The Perks of Parenting for ENFPs23 June 2019 / By Caitlin Hawekotte Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on June 23, 2019
As an ENFP personality type, I have often felt that I don’t know how to be a “real adult”—as if there is such a thing. While I may be good at listening to others or expressing my feelings, I’m not so great at everyday things like folding laundry or figuring out how to sign up for healthcare benefits. While I always wanted children, I feared I wouldn’t be a natural at caring for them.
Then one day a few years ago, a friend sent me a post from the Humans of New York Facebook page, which profiles the stories of everyday people a photographer meets on the street. There was an image of a woman with a caption that read, “I thought having kids would magically transform me into a mother, who had no problem doing laundry, or cooking, or keeping house. But I ended up still being me, just with children now.”
I was filled with a mixture of panic and relief. It was frightening to let the harsh truth sink in that having a baby would not imbue me with my ISTJ mother’s abilities to stick to bedtime routines and bathe babies with the greatest of ease. However, it was comforting to know that I could be myself and be a mom at the same time—and that it would be perfectly okay.
Now that I’m a mother to a nine-month-old, I can confirm that I am not significantly different than I was before. While I could beat myself up about not crafting Pinterest-worthy meals or perfecting the KonMari fold, I thought I’d mix it up a bit instead and celebrate the things ENFPs do exceptionally well as parents!
1. We love to watch people grow and help them fulfill their potential
As Intuitive Feelers, we can’t help but love people and possibilities. We are natural-born cheerleaders. We feel a sense of purpose in helping others find theirs. So I can’t think of anything more ENFP than guiding a child to become the most fulfilled person they can possibly be.
When my son even so much as tries to scale the sofa, I am already imagining he may be a rock climber someday. It’s just so exciting to discover the things he loves to do!
Since ENFPs do not like to control or be controlled, we are overjoyed to watch our children’s interests unfold naturally. As these passions become apparent, we are amazing at exploring all of the possibilities for how to fuel them.
For instance, if an ENFP parent's child shows an inclination for acting, they might do research to help them not only sign up for a school theater program but also join a local community theater, take classes at a repertory, or find an agent. They will see many potential paths for their children and will go above and beyond to help them on their journeys.
ENFPs are the ultimate champions and advocates, so our children can benefit greatly from our inborn desire to help others.
2. We can connect with a portion of the population we didn’t quite relate to before
ENFPs are social creatures. We are deeply interested in others’ stories, and we love connecting with people from various backgrounds. Before I was a parent, I could sympathize with parenthood struggles to a certain extent, but there are some things I’ve had to experience to truly understand.
By the time my son was two weeks old, I learned it is nearly impossible to describe the delirium that may result from prolonged lack of sleep—the kind that had me asking my mother, “Where’s the baby?!” only to have her say, “Um, in your arms. You’re nursing him.”
Though I am still a newbie parent, I already feel a sense of connection to my fellow guardians, my comrades in arms. I have a greater appreciation for my own parents (for everyone’s parents, really), and I exchange reassuring smiles with strangers whenever my child or theirs might be acting up in public.
Becoming a parent has opened up a whole new world of people to whom I can relate. In fact, I started talking to a mom ahead of me in line at a restaurant last week, and we were laughing and swapping birth stories within minutes. Needless to say, we have a play date planned for next week. So ENFP, right?
3. We excel at going with the flow
When it comes to improvising, ENFPs are naturals. While our open-endedness may make us appear indecisive in some scenarios, it makes us masters of problem solving in the right situations.
Last week, my baby woke up screaming from a nightmare, so I called my husband at work on FaceTime to cheer him up. As we talked, our son suddenly got sick all over himself, the couch, and me. I sat there stunned for a moment. Then I said to my husband, half laughing and half fighting tears, “Um, I don’t even know where to begin here, but I suppose I’d better clean us up.” I quickly plotted out the most strategic plan to carry my poor baby down the hall without making a mess and get us both cleaned up and changed.
These types of things happen daily for every parent, regardless of personality type. After all, children are experts in the unexpected; they are connoisseurs of chaos. They know how to perfectly time a potty accident, tantrum, or chocolate stain for the most inopportune moments. It’s the Murphy’s Law of Parenting.
The great benefit of being an ENFP is how quickly we acknowledge the positives of these distractions, adapt easily, and fully embrace living in the moment and seeing this often-challenging journey for what it is—the destination.
These tales of disaster will undoubtedly be the same stories we swap around dinner tables full of laughter for years to come. And ENFPs often have the foresight to see that in the midst of these debacles, even if we might initially feel like breaking down and sobbing.
4. We are interested in anything and everything
Children are curious beings; everything intrigues them. Babies especially remind us that the world is fascinating. My son stares in awe at everything from each new person he meets to any piece of lint he may find on the floor.
ENFPs aren’t much different.
We are usually able to maintain this wide-eyed inquisitiveness in adulthood. Even if we lose some of it, our children reawaken it in us as we watch them explore the world and express their ponderings about everything they encounter. As lifelong learners and lovers of newness, we get to experience this sense of wonder alongside them.
No matter which subjects spark our children’s interest, we will have fun with them. They love football? Woohoo, count us in for a tailgate party before the big game! They love anime? Great, let’s book a family trip to Comic-Con!
For ENFPs, our children open new doors to topics we may have never considered before but are thrilled to discover. We will never be bored, and our children will always be supported. It’s a win-win!
5. We get energized by taking on new projects and challenges
One thing that can be difficult for ENFPs is following through with finishing projects. We get so exhilarated at the thought of starting something new, but we may struggle to complete it. This is actually good news for us when it comes to parenting.
For one thing, parenting is a nonstop job with no definitive end in sight. It’s an ongoing process, and we ENFPs live for the process.
Our children are always growing and changing; therefore, our roles and responsibilities as parents are ever evolving as well. As soon as we think we have one stage down, a new one begins. Nothing is constant.
While that could be frustrating, we’re familiar and comfortable with the unpredictability of life. In fact, it fuels us. We are thrilled by a challenge. And being a parent is one of the greatest challenges—and joys—in life.
Embracing the Challenges of Parenthood to Become Our Best Selves
Speaking of challenges, parenthood often requires that we do a lot of our least favorite things, such as stick to schedules and conquer mundane tasks. After all, our babies can’t feed themselves, and our children can’t drive themselves to soccer practice. Plus, they may have very different preferences than we do.
It can actually be quite fun to embrace the challenge of flexing our opposite preferences as necessary, and we need not become completely different people in order to do so. In fact, by tapping into our superpower of adaptability and our desire for personal growth, we can do things that may not seem natural for us in a super natural way!
After all, we are ENFPs.
We are lovers of change. We are capable of great things.
We can accept who we are while also accepting the challenge of becoming even better at things that may be difficult for us at first.
We can be ourselves while also being parents—and that is perfectly okay.
Alan Briggs (not verified) says...
As an ENFP soon-to-be empty-nester, the beauty and truth of your story touched me. I was one of the few parents I knew, who enjoyed his kids as teenagers more than as toddlers. Thank you!
Caitlin Hawekotte says...
Alan, thank you so much, and I’m so glad this resonated with you! Your experience is comforting to me because I have been thinking I might be much better equipped for those teen years than the toddler years but wasn’t sure if I might just be kidding myself. : ) Wishing you well in your new chapter as an empty-nester!
Jan Sugar (not verified) says...
Caitlin (my new bff), First, you’re a wonderful writer. Write! Next, man you have us nailed. This was the best description of ENFPs that I’ve seen. I’m forwarding it to my daughters, ages 22 and 26. They do fond stand-up comedy together when we gather, about their mother’s quirks, like when she makes new friends sampling hummus at Whole Foods and in elevators. They think this is hysterical. But here’s the thing: on a recent trip with her boyfriend to see his mom, my oldest (an ENTJ) lost her cool with him when he and his mother had spoken in hosted tones too many days in a row about cleanliness, the type of conversation she refers to as the NF desert. (I love her coinage and use it all the time.) In frustration she said to him that her mom may have not had the cleanest house on the block but that she always knew how her kids were feeling about everything and could guide them to solutions about the most pressing and complex problems. Your honor will be defended one day, too, my new friend.
Regarding teen years, both daughters joked that their friends hung out with them because they liked me. Untrue of course, and I did not curry favor with their friends, I just did what we do: express my curiosity, show my delight, listen to them, not control. It was easy. Getting the budget done was hard.
With your son less than a year old, you’ve been a quick study. Look forward to more of what you’ve already discovered. I’m reporting in from your future.
Caitlin Hawekotte says...
Thank you so much for your kind words, Jan (my new bff)! I'm so glad this resonated with you. I can already anticipate that my son will (hopefully) lovingly joke about my quirks in the future as well! As it stands, my friends, husband, and siblings all like to do that. : ) Luckily, we ENFPs are usually pretty good at laughing at ourselves!
I love that term "NF desert." I know exactly what it's like to be there! What your daughter said about what it was like to grow up with you as a mother warmed my heart and made me so hopeful. I have visions of having fun hangouts with my son and his friends just chatting about life around the dinner table someday. So it's wonderful to know that you've had exactly that type of relationship with your daughters and their friends. Thank you so much for reporting to me from my future, haha -- looks pretty bright to me!
Jan Sugar (not verified) says...
Correction: I have a typo that makes a pint not make stand. My oldest is an ENFJ.
Caitlin Hawekotte says...
Ah yes, thank you! That makes sense!
Jan Sugar (not verified) says...
And more typos...makes a point not make sense.
Caitlin Hawekotte says...
Haha, this is so ENFP. I would totally do the same! : )
Gene Lockard (not verified) says...
As an ENFP of empty-nester age - and then some - but not a parent, I nonetheless loved this article. I often feel "different," because being an ENFP and a grown-up is an oxymoron. Perhaps I do well at some tasks that others might struggle with, but these tasks are generally of the "nice to have, but not essential" variety. Meanwhile, I struggle with many of the things that are not just nice to have, but are actually essential for adults. It seems like adult life is designed to make the most of STJ strengths, and the rest - or at least NFPs - must struggle to keep up.
There's also the aspect of commonality. For whatever reason - perhaps a curse on me in a previous life! - I seem to be surrounded by STJ people. It sometimes feels like standing outside on a winter's night, watching a family toast with their brandy glasses by fireplace. At a minimum, one can feel judged and lacking. So, when I come across something - this article, for example - that reminds me that I'm not alone or unique, or, worse still, somehow "broken," it's always heartening and reaffirming. So, thank you, and please accept my sincere congratulations to you and your husband on your son. He won't remember or be in the least affected by how you fold the laundry, but he'll be the beneficiary of having a mother who will take delight in his development and growth, and will be his champion, helping him to more easily realize his full potential. After all, that's where we shine. Godspeed.
Caitlin Hawekotte says...
"Being an ENFP and a grown-up is an oxymoron." Yes, this is often exactly how I feel.
Just yesterday, I was holding my son and looking in the mirror with him and thought, "Am I ever going to feel like an 'adult'? Or am I just going to feel like a child at heart for my entire life?" I'm thinking I just might! : ) I think in in the big picture, that can be a really wonderful part about being our type because we try our best to make the most of every moment. In the small picture of day-to-day life, however, it can often make it feel challenging, just as you described.
"It sometimes feels like standing outside on a winter's night, watching a family toast with their brandy glasses by fireplace."
So interesting you should phrase it this way! First of all, that is such a perfect visual that really captures that feeling. Secondly, I just saw a comment from someone with the iNtuition preference recently who stated that they feel like they are looking longingly out a window watching those with a Sensing preference really live in and enjoy life. It makes me wonder if we all feel this way at various times depending on the circumstances and what is most valued in a particular environment. For instance, certain households (or even countries!) may value certain traits and preferences over others, and then whomever does not quite fit the mold may feel a bit inadequate as a result.
This is why I love discovering our types and preferences because it gives us all chance to find the corners of the world (or even the Internet) where we feel understood and learn that we can absolutely embrace who we are and make the most of it no matter where we are. It makes me think of years ago when I was studying acting, and I watched a video of a casting agent talking about how to be the right person for the part. They said something along the lines of, "I don't want to hear why you're the 'next Meryl Streep.' I want to hear why you're the first you. What is the gap that you're filling? How are you relatable? What do you bring to the table that no one has before?"
In a sense, while being different can feel so isolating at times, it can also be a superpower. I'm so thrilled that this article felt reaffirming to you, as that is my goal with everything I write. Hopefully it can help us all find support, just like with superheroes who band together!
And thank you endlessly for your congratulations and kind words. They will bring me encouragement on the days I feel as if I may never climb out of our mountain of laundry. : )
Gene Lockard (not verified) says...
Caitlin, you're absolutely right that ENFPs do well wtih the "big picture," but seem to struggle with some of the day-to-day situations that crop up in life. I think what we need are other people to handle all of life's drudgery! I'm reminded of something John Lennon - thought to be an ENFP or an INFP - once said when asked how much money he had. He said he didn't have any idea, and that the interviewer would have to ask the person in charge of his finances. And he wasn't joking.
Regarding the phrase I used about watching people through a window, I think I first got that image as a child when I heard the tale The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson. I was quite young, and struggled to keep from tearing up in front of my classmates, who didn't seem as affected as I was. (By the way, that's another characteristic of our type - our empathy. We really feel the hurt and pain that others feel. Some types seem to experience another's pain on an intellectual level...but not us. We feel it.)
The image seemed appropriate because I often felt apart from a situation, even in a crowd, like I didn't quite belong or fit in entirely. I also had the feeling at times of being outside myself, observing something while being disconnected from it. It's not that I didn't feel accepted or welcomed; quite the contrary. I've been fortunate to have had a number of very patient, caring friends who made me feel completely welcomed. Yet, I generally felt like I was blending in with them, rather than having them blend in with me, or, better still, having us be like one another, with no blending necessary. I became the chameleon that changed colors. While that tendency for diplomacy and empathy and flexibility and seeing both sides is right up an ENFP's alley, it goes against our type's desire - need, really - to be true to oneself; to be totally and completely authentic. That's my experience, anyway. (I should add that I don't and never will compromise my beliefs to be like others. Even as a child in grade school, I consciously thought about how one might say one appreciates the person who marches to his own drumbeat, but in reality, most seem to want everyone to conform. I felt different from others in this way; I felt a bit like a non-conformist, at least inside. In fact, this was about the time that I first began to feel somewhat apart from others.)
Decades after I heard the story of the little girl selling matches, my then-wife took a course in temperament and careers at a community college, and a test revealed that she was an INFP. When she got home - her face still red and her eyes watery - she excitedly told me that it was so revealing that she felt completely naked in class. I was skeptical but curious, so we went out that evening and bought that little blue book that everyone first reads about temperaments, and I took the test. When I then read about ENFP personalities after learning my type, I had the exact same reaction as my wife.
For me, the most valuable thing about knowing about my type was discovering that I wasn't "broken" somehow, or even unique and strange in a bad way. Rather, it was learning that I was a fully functioning and stereotypical ENFP - the good, the bad and the ugly - and that there were others just like me! And I realized for perhaps the first time that the bad and the ugly were simply the differences from others, particularly STJs. I had allowed them to set the standards, and who can live up to those standards but STJs? And I also learned that they had their shortcomings, too, and that they struggled in areas where things came easily to my wife and me. And those areas were very important to me, and I would never trade my respective strengths and weaknesses for theirs - not for one day. I like being able to feel empathy for a total stranger I've neither met nor even seen. I like being open and flexible and creative. I like being able, as an interviewee, to put the interviewer at ease without them even realizing it. I like being young at heart. And if the price I must pay for all that is to, say, be a procrastinator regarding the drudgery of daily chores, it's a price I'm willing to pay many times over.
Ahem...having said that, my respective strengths and weaknesses often seemed a poor match for the requirements of a given job I might hold, and they certainly put me in sharp relief against my supervisors, and often, my co-workers, too. The very things I had most to offer seemed of relative unimportance, while those other qualities - the ones I struggled with - were often the most prized.
One final anecdote. I once took a class in temperament and career development at a local university. After being tested in multiple ways - Myers-Briggs was only one of the ways of classifying us - the person leading the class took a count of each type and wrote it on the board. The room must have had at least two hundred people in it - it was held in an auditorium - and there were only four ENFPs, counting myself. Later, we had a short break, and while at the soft drink machine, I somehow ended up in an enthusiastic and very pleasant conversation with two women who didn't know one another; we all met one another at the same time. It turned out that both of them were ENFPs! We three had somehow found three-quarters of all the ENFPs in the large class without trying! We found that hilarious...but not totally surprising. Make of that what you will.
Again, here's wishing you and your family much happiness as you go forward with your newest member of the family. I have no doubt that he will be the grateful recipient of a young-at-heart mother who is fun and playful, while teaching him the importance of being himself, and helping him find his best self. Oh...and if you can put to use your ISTJ mother's organizational ability and sense of duty, well...so much the better. ?
Caitlin Hawekotte says...
Gene, I can't even begin to thank you enough for your genuine and thoughtful reply! I don't even know where to begin because I related to each and every feeling and experience you shared. It is truly amazing how much these personality classifications and descriptions have helped people (like you and me!) to feel more understood and less alone. I love being able to connect over these common experiences of/in the world.
I also was first introduced to these types through the little blue book on temperaments when my father (an INFP) brought it home for our whole family to take the written assessment for fun. When I found I was an ENFP, I had so much of the same feelings of some sort of relief and validation that you and your then-wife did upon discovering your types.
I love what you shared about The Little Match Girl. I think that is one of the visuals I had when I first read what you said about standing outside a window. I also relate to that inner tension between blending in or making others comfortable and being true to one's self. It can be a delicate dance to maintain as much harmony and integrity as possible simultaneously.
What you said about the workplace and what is typically valued versus what is not as much resonated with me as well. In the end, I agree with you so much when you say, "And if the price I must pay for all that is to, say, be a procrastinator regarding the drudgery of daily chores, it's a price I'm willing to pay many times over." While being an ENFP (or any type, really) has its challenges, I am happy to spend all my days navigating them as a trade-off for all of the positives that come along with it. I hope that's how everyone feels about their type. : ) In fact, my dream would be for all people to feel that way about every type. We are all imperfect and beautiful, and it's so fun to explore the three-dimensionality of every person.
Also, I love that you and two of the other three ENFPs all found each other organically! That makes so much sense that you all gravitated toward one another. Isn't it funny how that happens?
Thank you so much for your well wishes and encouragement! It means so much to me what you said about the kind of mother my son will have. What you said is the best outcome I could ever possibly hope for -- plus I hope at least a fraction of my mother's fantastic traits if I can ever successfully adopt them as well! I wish you all the best, and I hope to share more on ENFPs in the future so we can engage further about these topics!
Anna (not verified) says...
This is exactly the sort of conversations and article i was looking for. I found this article on the facebook ENFP page and i'm so happy... such intelligence, empathy, wise words in the article and in the comments. It oozes love and acceptance and genuine feelings.
I have so much to say that i'm feeling overwhelmed. I will have to write it in my journal and get back to you with just the essentials.
Much love to you and all the people that commented.
Caitlin Hawekotte says...
Thank you so much for your kind words, Anna! It brings me so much joy to know you'd been looking for an article and sort of conversation like this. All of the comments, including yours, brought me comfort as well. If you get a chance, I look forward to hearing any other thoughts that may have come up to you as you journaled!
Sending much love to you as well!