Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

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.

Downtime Abbey

The Moms love their Downton Abbey, especially the Dowager Countess of Grantham (mostly because of quotes like this).  But when you don’t have a Mrs. Hughes, a Mrs. Patmore, or an Anna Bates, downtime can be difficult to come by.  When the Moms do find a few free moments, how do they decide what to do with them?


kathy_crayon_256I miss naps. It’s been more than three years since Doodlebug dropped hers, but I still think of them fondly. They were a guaranteed hit of free time for me during the day, and they were guilt-free. Little kids need lots of sleep to grow up happy and healthy. I’m not sure the same can be said of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, my current go-to.

Still, naps were not a perfect system. I never knew if I was going to get three hours or forty-five minutes, which made it hard to plan my time. And Baby Doodlebug seemed to have some kind of reading radar that signaled her to wake up the second I tried to sit down with a book. There were many days when I’d putter around, being productive, for two hours and when I finally took a minute to relax, boom, she’d wake up.

So I developed a simple rule for my free time: Do the most important thing first. “Most important” can mean whatever you need it to mean – maybe everyone is out of underwear and you have got to throw in a load of laundry. Great, do it. If you are covered in spit-up and various other bodily fluids, grab that shower. If you’re hungry, always eat first. If you don’t, you will end up with a baby in one hand and a sandwich in the other. I dripped a lot of condiments on Doodlebug before I figured that one out.

But it’s always been easy, too easy, to get wrapped up in all the stuff I have to do and run out of time for what I really need to do with my downtime, which is recharge. Last week iDad was out of town, which meant I was on for that long, long stretch from school pick-up to bedtime. But still, on the occasions when Doodlebug was happily playing on her own, I had to remind myself over and over to choose to stop, to slow down, to just sit with a magazine instead of rushing on to the next chore.

As we go into summer and my blocks of downtime again become shorter and unpredictable, I need to remember that sometimes the most important thing to attend to is myself. I can always start a load of laundry after Doodlebug goes to bed. Nothing bad will happen if I ignore those papers on my desk for one more day.

Even if I only have twenty minutes, sometimes the best thing really is just watching our crazy backyard chipmunks race around, or, yes, sitting down and reading an entire chapter of a book. I will be a happier mom if I take that time. Do the most important thing first.

– Kathy


Downtime is in short supply at our house.  While I cannot speak 100% for Dreamy I wager that he does not, in fact, get enough time to himself.  I am certain I don’t due largely to the superhuman (or “stupid human” on grouchy days) demands of commuting, mommying, and working.  Downtime is such a scarcity I’ve had to come up with a few tactics and strategies to help cope.

The first is something I like to call Compressed Introversion (“CI” for future reference). CI is essentially small pockets of time carved out during the day in which I am consciously doing something — walking to the car to pick up Señor Lunchbox or washing my face before bed —  but in reality I am checked out and in my own world.  It’s weird, I know, but it works.

Now, I’m not so oblivious that I would walk in front of a bus or use toothpaste as facial cleanser; rather I am thinking quiet thoughts and being mindful of my surroundings: listening to the birds chatter in the trees or enjoying the warm water as it splashes my face. Other folks have different names for this tactic, I’m sure, but by calling it CI I am able to play a mini-Jedi mind trick on myself and satisfy my need for a few minutes of interior quiet.

The second strategy is based on a question:  “What can’t I do when everyone is around?”  I can’t, for example, sit down and read.  I also cannot organize stuff, watch a show, take a bath, or exercise (ha — cue Alicia Silverstone’s Cher in “Clueless:”  “AS IF!”) with three other people in the house.  So I do these things when Dreamy thankfully takes Slim and Lunchbox to the park or the pool or on errands.

Anaïs Nin said, “When I cannot bear outer pressures anymore, I begin to put order in my belongings…As if unable to organize and control my life, I seek to exert this on the world of objects.”  True to Ms. Nin’s wise words, if given a bit of time to step back and maybe impose some order (or maybe just lie on the couch and catch up with the Dowager Countess) I usually feel refreshed and revived.

This was a difficult lesson to learn.  Ignoring full laundry baskets or a sinkful of dirty dishes is not easy.  But you know what?  I can deal with those tasks while everyone in the house. Sometimes, however, I feel selfish and guilty and that I should be listening to the nagging, needling inner voice that says YOU ARE A MOTHER AND YOU ARE ON, SISTER!

Fortunately I’ve gotten a lot better at telling that voice to STFU.

– Tiffany