17 Ways to Be a Happier Parent
We have all heard the saying, If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. It’s true. But the converse is true also, if the whole family isn’t happy, neither is momma.
There was definitely a time in my life as a mother, where I let dailiness of life got in the way of being happy. What I mean by that is that I didn’t take the time to enjoy the moment, I was always thinking about the next moment, or the sink of dishes, or the laundry that needed washing…. it seemed that there was always something that was distracting me from truly being happy in the moment. I looked forward to the next year, when the kids would be walking or or finally talking, or able to buckle themselves in the car…. I thought that these small things would make life easier and in turn make me happier. When I was a young mother just out of college and money was extremely tight, I thought that if I only had more money I wouldn’t be stressed and I would therefore be happier. What I discovered, however, was that once money was no longer an issue I found other things to steal my joy. I realized that most of the things that annoyed me the most as a young mother, really did not matter.
And so I made a conscious effort to figure out what would make me the happiest. What things gave me the most bang for my buck, so to speak. And the rest I just let go. Is there a way to just be happier? Or is the real secret to stop making yourself crazy with the things that don’t matter?
What can you do to cultivate more joy and happiness into your life? I have found that it is the small things that matter the most.
It is the one rule that we have at our house. And more than a rule it is a guiding principle by which I want my family to live their lives. It covers almost everything. Be kind to everyone, and kinder still to those who least deserve it. And most of all be kind to yourself. It sounds cliche, but the more kindness you put out into the world, the more kindness that comes back to you. Karma isn’t just about negative things or as I heard someone say recently, karma is only a bitch if you are.
Compliment your children.
Find something every day to praise them about. Some days it might be something small and insignificant that you really have to search to find. One day last week one of my teenagers had been getting on every last nerve I had. He was in the kitchen making himself a snack and I went in there and said, “You are so good at making chocolate milk.” He looked at me sideways, “Are you being sarcastic?” I assured him I was not. He makes himself chocolate milk all the time and his younger siblings always ask him to make them a glass too. He laughed. But what this exchange did was take the obnoxious wind out of his sails. Sometimes we all need that. I have noticed that my children have learned this example and when I am feeling stressed or annoyed they will often compliment me on something random or say something nice. It never fails to change my mood.
Look at the big picture.
This morning my 8-year old was having a tantrum about a pair of athletic shorts he wanted to wear to school. I had told him to change out of them because they are old, a little ratty, and on the small side. However, he was hell bent and determined to wear them to school. I began to argue with him about it and then thought, why do I care? One of my older kids witnessed the entire thing, looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you are giving in to him because he was throwing a fit!” And I told him, “I didn’t give in, I changed my mind because it really doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t have started the battle to begin with.”
That is the lesson here, I used to get hung up on things like this frequently when my kids were younger. I didn’t want them to think they could walk all over me, so I would stand my ground. There is a time and a place to stand your ground, but there is definitely a time and a place to let it go. I chose to have a more peaceful morning and that made everyone in the house happier.
Make time to do things for yourself.
What do you like to do? Well, go do it!
Have fun with your kids.
Be silly. Laugh at their fart jokes. Text your older kids ridiculous pictures of videos you find on the Internet. Include them in the absurdities of your day. My older teens love when I try to make them laugh by pretending I’m cool.
Let It go.
Whatever “it” is. A perfectly clean house, color coordinated kid clothing, whatever your “it” is that causes stress, let it go. Personally I love to clean. I find it relaxing. However, you will never see beautiful flower pots on my front porch, well with live flowers in them anyway, nor will my children ever have ironed clothes. And you know what? That is okay. Just as it is okay that my teenagers want to live in bedrooms that look like an episode of Hoarders. That is why God invented bedroom doors so mother’s won’t have to look at all the clothes piled on the floor.
A funny aside, yesterday one of my sons forgot his track uniform at home. He called me in the middle of the day to ask if I could bring it to him. And as I was about to hang up he asked, “Don’t you want to know where it is?” And I answered, “Is it somewhere other than the floor?”
I let the messy bedrooms go. I used to yell at my kids to clean them up. I would go in and clean them myself. But now I figure as long as there is no food, or wrappers, or actual garbage strewn around, that if they want to keep their clothing in a rumpled mess on the floor why do I care?
Don’t overdo it!
I have one friend who schedules her children so that every single free moment of every day is filled. It is exhausting just talking to her about all her children’s activities. But sometimes I fall into the trap of listening to her and feeling as if I’m depriving my kids. I’m not. And I almost always regret signing up for so many things. I am a homebody. My kids are too, for the most part. One activity per season is enough for them and for me.
Don’t be a martyr.
If you need help, ask for help. If you have to pay for help, do it. I have a lawn and yard service (see the above about letting it go.)
Clean the kitchen sink.
I remember when I first got onto the Internet I was introduced to the Flylady. She sent daily emails about cleaning and keeping your house organized. One of the big things that she said was to make sure you clean your kitchen sink every night. That little bit of advice resonated with me and has stuck with me for all these years. If I wake up to a messy house in the morning it annoys me and sets the tone for the rest of my day. I wish this weren’t the case, but it is. I think the kitchen sink is a metaphor for whatever drives you nuts. Figure out what your “kitchen sink” is and make it a habit to just do it.
Get dressed every morning.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just clothes, hair brushed, etc. That way as I progress with my day it isn’t hanging over me. And when unexpected guests come to the door I’m not hiding or running to find a bra.
Instead of planning things all the time I like to surprise my kids. Pick them up at school and take them to the movies on a school night. Roast marshmallows. Eat breakfast cereal for dinner. Tell them to call some of their friends and invite them over for a pizza party and movie, for no reason. Right at bedtime when everyone is in their PJs tell them to get in the car and bring them out for an ice cream cone. Have a nighttime picnic and try to find constellations. Play flashlight tag. I prefer to do all these things spontaneously because when we try to plan things in advance many times life will get in the way. The best memories that I have of my childhood are those where we did something on the spur of the moment. That is probably because there were no expectations in advance. It simply was the moment that it was.
Plan meals in advance.
Oh how I hate this one. (See spontaneous breakfast cereal dinner above.) I don’t enjoy cooking, but I have found if I plan in advance and know what’s for dinner that I don’t get as stressed at dinner time. There is nothing worse than having hungry kids and peering into the pantry and realizing you don’t have most of the ingredients you need. This causes a lot of stress for me because I am not one of those people who can just whip something up out of random ingredients.
Ask your kids what they want to do.
You might be surprised. We just had spring break and on the first day I was already hearing complaining about boredom. So I had my daughter make a list of things she wanted to do. Her list included things like: jump on the trampoline with the sprinkler on, go to the dollar movie theater, have an ice cream sundae for dinner WITH whipped cream, fly a kite, make smores. There was no reason we couldn’t do these things. They were all completely reasonable and inexpensive. Sunday night before school started my daughter declared that Spring break 2013 was a success. Fistbumps all around.
Limit your exposure to the news.
The world is not full of as much evil as the news would have you believe. There is no reason that you have to know every last bit of horror that happens in the world. I am content not knowing most of it, or at the very least not knowing all the gory details of every horrific news item.
Spend time being present with your kids.
I put my phone and computer away when my kids get home from school. It is far too easy to become distracted. I would much rather interact with my kids and hear about their day than read twitter. My younger kids still like to tell me about their days in minute detail. Soon they won’t and so I savor these talks while I can.
I used to hate it, but now I find it enjoyable. And I find being able to fit into my shorts, while still enjoying nachos, makes me happy. I have one son who loves all things physical. A few years ago when he found out that there were people who were physical trainers, his eyes lit up and he said, “You mean to tell me there are people who get to work out all day and get PAID for it? Why doesn’t everyone do that job?” I didn’t want to spoil his moment and tell him that some of us, ahem, would find that job the very definition of hell! This son goes to the gym with me and his excitement in contagious.
Don’t compare your inside to everyone else’s outside.
None of us have it all together. It’s just an illusion.
What do you do to be a happier parent and have happier kids? Do you think that there is some sort of secret to being happy every day, or do you think it is a daily choice?
Top Photo: temporary tattoo available at Tattly