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.