I have a confession. I love personality tests. I think I’ve taken pretty much every single one. I’ve gotten defensive over the extremely accurate negative remarks and celebrated the positive things about myself. It wasn’t until recently that I started noticing the way these personality types find their way into my parenting style, whether I like it or not.
I am currently pregnant with our second child and my husband and I have started preparing our daughter for the arrival of her brother early next year. This is a strange process to me and here’s why. Logically, I know she has to be prepared. Her world will be rocked and her whole life will be changed. However, every time it is brought up that she’s going to be a big sister, there is something in me shouting “but she’s still her own person!” What is that?!?
Turns out, it’s actually me.
The Enneagram is one of my favorite personality tests and categorizes people into 9 numerical types based on how they relate to themselves, others, and the world around them. I am a Type 4 – The Individualist. Fours are typically described as someone who values uniqueness and is expressive, sensitive, withdrawn, temperamental, creative and generally has a fear of being misunderstood or not finding significance. Hi, it’s nice to meet you.
While I’d love to deny some of these things about myself, it’s all true. The fear of being misunderstood or not having my own identity is a big one for me, and I think it’s been amplified by being the youngest child in my family. I’ve spent a lot of my life being identified as “ _____’s little sister! We love _____!” Cool, me too, but my name is Elissa. Anybody’s place in their family is something that’s defining in one way or another. And the truth is, being a big sister IS a big deal. Ultimately, it will be part of my daughter’s identity just as much as anything else about her. Being misunderstood is my fear. I’m the one worried about her identity, not her (thankfully!).
Being a Four also means that sometimes just one little thing can set me off, and usually, it’s something that is completely irrational. Fours have big feelings and sometimes it gets overwhelming. I try to be mindful of my mental state, but I can’t always take a break when I need it. I find myself getting caught up in my own emotions and forget that other people (i.e. my family) is also affected by stressful situations. My husband is great at reminding me that I don’t have to do it all on my own, regardless of what I’m telling myself, but I do struggle to keep my own emotions in check and sometimes that gets in the way of my parenting.
On the flip side, I do put value on validating my daughter’s emotions. As a mom, I take the time to help teach her how to express herself through her words and actions. When big emotions happen, we slow down to figure out why and to see if there is a solution. In our house, we spend a lot of time learning how to express ourselves through creating. We like to paint, draw, sculpt, bake, and get messy. We do stretches together and take time to breathe when we get upset. We tell each other it’s okay to be sad and angry and sometimes there is something we can do to feel better, and sometimes there’s just not. We keep the feelings of others in mind when something happens or we hurt them. Feelings are important to me and being a Four has given me the patience to take a minute to understand my daughter’s feelings when they are too big for her to comprehend.
As with literally everything else in parenting, there are both positives and negatives that come with my Type 4-ness. I reached out to some of my mama friends to ask about how they feel their Enneagram type impacts their parenting and here’s what some of them had to say:
Type 1 – The Perfectionist: “I have to remember when I get stressed not to get too strident with my daughter.”
“That one voice tells you you’re doing it all wrong.”
Type 2 – The Giver: “It fills me with martyr syndrome because I WANT to do everything, I thrive on feeling irreplaceable and valuable, but I will be super bitter and resentful if you do not acknowledge the work I do.”
“Parenting is a thankless job, so it makes everything I do seem like a chore.”
Type 3 – The Achiever: “I feel it’s important to push my kids to strive for more while my husband is content with allowing them to find their way. It’s been difficult to come to a happy medium and there’s been lots of compromising”
Type 4 – The Individualist: That’s me! See above.
Type 5 – The Observer: “My husband is a 5, his intellectual approach makes it hard when he can’t use logic with toddlers, plus it makes outings difficult when his 5 instincts make him feel we shouldn’t infringe on anyone’s space, and kids have very little awareness of that!”
“My husband is a 7. He is so much fun and is usually the dad out in public acting a fool for the sake of having fun with his kids. Dance parties and spontaneous games happen all the time, wherever we are! On the flip side, he is an avoider of pain. It can be really challenging for him to know how to respond to our kids when they are experiencing an emotion not rooted in joy.”
“I crave adventure and a variety of intellectual stimulation. I have to figure out how to juggle my needs/desires with what a family needs so that I can feel fulfilled but also showing up for my family. I hate feeling confined into a routine and dread routine tasks that feel like a time suck. Those make up a LOT of family life. I try to find a way to make everything more enjoyable or creative and exciting for me.”
Type 8 – The Protector: Apparently I have no friends that are 8’s, but they are categorized as being dominant, self-confident, decisive, and confrontational.
Type 9 – The Peacemaker: “Sometimes I project my own experience on my kids and become really empathetic towards them, or really annoyed…I have also noticed that being indecisive has sometimes caused me to put decision making on my toddler when I should be leading her”
“I think being laid back has allowed my kids to become independent thinkers and risk-takers. I like for them to feel comforted and happy so nurturing feels natural to me.”
We would love to hear your Enneagram type and how you think it impacts the way you parent. There are tons of resources online to read more about the history and how it works. You can go here to take a free online test.