself throughout. I could stand to borrow some of these strategies.

Plus, as we discovered with the HSP survey, certain situations are in fact more draining for me than for him. So maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty if I need to take my time right away, as long as I make sure he has some time to himself later.

Probably the trickiest thing to negotiate since becoming parents has been the balance between family time, couple time, and alone time. Sometimes, with everyone (Doodlebug included) happy to go their separate ways, the three of us don’t spend a lot of time together. Even family time can be draining for me — it’s different now that Doodlebug is older, but there are still plenty of nights when all I want to do is be by myself once she’s asleep.

Now that iDad and I both work at home, though, we have a little more flexibility. We can sneak out to a movie during the day. We can all ride bikes together one afternoon and then he and I can catch up on work that evening. We can eat lunch together if we want. Or near each other, reading separate books. Can’t get much more introverted than that!

— Kathy

Fake It Until You Make It?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports introverts would be happier if they just acted like extroverts more often.


The Moms have some issues with this.

Big ones.


KathyI will go ahead and estimate that I own 1000 books. I’m constantly maxing out the 50-book limit on my library card, too. I track book release dates like other people track movie releases, and sitting down with a new book by an author I love is one of my favorite things in the world. And if I have uninterrupted time to read that book in one or two big gulps? Bliss.

You know what else I love? Amusement parks. I love Skee-ball. I love funnel cakes and cotton candy. I love twirly, twisty, spinning rides, and I love roller coasters (warning: I’m a screamer). I love photo booths, and one day I WILL convince my family to do one of those old-timey dress up photo shoots with me.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the fact that I, an introvert, can enjoy an amusement park proves that introverts should totally act like extroverts. All the time! We’d be so much happier! Just, you know, get out there and have fun and stuff!

To which I say: Are you kidding me with this?

No one is saying that introverts can’t or don’t enjoy many of the same activities extroverts do. Yes, I love to read, but I also like talking with friends, even at (gasp!) parties. I’m currently obsessed with Netflixing “Friday Night Lights,” but I also enjoy going to real-live football games. And while you’re more likely to find me singing along with Coldplay alone in my car, I was there in the nosebleed section the last time they came to town.

But here’s the thing – those more intense activities, done for sustained periods of time, are draining for introverts. That’s why I have an issue with the second study cited in the Wall Street Journal article.

Dr. John Zelenski’s research, which was presented in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that introverts underestimated how much fun it would be to act extroverted and also overestimated how taxing it would be. But in these studies, which lasted only 20 minutes, the subjects were asked to do things like chat with a new person or work with a group to put a puzzle together.

That hardly sounds intense to me. In fact, that sounds like everyday life. What (I believe) is truly taxing for an introvert is the successive, repeated, sometimes undesired occasions when we are required to act extroverted throughout the course of a day. The study didn’t measure this. And it certainly wasn’t able to measure the effects of a major event like, say, a trip to an amusement park.

Yes, I love them. But I know that I’ll need time to recharge afterward, to regain the energy I expended having all that fun. So I don’t think, as the study suggests, that I’m talking myself out of enjoyable events by choosing not to spend every weekend at an amusement park. I think I’m being realistic and honoring my own temperament by not going so often that I collapse in a heap next to the Tilt-A-Whirl. Because, frankly, that doesn’t sound like much fun to me.

— Kathy

tiffany_head_128I am not a psychologist. I do not play one on TV, nor do I have any experience designing psychological research studies or interpreting their results. In fact, during my first read of the Zelenski study, with its many pages containing what looked like terrifyingly complicated equations, I had almost had a panic attack.

But I digress.

While the Wall Street Journal article offers additional and a somewhat contrary perspective towards the end of the piece, it goes without saying I disagree with the article’s, erm, dumbass title and the study Kathy references above.

Let me repeat:  I am not a social scientist. Multiple readings of Dr. Zelenski’s study, however, left me with the following questions:

  • Study subjects represent a very narrow demographic group — university undergraduate students.  Why the lack of diversity among participants?

Again, Survey Novice here, but I suspect a deeper and wider sample would generate vastly different results.  Kathy came up with the term “experienced introvert,” and I think improving the breadth and depth of the survey pool — to include people of different ages who are probably more comfortable in their own skins, and, more importantly, people from different life stages including parents, working professionals, and senior citizens — would offer a better representation of the general population.

  • What’s behind the descriptive word choices in the Method section, Materials subsection?

The language used in the extraverted instructions is unabashedly positive (“bold,” “adventurous,” “assertive”) while the word choices for the introverted instructions are decidedly negative (“lethargic,” “passive,” “unadventurous”). These words seem obviously biased to me and I wonder how their use might influence potential outcomes.

  • The study also relies on something called “affective forecasting,” defined by Psychology Today as:

                  Affective forecasting is predicting how you will feel in the future. As it turns out, we’re                       terrible at it. We’re not good judges of what will make us happy, and we have trouble                      seeing through the filter of the now. Our feelings in the present blind us to how we’ll                        make decisions in the future when we might be feeling differently.

If affective forecasting as a concept is weak sauce, doesn’t it follow that it would be a rather shaky foundation upon which to build a serious academic inquiry?

To be fair the authors do express reluctance to be “prescriptive,” yet the last lines of the study — “ … a few more moments of extraverted behavior might be good for their [introvert’s] happiness (even if they do not think so)” — make me want to deliver a karate kick to their collective shins.

One of my favorite Anna Quindlen quotes addresses the idea of giving up on being perfect and “beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Perfection doesn’t exist (whatever, Beyoncé), but pretending to be something you aren’t or to like doing something that you don’t is a long way from becoming yourself and being true to your inner disposition. And that, dear reader, is an enormous part of achieving happiness.

— Tiffany

Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

KathyHi all, welcome to our first book review! We wanted to share some of the books we’re reading as we explore our roles as introverted parents, and we’re starting with Susan Cain. You’ve probably heard about her book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

If you know me in real life, you’ve definitely heard about this book because I won’t stop telling people about it.


quiet2_smallerThis is my copy. I think it’s safe to say it spoke to me.



There’s a reason the title starts off with “Quiet” and not “Introverts” – Cain isn’t a psychologist (she’s a lawyer-turned-writer) and she’s exploring more than just the strict definition of introversion as a personality trait. She’s also looking at a group of traits that are often connected, including being risk-averse, introspective, shy. These types of people, and their strengths, are often overlooked in American society, Cain argues. She traces the rise of what she calls the Extrovert Ideal, pointing out ways our society prizes gregarious, assertive, bold, LOUD people.

Through profiles of famous (and not-so-famous) introverts, examinations of different psychological theories, and an exploration of the connection between solitude and creativity, Cain gives introverts permission to be themselves. Being an introvert isn’t just okay, she tells us. It’s important.


Why Introverts Should Read This Book:

So you can say “So there!” to everyone who’s ever told you you’re too quiet. Just kidding. Kind of. I’ve heard about so many people who feel empowered by this book, who didn’t even realize that being an introvert was normal. And even though I already knew my personality type, it never hurts to be reminded that, no, our society really is not geared toward people like me. If I feel out of step sometimes, that’s why, not because I’m doing something wrong.

Other takeaways: Introverts and extroverts need different levels of outside stimulation, and I like Cain’s idea of “sweet spots” – figuring out your just-right level and seeking out experiences that fit. She also makes the point that even introverts need to keep adjusting, which explains why I can sometimes get stir-crazy on a Sunday afternoon at the end of a laid-back weekend.

For me, Cain’s discussion of Elaine Aron’s research on highly sensitive people was eye-opening. Not all introverts are highly sensitive, but I think I do fall into this category. It’s giving me insight into why I get overwhelmed so much more quickly than iDad, even though we’re both introverts. Expect more banging on about this one from me in the future!


Why Extroverts Should Read This Book:

To get a better idea about how the other one-third to one-half of the population lives. I think this book should be required reading for extroverted managers and teachers, or for any extrovert who’s in charge of a group of people.

Cain also examines the benefits of working solo – turns out creativity is harder to come by in a group environment. Many introverts already know this (group projects, blech!), but it’s startling to see how our schools and our workplaces have embraced what Cain has named the “New Groupthink”. I read here that she’s working on a curriculum to help teachers reach introverts in the classroom, and I think that’s a fantastic idea.


Why Parents Should Read This Book:

If you’re raising an introvert, Chapter 11 of Quiet is for you. While Cain encourages parents to enjoy their kids for who they are, she also has great tips for helping them feel more confident and comfortable in this overstimulating world of ours. Don’t throw your kid into a new situation with a “She’ll be fine!” attitude, help her find ways to get used to things at her own pace. Check out a new place ahead of time if possible, arrive early, don’t push. And, instead of criticizing your child for acting shy, praise her when she stretches herself.

Parents, too, should carefully read the sections about school. I am not (NOT!) encouraging helicopter parenting, but it’s worth considering whether your kid’s classroom environment is geared more toward extroverts. At Doodlebug’s school, I was surprised to find that her first grade class didn’t use desks — the kids sat at tables together like they did in kindergarten.

There’s a great list of factors to consider if you’re in a position to choose a school for your kids (Small classes? Anti-bullying program? Subjects or extracurriculars your child is drawn to?). But Cain has good suggestions for helping your kids thrive at any school. Also, she makes the excellent point that your introverted child might need time to decompress at the end of the day, so give them time to do that before you start peppering them with questions. You just might get more info out of them that way.


Bonus materials:

Cain gave a TED talk in 2012 that touches on the main points in her book. Definitely worth 20 minutes of your time.


So have you read Quiet? What did you think? I’ve started leaving my copy in our guest room – maybe all our visitors will pick it up and learn something about themselves (or about a favorite introvert). Muahahaha!