Hi Personality Hacker,
I’ve been listening to your podcasts and reading your articles for a couple of months now, and you’ve illuminated so many things for me as an INFJ that I’ve NEVER put to words, despite having been fascinated by this subject matter and tested as an INFJ regularly since college. For example, I never even realized that I might absorb other’s emotions until I read your article… this is a game-changer for me, as a stay-at-home mom.
Which brings me to my question: I’m a SAHM of two young children. I’m also a writer in my spare time. I’m trying to learn about the cognitive functions and get away from the Introverted Intuition/Introverted Thinking loop and get into my Driver and Co-Pilot, but the season of life I’m in makes it VERY difficult.
Introverted Intuition needs time and no distractions. I have little time, but CONSTANT distractions with young children around.
Extraverted Feeling… well, I’m always using that (right?), but I am afraid it’s mostly been from a place of fear, manifesting unhealthily as people-pleasing.
I’m trying to learn to set healthy boundaries, but most articles and advice assumes that I’m dealing with semi-rational, adult humans. Young children are not rational, haha. They’re also highly undeveloped and highly dependent.
Will any of your programs be helpful for me in this season of life (meaning, can I apply them in my moment-to-moment when I’m dealing with young children who need so much and have so much to learn), or… will it just get better in time?
Hopefully, this message is coherent!
Dear INFJ SAHM,
I’m an empty-nester-INFJ who raised five children. You are so right! The season of parenting small children is demanding no matter what your cognitive function stack looks like. And as you’ve described, the interruptions and conflicts of parenting 24/7 are particularly challenging for INFJs.
The good news is that you can use some of the same disciplines and skills that you used to publish a book to create strategies for growth and renewal. Here are a few ways to live in the day to day.
Rhythms instead of scheduling
As tempting as it is for Judging types to create a highly structured schedule, life with small children rarely conforms to overly strict schedules. Learning to move with rhythms and needs of parent and child, rather than the clock, can open up emotional margin and pockets of time that have high return on investment in the big picture. Rather than planning out specific times, it’s enough to know that Morning Nap follows Breakfast and Play Time follows Morning Nap. You can then move with the ebb and flow of everyone’s needs. This is the sweet spot for Extraverted Feeling (“Harmony”).
Put yourself on the map
Remember that you’re part of the collective. Harmony can focus so completely on the needs of those around them that they lose sight of their own story. I use the mantra “Everybody’s story weighs the same” as a reminder that I have to tend to myself with the same level of attention and care that I give to others. Practically, this can be as simple as drinking enough water and as complex as learning ways to ask for help or draw a boundary.
Start Full / Stay Aware
Awareness of your own energy levels is the path to sustainability. This means being just as cognizant of what drains you as what fills you up. Practically, this could look like going to bed early to get extra sleep or putting your feet up and letting your brain wander around in Introverted Intuition (“Perspectives”) when the kids are napping. INFJs don’t always love shifting to Plan B at the last minute. However, sometimes a shift is what is necessary for energy management. A play date can mean access to long overdue adult conversation. Other times an outing with a cranky toddler will cost you the last bit of patience and energy you possess. Stay aware and hold plans loosely. Also, give yourself permission to tidy the house once at the end of the day rather than constantly cleaning up; or better yet make some shifts in the budget and delegate some of the household basics like cleaning or grocery shopping. This is yet another way to pace your energy expenditure.
Jeff Walker says, “Every yes must be defended by a thousand no’s.” This is a hard pill to swallow for INFJs as we’re not always confident when it comes to being sovereign over our own territory. Making decisions, drawing boundaries with toddlers and even answering the phone can feel like conflict. Shoring up the language and practical behaviors around boundaries will create true peace that includes you and not just the false peace of people pleasing. Merja Sumiloff talks about boundaries in this course:
and discusses healthy boundaries in this podcast:
Reframe engagement with the world.
“Feeling everyone in the room” (even if they’re small children) can seem overwhelming. Because of this dynamic, INFJs become quickly exhausted by engagement with “the outside world.” It’s a short slide down a slippery slope from believing all the emotions happen to you to a victim mentality. Remember that Awareness of Other is your superhero power! Introverted Intuition + healthy Extraverted Feeling allows INFJs to move in the world with diplomacy and emotional agility. Here’s a handy formula:
Awareness of other + Healthy Boundaries = Emotionally Intelligent Offerings
Find alone time in new places.
In the season of young ones, you will have to look a little harder to find your alone time. Early morning before everyone awakens is my favorite time of the day. The house is quiet, and there are no external demands from other humans. I make a cup of coffee, journal and let my intuition roam. Night owls might prefer late night after the kids go to bed. You can also learn to leverage “cracks and crevices” in your schedule. I used to sketch while waiting in the carpool line and always had a book in my purse in case I had an extra minute or two. Perspectives loves any input, and you can learn to take small bites in 15-minute increments even if you don’t get two hours. Take note of how your brain enjoys Perspectives and then when you do get those larger blocks of time you can leverage the time well. Feed your Introverted Intuition with journaling, yoga/meditation, walks, long showers, or reading. Anything that allows you to “walk in the garden of your mind.”
INFJs are loving, nurturing parents who take their job seriously. They project forward to see the kind of adults they want to raise. With their unique blend of emotional intelligence and insight, INFJs can offer the quiet leadership, support, and skills necessary to raise healthy, self-actualized adults.
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