(NB: This is a fictional work)
There once lived a family of four—daddy Charlie, mother Cecilia, son Calvin, and daughter Cheryl.
Circuit Breaker was a blessing in disguise for the family of four. Charlie and Cecilia started working from home, while Calvin and Cheryl did their home-based learning at home. Every day, they gather around the dining table to work and study. When it was time for lunch, they ate and at the end of the day, they gathered in the living room to watch their favourite television series on Channel 8. Life during Circuit Breaker is great.
I wish I could say the same for my family, but life isn’t perfect, and I can confidently say it’s probably the same for 90% of the families out there. Communal living is never easy—we don’t stay in a family of Mother Theresa-s or Mahatma Gandhi-s—and petty squabbles are inevitable.
In reality, this is what a typical day at the Chua’s looks like:
1. Fighting for Fridge Space
Everyone is home now, and everyone wants their favourite food within their reach. Sadly, the refrigerator did not grow in correlation to the time spent at home.
Calvin, who loves ice cream, comes home with three tubs of his weekly supply after his NTUC run. He battled the supermarket war, the hot, humid weather, lugged his ice cream home and has the battle scars to show for it. When he reaches home, his back is drenched in sweat. Before removing his mask, he immediately makes his way to the kitchen, fling the cooler door open only to find there is no space left. The fridge is filled with his mother’s groceries.
Time is ticking, and his ice cream is turning into a pool of slush. In his frantic ENFP mode, he screams at the top of his lungs, “MOM. I need space in the fridge!”
His mother, a classic ISTP, walks towards the kitchen and sees his three tubs of ice cream. In her very rational mode, she asked, “Why do you need to eat so much ice cream?” Unable to connect the dots of prioritising dessert over frozen meat, she replies curtly and condescendingly, “At this rate, you can go get your own fridge!”
A deafening silence permeates the kitchen.
2. Space Crunch
“Work from Home” and “Home-based learning” are pretty new concepts to us and will have implications within the household. To many of us, they can be a source of tension.
Cheryl is now a working adult in the Human Resource Department at a Multinational Company. She is responsible for recruitment and calls potential candidates daily. Her boss—a micromanager—badgers her for an update via a Zoom meeting.
The living room is now a co-sharing space with the three other Chua’s. Interestingly, her dad—Charlie, is now her desk colleague. Charlie is a private banker who makes daily work calls to review his client’s portfolio. Without a doubt, Charlie is a typical type A personality—extremely goal-oriented and an efficiency-driven ESTJ.
With WFH, there seems to be a faint line between home and work. He takes this overbearing attitude home and deems his work as “more important”.
When Cheryl’s and his work call coincide, he rudely snubs his daughter and gets her to end her calls although she might be in the midst of her interview with a candidate.
Cheryl, on the other end, is an INFP who values her rights and has zero tolerance for her dad’s dominance. Growing up, she might be a daddy’s girl. However, these two months of authoritarianism is challenging her threshold.
She confronted Charlie about his condescending tone. Without completing the account, we know the story didn’t end well. Yet, another family feud.
3. “What to eat?”
It’s 6 pm, and it’s time to order dinner for the family. As democratic as our election process, during mealtime, everyone gets a life-defining vote in the Chua family. To save on delivery charges, everyone has to order from the same shop.
With the recent telecommuting move, Cecilia has started to embark on a strict diet. She wants to eat something that satisfies her green diet. On the other hand, Charlie wants his delectable chicken biryani from the famous Indian restaurant chain.
Can you feel the tension in the air already? If I am Cheryl or Calvin, I will probably take refuge and retreat into my hiding cave because there is nowhere else I can go.
4. “Who left the unwashed cutleries in the sink?”
The Chua family is trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible—in their GrabFood order, they always choose the “no cutlery” option.
Did I mention that the Chua’s are very democratic people? To ensure fairness, they’ve also implemented a clean-the-kitchen duty roster.
Let me introduce the youngest member of the family—Calvin. He is a typical schooling teenager who loves cyber gaming. Also, he bears the INFP traits, which can be somewhat forgetful and distracted by his thoughts at times.
Now, back to dinner. When everyone is done with their food, it’s time for some cleaning. As Calvin was about to start, he suddenly thought of a gaming strategy to level himself up. It was an opportunity he needed to seize as he has hit the same roadblock in the game for more than two days now.
He left the kitchen hurriedly, made a quick detour back to his room, and entered his cyber realm.
In the morning, trail marks of the crazy kitchen party for the creepy crawlies was evident. No prizes for guessing who’s the biggest enemy of the Chua’s.
5. “Who touched my table?”
One afternoon while Calvin was bathing, Cecilia walked past her son’s room and saw a messy table cluttered with books. Being a reactive problem solver, her logical mind speaks up. “How can he study in such a messy environment? How is he going to find his reference books?” Without further delay, she leapt in and rearranged his table.
Calvin, also a borderline INFJ, values his personal space and boundaries. His table might be a messy fortress of books, but he knows precisely where he slotted his chemistry periodic table. Ironically, this neat desk is now something he views as a mess.
“WHERE IS MY PERIODIC TABLE?”
Throughout human history, psychologists have always tried to categorise mankind into personality groups—one such methodology being Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), as used in the above five scenarios. Be it in the name of “knowing yourself better”, as a form of self-discovery, or for community betterment such as in handling conflict management. But the simple truth is that we are too convoluted to be classified into groups.
Everyone is so uniquely shaped by our one-of-a-kind experiences and fervent beliefs. Whilst some of us belong to distinct groups, most of us fall within the overlapping spaces of the Venn diagram—somewhat a no man’s land.
Having said that, this doesn’t make these frameworks any less futile. Knowing yourself and your loved ones are journeys of its own and a life-long one. I can safely assume that knowledge is better than ignorance so, at petty warring times like this, we can either choose to avoid stepping on these conspicuous land mines or learn to defuse them. Either way, there’s not much choice, is there?
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