How an introverted mom became an angry one

Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool

The glass left my hand and slammed into the wall on the far side of the bedroom, shattering into hundreds of shards on the carpet. As I turned to the side, I caught a glimpse of the reflection in the mirror before sinking to the ground in sobs.

I didn’t recognize myself.

That outburst happened almost ten years ago–thankfully without anyone else present–but I’ll never forget it.

Not only did I make a challenging day harder (cleaning glass out of carpet, anyone?), but I also recognized the warning sign I could no longer ignore.

And now that I understand more about my personality as an introvert, it all makes perfect sense.

I had never, ever thought of myself as an angry person before having kids. Ever. I don’t think anyone else would have used that adjective to describe me either.

But when Trishna joined our family from India at the age of four, the shock of suddenly having three little kids less than two years apart in age–two of them dealing with trauma of their own–brought me to the end of myself.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love my kids. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to care for them. I had been called to and completely wanted to do both of those things–they had been my dreams.


Photo taken weeks after I became a mom of three–with a 4-, 3-, & 2-year-old. I was already mucho-tired, ya’ll.

It was that as an introverted, highly sensitive mama, the sudden volume and chaos levels literally kept my nervous system in overdrive–nearly all day, every day.

And to think that I also felt God calling me to homeschool, too. Really, Lord? Is this some kind of sick joke?

Not long ago, I came across a list of the major factors that stress out my particular personality type (INFJ if you’re curious). I had to laugh (or cry, but I decided to laugh)–when I realized how nearly all of these stressors present themselves in my daily life as a homeschool mama!

Go ahead, have a chuckle at my expense:

What stresses out an INFJ
– Having to focus too much on sensory/concrete details (like what’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner!)
– An overload of sensory stimulation or noise (um, children!)
– Interruptions (like I said)
– Distress within close relationships (all. the. time.)
– Having her values violated (wanting to change the world, changing diapers instead)
– Not enough alone time. Too much extraverting. (This rings a bell)
– Working with closed-minded people (Oh, of course you’re having a tantrum because your toothbrush is blue, not red!)
– Lack of appreciation or understanding (Here’s looking at you, kid)
– Unfamiliar environments with overwhelming amounts of details (sounds like curriculum planning)
– Having plans disrupted (part of the job description, right?!)
– Not having a clear direction (but somehow I’m the one in charge!)
– Lack of harmony (sibling drama, anyone?)
– Criticism and conflict (rinse and repeat)
– Not being able to use their intuition or envision the future (Yep, future just a tad murky at times.)
– Having to focus too much on the present (Right, like today. And tomorrow. And…)

“When under stress, the INFJ may become uncharacteristically angry and quick-tempered, unreasonable, and irrational.” <—– YES, THIS.


Photo by Sofia Carvalho

God also saw fit to send me a little person dealing with anger of their own, too. So I have over a decade of experience dealing with and trying to figure out this issue.

A decade is not enough. I’m still in the trenches, but here are three things I’ve learned:

1. Anger is the normal response to the hard parts of motherhood, especially as an introvert.

For years, a pleasant, magical mother lived in my head and taunted me. She never got angry with her children, but would respond in a sing-song voice like this:

  • “Oh you just bit your brother again? Don’t do that, little sweetie!” (while gathering child in hug)
  • “You threw your toys all over the room in anger and broke a window? We’re both going to laugh about this someday!”
  • “You just told me that you didn’t like your birthday presents? I’m sorry–what else can we get you?”

To slowly realize that anger is the natural response to these choices, and in itself, not wrong–has lifted a huge weight of guilt off my mama shoulders.

2. Anger is my indicator to pause or change something.

Comparing anger to hunger has helped me. After all, we don’t try to eliminate hunger. It’s just supposed to be our cue, the signal that our body needs fuel.

Anger is also a cue from our body, a signal that we need to pause. We don’t just “press through” for the sake of keeping to the homeschool schedule. We change, we walk away, we breathe before dealing with the situation.

Anger points the way toward peace if we pay attention.

3. Quiet is a must have for me as an introverted mama.

My kids cannot flourish in our home if I constantly live on the edge of my God-given personality. We are all connected within these walls. That means I must do whatever I can on a daily basis to have quiet, recharging time.

I can lament this fact or view it as a gift. One I grant myself so that I can be my best for my family. It is a necessity and if neglected every person in my home will pay the price.

By taking care of myself, I can care for others too. And that’s what I most long to do!

“I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo; but I have learned not to show it…”
~ From Marmee to Jo, Little Women
Hey, if even Marmee struggled, we’re in good company!

I’d love to hear how you’ve navigated the waters from anger to calm as a mama, too!

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.

Comments

  1. As a fellow INFJ who didn’t think she had an anger problem until she had kids either, I thank you for this post! I have two high-energy boys, one of whom craves almost constant interaction. It’s very easy for me to slip into a near constant state of feeling rushed by them as I try to stay one step ahead. I’m working on recognizing this rushed feeling in the moment and then purposely slowing us all down, instead of trying to match their frenzied pace! Also, keeping expectations at a realistic level, not comparing ourselves to other homeschool families whose boys quietly play legos for hours! Most importantly, I need to read scripture daily to draw on God’s strength to remain patient and gentle, and let go of the selfishness, resentment, and the martyrdom mindset I can slip into. I’m thinking a monthly massage would help, too, lol!

  2. Have I ever told you I chipped a tooth gritting my teeth while the boys were little? Been there, friend. This is so well said. xo
    Caroline Rose’s latest post: Straight from the Source: Celeste Lim on Writing Historical Fiction

  3. elizabeth james says:

    This post could not have come at a better time for me. Suddenly I feel more validated than condemned. As an INFJ and highly sensitive introvert, I have been struggling with anger in my homeschool as I manage my four boisterous children, and my lack of patience has had all of them wondering what is going on. But it all makes sense! Over time the assault on my senses and the demands (often insensitive and/or irrational) have broken down my ability to cope. Coupled with my once-sharp brain feeling like mush and not being able to visualize the future amidst the daily grind— well, all the pieces are in place, according to your article. Thank you so, so much for writing this. It feels like a lifeline. I’m not being an awful mom. I needed to hear that today.

    • “Suddenly I feel more validated than condemned” <-----I couldn't ask for anything better than this, Elizabeth. Sometimes we need to just know we're not the only ones, right? I've no doubt you're loving your littles with all you've got. Good job, mama.

  4. I’m still working on it and can’t wait to dive into the Temper Toolkit! I am an ISFJ, sow while details don’t drive me crazy, the rest applies. I also have the perfect mom in my head. Trying to figure out how to get more quiet with some extremely extroverted kids!

  5. INFP here- and I can relate! hank you for the action plan 🙂

  6. INTJ mama here. I was that idyllic gentle and loving mother with my first. Then pregnancy with my second caused some awful hormonal gushes and I started dealing with prenatal and then postpartum depression. Add in a new business, a serious back injury and an intense screaming baby (won’t go into it all but it lasted a LONG time), and you have crazy rage-filled mama. It was hard and my marriage suffered and my children suffered. It took until we moved and I no longer had my business market or social obligations for me to slow down. It was pure bliss. Took a long time to unlearn my angry habits but God healed and my emotional stress level is a good barometer for how busy my schedule is. I just wrote about “introverted unschooling” and how I give myself permission to do nothing and go (almost) nowhere. Sleep is a priority too, as I sit here with my newborn who had me awake at 4:30am today 🙂 You better believe I’ll be napping today and going to bed at 9pm.

  7. Deb Robinson says:

    I love, love, love this post. I am an ISFJ mom. It has been a hard few years for us here. For so many reasons, thank-you for sharing this. I needed this today.

  8. Oh my. Yes. You said it first but I’ve been working to try to put many lessons into words. One of which is the fact that I. Need. To. Count. Myself. You have been a major voice in helping me understand this on my homeschool and motherhood journey. I am even more encouraged knowing that you are a fellow INFJ!! No wonder I find myself printing off so many of your articles for my various encouragement binders. (Yes. Binders. Plural.) Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing the refined gold you’ve found through your trials and being real about them!
    Tammy’s latest post: Alone and Yet…

  9. Christina Skinner says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much peace this article brought me. I also have the same personality and my husband doesn’t understand why I’m frustrated with his long work hours and the fact that I never get any time to myself. I just need to be away for an hour and have a break once in a while. This was so validating! I know the Lord wants me to be a stay at home mom and I do love it. I know he also wants me to homeschool and I’m learning to love that also. But all my husband says “you’re always unhappy. Maybe we should just put the kids in school.” It’s so nice how you explained it. I send it to him and hopefully he’ll understand a little bit more how I operate.

  10. Oh I resonate with this post!!!!!!!!!! After reading your list I have determined I am not wavering any longer, I am definitely an INFJ! You describe me to the T. I always thought something was wrong with me, and still do kind of, but you describe everything that bothers me about myself — like needing quiet.

    How do you homeschool and get the quiet that you need? I want to homeschool so bad and spend more time with my kids but if I don’t have quiet I am miserable and I am damaging my kids and their spirits.

  11. “For years, a pleasant, magical mother lived in my head and taunted me. She never got angry with her children, but would respond in a sing-song voice.” This speaks to me so deeply. Thank you for your reflection, Jamie. It’s hard, this work!
    Kelly’s latest post: Teaching Children How to Keep Time

  12. As an ISFJ on an international adoption journey who is also wanting to homeschool, but really wobbling with the decision because I worry I don’t have enough energy or patience for both, I can really relate! I find it so hard to know if I have what it takes and every time I get infuriated with my toddler’s silly nap time antics I doubt myself further. Lots of grace and space I guess!

  13. Wow. This is EXACTLY me. A struggle every day to keep my composure. I wonder if this personality type is largely represented my homeschooler parents.

  14. This was a really interesting post for me. It made me wonder what stresses out INTP’s (my type) and what might be present in home school that would do that. It also made me wonder what stresses out my husband’s type, INTJ, and what things he likes that stress out INTP’s, and what things I like that stress him out. Recognizing type differences would provide room in our relationship for each person to be him/herself rather than a stress response that we have to be like the other person. I don’t get angry, I get neurotic and paranoid if I don’t take care.

    Thanks for this very helpful post.

    • BTW – we are still in the nascent stages of home school, as we have a just-turned three year old and an 19 month old, both girls. 🙂

  15. INFP here who put her hand through a window last month . . . in front of all of the kids.
    Fortunately my husband helped me clean up the glass out of the carpet, the deck, and off the patio. He also cleaned up, boarded, and taped the window without condemning me. Now, if I could only remember not to condemn the children!!!
    Anne’s latest post: Review: Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels”

  16. I read this article yesterday. I’m reading it again this morning (after an evening of being furious at my son for sneaking jelly beans behind my back and drooling them all over my couch and brand new favorite throw pillow.) Yep, I think this is me.
    I’m a fellow INFJ (supposedly it’s not a common combination, but wow do I seem to meet a lot of them, both virtually and in person). I love my kids, I love homeschooling but Lord Have Mercy, sometimes I just don’t think I can take it anymore. Knowing what I need helps, but making it happen is another thing entirely. (We considered hybrid school next year so I could have more of a break, except that the price tag isn’t in our budget. I know my wild 5 year old boy would do disastrously in the full day highly academic K down the road, so that means homeschooling again. The academic part isn’t the problem. It’s everything else. The constant mess, the bad attitude, the lack of consideration, etc.)
    I feel like my son runs the house but I can’t manage standing over him 24 hours a day, I also have a 7 year old I’m homeschooling and an active toddler who needs my attention.
    I’d love to hear some tips on how you manage to actually find time to be quiet and recharge. The work never seems to end. We used to have quiet time around here, but keeping my son in his room for any period of time, without a screen became worse than not having a set aside quiet time.
    Plus I’m married to an even more extreme introvert. So it’s very loud around here and there are two very tired parents who are often on edge.
    Thanks for making those of us wired like this feel like we aren’t alone.

    • Hi, been there, done that. Angry, then yelling, then throwing. I tried a lot of things to put a stop to this behavior. Three things worked:
      1) Getting out of bed a full 2 hours before everyone else. I needed time to myself to read, write, stretch, try to exercise, shower, and eat before ANYBODY else had a chance to need ANYTHING.
      2) Dropping the kids off at Grandma’s when I needed a break…and not looking back
      3) Talking with other moms who feel the same way and “coaching” each other to do better. The guilt we feel is horrible. Knowing we scare our children when we get angry. Emotions on high means we need a break.
      Nope. You’re not alone

    • Your life sounds a lot like mine! Except mine is run by the high needs, constantly crying two year old and the emotional dramatic four year old girls. I gave up trying to have afternoon quiet time without screens a couple years ago when my daughter would never stay on her room, and now that is the designated “educational iPad time”. And I am also married to another introvert! Both of us are so emotionally exhausted by the weekend that it’s difficult to even give each other breaks from the kids. And we rarely spend time together anymore because both our needs to be alone is so desperate by that time! Thanks for sharing your struggles.

    • Hi Bethany, I just got home from a Homeschool conference and the keynote speaker (a Christian psychologist) recommended a very interesting book that I am in the middle of reading called “Reset your Child’s Brain”. Weird title, I know. But it is about Electronic Screen Syndrome and how to do a fast from electronics to help reset kids who are extremely affected by them. Look it up on Amazon and see what you think. We are going to try it with our 10 year old. It makes a lot of sense and she has helped over 500 children with this. May help to bring us some peace! 🙂

  17. Stephanie says:

    Oh how I can relate to this! I have forever been known as the quiet, stoic person who was not easily rattled. I immediately understood what you were saying about being introverted and easily overwhelmed by noise. I have found that all sorts of noise can effect me, i.e. Visual clutter, noisy toys, unfinished projects…
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. Wow! I feel like you wrote the thoughts out of my own mind. I am also an INFJ. I know that I tend to get angry with lots of distractions or noise. The odd thing was it didn’t tend to bother me much when I was at work, but, at home, I found myself constantly feeling on edge. I am finding strategies that help off set my irritable tendencies, but it is something I constantly have to work on.

    Thank you for this, and I love this part “For years, a pleasant, magical mother lived in my head and taunted me. She never got angry with her children, but would respond in a sing-song voice”

    I think this magical mother lived in my brain too, and I would then have to ask myself…”what’s wrong with you, Jessica?”

  19. LenaMaire says:

    Thank you so very much. I am also INFJ and highly sensitive, I have twin 5 year load boys who both have ADHD. There are days when I seriously think I’m losing my mind.
    I’m so glad to hear there are ways to cope that don’t include running away.

  20. Thank you thank you thank you. I have been hating myself lately since the anger recently krept into my life. With three under 8 and transitioning to homeschooling with one now and the others next year. I honestly have no idea how you do what you do. I am so very thankful for the emails that come in my box from you.

  21. Thank you for writing this post! I am an INFP/INFJ, and I really thought I was just lacking self-control every time I lost it with the kids! As a severely sleep deprived mom homeschooling and dealing with two high needs, very emotional girls, and all three of my kids extraverted, non-stop talkers, I feel like I am stretched beyond my capacity every single day. My husband works long hours and is also an introvert, so we are both emotionally enhausted by the weekend. I know God shows His strength in my weaknesses each day, and my desperate need makes me depend on Him more, but he also created me with this personality. So I should not feel guilty for needing so much time alone, and space to think and be in my own head, even if that means giving my kids screen time. I think the hardest part for me right now is needing time alone on both ends of the day, but often having to sacrifice much needed sleep to have it, which makes me even more short tempered. Anyway, thanks for providing this safe place to share our struggles! I don’t usually leave long comments but I guess I really needed to share and feel understood.

  22. LindaG says:

    Your article is just want I needed to read today! Thank you so much for sharing it. God knows I needed this because I wan’t even sure HOW I found your blog and this post. I don’t recall clicking onto Pinterest and getting here but apparently I did. Very timely for me indeed. This article sounds like me to a ‘T’, minus broken glass in the carpet. Apparently my extroverted self has changed over the years, I definitely match up to being a INFJ.

  23. I’m just nodding my head here.

    As an INFJ, HSP, and new lead pastor’s wife – finding myself in a very new place far away from everyone and everything I know, (and currently homeschooling three extroverts)…. I’m just saying yes to this post. Thank you SO MUCH. This is an important message, and I’m grateful for your bravery and obedience in posting it.

    Kind Blessings,
    Kate

Share Your Thoughts

*

CommentLuv badge