Parenting is hard and it’s easy to find yourself stuck in a rut with all the damn dailies. But I believe that happiness is relative to your expectations. We all have this romanticized idea of what parenting will be like before we have kids… and then we have them and realize some if it’s not so glamorous. Managing your expectations and keeping perspective is key to finding all the joy that parenting has to offer. Juggling your children, your marriage, a job (perhaps), and the stresses from the outside world (strangers, other parents, the media, the “experts”) can be downright stressful. Hey, no pressure, you’re only doing the most important job in the whole wide world and raising another human being! Below are my 15 keys to being a happy parent:
1.) Have realistic expectations – If you expect that parenting is going to be awesome every day, that your kids will always listen and that you’ll always know what to do, be ready for some serious disappointment. Instead, modify those expectation, account for the hard days and when they happen they will be much easier to handle.
2.) Focus on the end goal – Isn’t our goal in raising children to develop independent adults who are productive members of society? So when some days all you can muster is the energy to clothe them, feed them and get them off to school, remember you are working toward your goal! And when they are stubborn and strong-willed and want to do it all themselves, think of it as a preview to the independence you one day want them to have.
3.) You don’t have to be perfect at everything – Every parent has their “parenting gift”. Whether it’s keeping calm, discipline, dinner, homework, birthday parties, snacks, fun-filled activities or communicating with their children, all parents have some part of this job where they excel. But no one, let me repeat, no one is perfect at it all. Attempting to be is a futile effort. So figure out which part you’re great at and be at peace with the fact that you won’t be perfecting all the others.
4.) Don’t compare yourself to other parents – Just because other parents do it doesn’t mean you should too! Sound familiar? What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another, so don’t even try to compare. We’re all different parents and we all have different kids, so comparing your adequacies next to another parent just doesn’t make sense. Own your own parenting skills!
5.) Do the best that you can – At the end of the day, this is really all we can do. So if you can finish each day knowing that you did the best you can, then who cares what craziness took place? Who cares if you got dirty looks from the bystanders at the grocery store for your screaming kids? Be the best parent you can be and don’t worry about the rest.
6.) Factor in some failures – If we can all go into this parenting job knowing that we’re going to fail miserably at times, it really just takes some pressure off. I’m not suggesting we lower our standards, but let’s be real, it’s not like this is all within our control anyways. Think of failures as learning opportunities for you and your kids, and try to make the best of them. They will happen, so it’s up to you how you react.
7.) You won’t always make the right decisions – There is no crystal ball with kids. You can’t tell if the punishment you dole out is going crack their code or send them into a tailspin. There are so many decisions in parenting – public, private or homeschool? How much screen time? Finish your plate or not? Stay at home or work? Their friends… their extracurricular activities… their bedtime… It is impossible to get all this right. And even if you make the “right” decisions, it probably still isn’t “right” for all of your kids. So what to do? Look back to #5 and pray.
8.) This too shall pass – Every parent goes through a phase (or two, or three) with their kids that seems impossible to overcome. Not sleeping through the night, wetting the bed, separation anxiety, temper tantrums, etc., etc. To keep your sanity, just remember, this too shall pass. These times are fleeting. Not only will the not-so-desirable phases not last forever, but before we know it our kids will be grown and we’ll probably miss it.
9.) Maintain your own identity – Don’t forget about you. Make sure you have an outlet, something that makes you happy. Whether it’s a job or a hobby or an hour of solitude to just think (or sleep), just do it. Making time for you will make you a better and happier parent.
10.) Don’t let the kids overrun your marriage – Make time for your spouse. Go on dates. Take trips. Buy each other gifts. Talk about something other than the kids. Make each other a priority. Don’t blame the kids for why you can’t be a good spouse (“I’m too tired…”). Remember that one of the most important things you can do for your kids is to keep your marriage strong, so don’t let your marriage come second to your kids.
11.) Don’t impose your dreams on your kids – It’s only natural to have dreams for your kids… just don’t be so caught up on those dreams that your kids not fulfilling them brings disappointment to you. Give them opportunities to pursue whatever dreams they have and take your expectations out if it.
12.) It’s okay to be like your parents – One day you will probably find yourself acting just like your parents. Don’t fight it. You turned out awesome, right?
13.) Find someone to clean your house – Now I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you can make sacrifices to make this happen, do it. However, be warned, once you start, it will be hard to ever stop. It is shocking how much stress is removed from your life when you don’t have to spend your weekends cleaning. The extra time with your kids is simply priceless. This one will really, really keep a parent happy.
14.) When all else fails, have a dance party – Everything going wrong? Kids in a crappy mood? Dinner was burned? It’s nothing that turning up some music and dancing like a fool with your children can’t solve.
15.) Avoid taking your kids out in public – No, just kidding. I couldn’t resist. Although, it is tempting sometimes :).