I never wanted children. There, I said it. When I was young, I never once thought I would grow up to become a mother. Shit, I never even had the girlish dreams of having a big wedding or getting married in general. I valued independence from the day I could possess my own thoughts, and never wavered from that.
To this day, I still know nothing of the feeling of desiring a child, having the “baby urge” or anything related to “fulfilling a biological need”. That being said, I am a mother of two and I wouldn’t trade it for my life.
As the oldest of 5, I grew up in a household of babies, toddlers and children; I was also a highly successful babysitter at a young age. I am fabulous with children, but not in the stereotypical way. As an INTJ, my methods seem to fall along the lines of the “provider and caretaker” role much more than the “playful” one. Based on the opinions of some, that makes me a bad mother. I disagree.
I had my oldest when I was 22. I was very (too) young, and she is now 20, upon the date of this post. I didn’t want to keep the baby, but her father (with whom I am long divorced) did. Sure, I had read about the “bond” that can form during pregnancy, but it didn’t hit me until about 3 months in, and when it did, I was all in.
It was rather surreal when that switch flipped, and I immediately became concerned and prepared for everything. I realized at that point that this baby has no choice in its beginnings, but I did, and did everything right. I ate the right things, did the right things, had a natural birth and breastfed her. I viewed all of this as a preparation for her life, and I couldn’t abide my child not having the most solid foundation possible. Additionally, I certainly couldn’t abide her having any health problems based on anything I ate or did while she was in the womb or while she was an infant.
When a young innocent cannot take care of themselves, I get into full caretaker mode and make sure they have everything they could possibly need to be comfortable. I also do this with puppies. Obviously, some sort of strange motherly instinct. My children rarely cried, simply because I viewed crying relating only to a specific reason. Proactively fight the reasons, and they will rarely cry. Simple.
Now when the child gains some sort of independence, this is where it gets tricky. I was so self-entertained as a child, I naturally expected my children to be as well. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, but I got fairly lucky with mine. I followed a mantra of keeping them fed and comfortable, and that seemed to work…for the most part.
My daughter was naturally a bit needy for my taste, and I fought hard to teach her a bit about independence as early as she could understand. I knew going in that I wasn’t the playful type. I couldn’t relate to other children when I was a child, let alone as an adult. That part has always been a challenge for me, and playful interaction always feels a bit forced. I always excelled at selecting toys that appealed to their specific interests, were educational and inspiring, but not so much playing with them. Again…the provider. Playing was always so exhausting. Let me expand on that:
All of us INTJs know the exhaustion that results from prolonged social interaction; that, “I could sleep forever” exhaustion that cannot be avoided. Take the average level of exhaustion that results from hours at a forced family event and multiply that by ten. I have no explanation as to why the simple presence of a child, even a self-entertaining well-behaved one, can exhaust me beyond all reason. They suck the energy right out of my body in a way that almost nothing else can.
I have spent years trying to understand and attempt to fight it, with no result, and have chalked it up to the general need to be concerned about another human being, having to provide for them and having to maintain some level of attention at all times. Because I cannot focus 100% on what I am doing in the presence of a child, it causes the resulting mental exhaustion…but that is just my theory.
The one area I have felt I have differed when it comes to raising my children, is the fact that I don’t particularly feel the need to shelter them. I feel that they should learn about all of the horrors of the world, general human nature and reality while they are safe under my roof and can ask questions. When they ask me a question, I will always provide a factual answer, whether or not I like giving it. My son is still a bit too young to take advantage of this open dialogue, however my daughter has felt free to discuss any manner of subject with me, without any judgement.
I have also received criticism for exposing my daughter to true crime and other more controversial subjects at a fairly young age. I do this because I was exposed to it, and it made me very aware of my surroundings, taught me to trust the right people and listen to my intuition. Sure, it may not be “appropriate for children”, but when it is ever appropriate? I don’t want my daughter going into the world sheltered from the knowledge of reality.
I feel that raising my daughter to be independent is just as important as showing her love and attention (which I do, in my own way). I had a moment of pride when she called me after school one day, when she was in middle school, letting me know that a car was slowly following her when she was walking down the street. She said she remembered a story we watched or read together, trusted her intuition and walked straight to a trusted neighbor’s house. I feel that her early exposure to the realities of these situations prevented her from potentially becoming a victim, and was the precise reason I felt this exposure was important.
I was a child in the 80’s and “stranger danger” was talked about extensively; We all walked to and from school and “latch-key” was just becoming a real thing. Today, it is my opinion that the focus has switched to “helicopter parenting” and the failure to expose children to reality. I like to prepare for the fact that I will not always be around my children. That is reality.
The fact is, INTJs desire to raise strong, independent and rational children, just as we were. In a different time, this would have been quite normal, however today, it seems to be frowned upon. I don’t want any of my children, male or female, to ever need to rely on someone else to support their lives and well-being. I also want them to make educated choices in all aspects of their lives, as I cannot always be there to guide them or make the choice for them.