I’m reading The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. It has me looking at my life, making me wonder if I can be happier (yes), and figuring out how to accomplish that.
Coincidentally, since it was recently Mother’s Day, I just read Chapter 4 on parenthood. And it has me asking the question, “Am I happy as a parent?”
As Gretchen shares, “children are…a tremendous source of worry, expense, inconvenience, and lost sleep.” In fact, one study showed women’s emotions around “child care” are only slightly more pleasant than “commuting.” Yikes! Yet, most people will tell you children are a tremendous source of happiness. Me included.
It is all about the little moments. For me, I’m happiest as a Mom when I’m reading to the boys, having a real conversation with them, or snuggling. The best is when you get a surprise hug, kiss, “I love you,” or special present like a simple drawing or dandelion.
But as with Mother’s Day, there’s lots of guilt. I yell too much, my patience is too short, and I’m always wondering if I could spent more time with them or treasure all the moments more.
Ideas for Being a Happier Parent
Originally this post started as “Being a Happy Parent.” But hopefully all of us are happy being parents. The question is how can we be happIER parents? The parenthood chapter of The Happiness Project has offered me some inspiration while also affirming that I might be doing a thing or two right. Of Gretchen’s four suggestions in the parenthood chapter, I’m two for two. I need to work on:
- Singing in the morning. Well, maybe not singing, but finding ways to start the day better. I need to lighten up on the drill sergeant routine and instead try being the morning cheerleader or “good day starter.” And this is a challenge because I’m not a morning person. I’ve found adding some singing, joking, and even tickling brings smiles to the boys’ faces and goes a long way to a better day. I’m also trying to extend these practices throughout the day.Of course, many times after singing, “It’s time to get ready,” I find the boys doing anything but that and the drill sergeant comes out. But I’m trying.
- Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings. In particular, your kids’ feelings, but it works for other’s, too. Often, we say, “No!” I’m sure more than we’d like. According to Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s books, Siblings Without Rivalry and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, now both on my reading list, “we should acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings. In other words, don’t deny feelings such as anger, irritation, fear, or reluctance; instead, articulate the feeling and other person’s point of view.”While the answer still might be no, you might try communicating it another way. When my youngest can’t do something my oldest is doing, he pouts or cries or whines. My usual response: frustration, which ends up in yelling at someone. Now I try to acknowledge his feelings: “I know you want to do everything your big brother does and you’re frustrated when you can’t.” Similarly when my oldest is crushed because he can’t go somewhere due to weather or another commitment, I do the same: “I totally understand you’re upset because you can’t go. If I could snap my fingers and make the sun shine, I would.” And I have to say, some times those acknowledgments help. I don’t always remember to do this and it doesn’t always prevent the tantrums, but it is nice to have a more positive response.
The two things I’m succeeding in are being a “treasure house of happy memories” and taking time for projects. In my next post, you’ll learn more about a tradition I’ve started that I hope will not only be a happy memory for my boys, but a reminder of how much they’re love. And I’ll keep more ideas on creating memories and doing projects in future posts. I hope you’ll share yours, too!
Have you read The Happiness Project? What were your takeaways?