We're juggling soccer practice with potty training. We are simultaneously cooking dinner as we help with a science fair project. Not only are we required to teach good values to our children, but also emulate those qualities ourselves. And don't even get me started on the parent guilt we feel on the days we fall short. Sadly, the good intentions and never-ending "to-do" lists can turn us into parent-bots. We go through the motions of every day becoming so fixated on the end result or "what's next" that we lose our sight of what truly matters most: our family. And when we start to take life too seriously, not only does our sense of well-being suffer, but ultimately our family life takes a hit.
So what's the cure? Sure, you can go get a massage, do some yoga, have a Netflix marathon night, take a nap or eat a slice (or two) of cheesecake to loosen up. Every parent needs a little escape from the stresses of parenthood. But lately I've discovered that the daily treatment in finding a more relaxed, happier version of ourselves is to take a few lessons from the very people who make us want to tear our hair out. That's right. If we truly want to become a better parent and person today, our kids have a thing or two to teach us on how to find happiness in our day-to-day routines.
Be honest with yourself
Kids, particularly the younger ones, are a walking truth serum. They have no qualms in telling you how they really feel about the dinner you just made or how Aunt Sue smells funny. As cute (or embarrassing) as it is to hear the things that come out of those little mouths, we can learn a lot from them. In fact, we need that honesty when it comes to what we allow to fill up our hours in the day.
When you plan your week, truthfully ask yourself: "Do I really need to do all of these things? Did I say 'yes' to too many favors when I really wanted to say 'no?' Am I just being busy for the sake of being busy?" Being honest with yourself about what takes up your precious moments is the difference between a happy parent and one who's running on fumes. Simplify and be truthful about what really needs to be on your agenda and you'll find a more flexible easy-going version of yourself. And so will your kids.
Kids can put a funny spin on any moment at any time. They don't wait until they have finished the task at hand. They are silly in the mundane moments of doing homework and getting ready for bed.
Not only does a little laughter have the potential of diffusing tension and bad feelings, but it puts things in perspective as to what matters most. So your Pinterest birthday cake was a disaster? Guess what? Your 3-year-old daughter didn't even notice. But now you've got a good story to tell and pictures to prove it.
Laughter is not just a good idea. According to scientific research, a good chuckle has the power to relax the body, boost the immune system, trigger the release of endorphins and protect your heart against cardiovascular problems. So make an effort to find the humor in the everyday moments. Your well-being and family life will thank you for it.
Forgive and forget
One of the best traits I have found in my children is the ability to forgive quickly.
Not long ago, I had one of those parenting days where I had lost my cool one too many times with my son. Later, I gave him a tearful apology. My son's quick response both touched and amazed me: "It's okay mommy. You just had a hard day. I still love you." He didn't even think twice about forgiving me! And he expressed how much he still cared for me, even though I felt I was undeserving of his love. In that moment, I learned the importance of letting things go and to not only be more gentle and loving toward those around me, but especially with myself.
This parenting thing is a tough gig. Let's cut ourselves some slack (as well as those around us) by applying this simple phrase: Forgive, forget and move on.
I've always envied the way kids can just play at a park and not even care what time it is. It's true that kids don't carry the burdens and responsibilities of adults, but at the same time there is something to be said about being present for each moment of the day. When you are on a family outing is it hard to resist checking your email or the latest sports stats? When your kids are trying to tell you about their day are you thinking about what's next on your list? According to this article, multitasking is really just another form of distraction, not productivity. If you want to enjoy life more, learn to unplug from technology and your "to-do" list and focus on what – or more importantly – who matters most. You may discover that your days feel more complete not by the amount of checkmarks next to your tasks, but because of the connections made with those you care about most.
Being a good parent is one taxing job that is definitely not for the faint of heart. But don't let those good intentions overshadow the most important people in your life. With a little honesty, laughter, forgiveness and being present for each moment, you will not only discover a happier version of yourself but a richer, more peaceful home life.