What is Your Motherstyle?

What is your Motherstyle? By Chana Jenny Weisberg

Over the past decade, all of my children have attended Naama’s nursery school, and after all these years Naama continues to be a total mystery to me. How can she possibly be the mother of 8 young children and still have the energy to run an excellent, densely-curriculumed nursery school for close to 30 rambunctious 3-year-olds? Where on earth does she get her energy?

The wonder that Naama inspires in me is even greater because I know that if I had to take over the reins at Naama’s Nursery School for even half an hour, I would have to spend the rest of the day in bed in order to recover from the emotional hurricane of 28 small children bouncing around me like kangaroos and spinning like Tasmanian devils.

For years, I’ve thought about this Naama vs. Me conundrum, and for years I’ve hypothesized that the difference between us is an American-Israeli difference. A friend suggested alternatively: “Different moms just have different energy levels.” That made me feel pretty worm-like, to find myself cast in the lackluster role of “low-energy” mom.

But this week I finally figured out why Naama and I are so different, thanks to the amazing MUST-READ book Motherstyles: Using Personality Types to Discover your Parenting Strengths by Janet P. Penley (Lifelong Books).

This book helps mothers to discover their personal parenting style based on 4 categories.

1. What is your Personal Energy Source? Introvert or Extrovert

2. What is your Preferred Source of Information? Sensing or Intuition

3. How do you make Decisions? Thinking or Feeling

4. How do you like your Outer World Structured? Judging or Perceiving

I highly recommend that you learn more about these different categories and take a brief online test to figure out your personal motherstyle at http://www.motherstyles.com/quiz.asp I really think that knowing our motherstyles can bring about a revolutionary improvement in our mothering abilities and lives.

Out of all these categories, I’ve been thinking the most about category Number 1, Introvert vs. Extrovert, which, I now think, is also the long-awaited solution to the Naama vs. Me conundrum.

First of all, I should explain that according to Motherstyles, Introvert Moms are not necessarily withdrawn wall-flowers, and Extrovert Moms are not necessarily the belly-laughing lives of the party. According to Motherstyles, not all introverts are shy at all. What determines if you are Introvert or Extrovert mom is what kind of experience you need to plug yourself into in order to stay charged and energized as a mother.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a bunch of amazing guests for an enjoyable Shabbat lunch. Afterwards, do you feel energized by this intense interaction with a lot of fascinating people and ready to dash off with your double stroller to the playground to meet some friends, or do you feel like you need to curl up into fetal position in your bed for half an hour with the door locked to recover your equilibrium enough to face your kids again?

Another question: if you had 24 hours to spend however you wished, what would you do? Almost all moms, according to Motherstyles, would choose the solitude of home for the morning, drinking a cup of tea and enjoying a good magazine and JewishMom.com videos for a few hours. The differences show up when you ask moms how they would spend that dream afternoon. An extrovert would meet with friends at a restaurant and then go off en masse to check out the new store at the mall. Introverts, even after that quiet morning, still haven’t yet filled up their reserves of solitude. The Introvert Mom would then check herself into an hotel room for rest of her 24 hours, lock the door and put on the chain, and lie in bed with a pile of books. Pure Heaven!

The Extrovert Mom is also called the “minivan mom.” She is the mom whose favorite time with her children is spent zooming off in her minivan to another new location- the zoo, the science museum, the pool. An afternoon spent hanging out at home is torture for the extrovert mom. For the introvert mom, on the other hand, the minivan itself is an instrument of torture. Dealing and communicating with so many people while navigating the way to a new place would leave her exhausted by the time they arrived at their destination.

Figuring out whether you are an Introvert or Extrovert mom can help each of us know what we need in order to recharge, and remain happy and thriving mothers.

Extrovert Moms, for example, need action and variety and social contact in order to be the best moms possible- through employment or joining a group or connecting with friends on the phone or even email.

Introverts, on the other hand, need solitude in order to recharge and be pumped moms. For many years, I, for example, have taken a rest in the middle of every afternoon. My kids are jumping on me for most of this “rest,” and it’s definitely not the recommended solitude, but this half an hour time-out from the intense family interactions of a Weisberg afternoon is an absolute necessity for me to get through the day without blowing my top by 5 PM. I don’t mean that I am a hermit. I also really enjoy quiet one on one conversations at the playground, or with my children at home, but what really gives me energy is a quiet walk on my own to think my own thoughts with nobody to talk to, or an hour lying in bed staring into space or reading a good book.

Introvert moms like me are in the minority, and we can often feel inadequate and worm-like in comparison with the Naamas of the world. Which is why it is so important, Motherstyle author Janet Penley explains, for us introvert moms to learn to value our special ability to “connect with the depth of life.”

Every type of mom has her own strengths, every type of mom faces her own challenges. Through self-awareness, every mom can ultimately become the best possible mom for her child.

Motherstyles ends with this nice story, and I think I will too…

Pablo Picasso said, “My mother told me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”

The world says you can become whatever you want. Perhaps you wanted to become a lawyer, or doctor, or scholar, or scientist, or artist.

Perhaps you were a lawyer, doctor, scholar, scientist, or artist, before you had children. Or maybe you haven’t fulfilled your dream.

Either way, you became a mother. I hope that someday you will be able to say, ‘”Instead I was a mother, and I became my best self.”

I believe Jung said that women would transform the world simply by being their own true selves…The world needs your voice, your piece of truth, your individuality, and your womanhood. The children need you! Be brave. Be yourself. Become the best you. And know, in your heart, that your children will surely follow.

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