According to a recent survey of research on parenting and happiness (as reported by Livescience), "a happy marriage, secure bank account, and good sleep make for happy moms and dads."
While I agree with this, the list also made me think about what else helps me enjoy my role as a parent. Here's what I came up with:
1. Don't compare.
Comparing yourself and your children to others will make you discontent and make your family miserable. Enjoy your family as they are and never mind what others are doing.
2. Be present.
Don't think about next week, next month or next year. Try to enjoy the moments with your children right now.
3. Have a vision.
While living in the present, it's important to have a vision as to what you want for your children. What is your parenting vision? Be specific... don't just say, "I want my kids to be happy." When you have a vision, it's easier to discern how to handle different situations with your children.
Also, decide what values you want to foster and what you would like to encourage. For instance, if you want giving and compassionate children, then you may want to expose them to charitable causes at a young age.
4. Forgive and ask for forgiveness.
When your children mess up, forgive them (and let them know you forgive them). When you mess up, make sure to admit your errors and ask them for forgiveness. Parenting with guilt only leads to misery. Speaking of guilt, my next piece of advice....
5. Every day is a new day.
I love Anne of Green Gables. I have watched the television movies more times than I can count. One thing that stuck with me from the movie is when Anne discovers this advice: "Every day is a new day with no mistakes in it."
Amen! We parents tend to lug around a suitcase of errors and wear chains of guilt around our necks.
Let. It. Go.
Treat each day as a new day and a fresh start. Do this for yourself and for your children.
(A side note, I'm not talking Idina Menzel's "Let It Go"... I'm speaking about Luba's "Let It Go," because I'm an '80s girl.)
6. Ask for help.
When you're in over your head and you don't know what to do or how to handle things... ask for help. You're not alone! Chances are, hundreds of thousands of parents have felt what you're feeling or have gone through something similar. Reach out to someone you trust and ask for assistance.
7. Let your children be themselves.
Do not expect miniature, better versions of yourself. Your children are individuals. Attempting to change them will only lead to disappointment and frustration.
Enjoy your children's uniqueness and celebrate their differences.
I can't tell you how much joy one can derive from play. It's not just for our children, either! Build with some blocks, dress up in some costumes and crawl around on the floor with your kids. If you feel like you don't know how to play, then check out this article, which I wrote a few years ago. It gives lots of pointers on how to play with your children.
9. Take care of yourself.
Don't get lost in caring for your children and neglect yourself. Self-care is critical to your well-being and will have a huge impact on your parenting. I make sure to take care of myself spiritually, physically and mentally. Prayer, exercise, eating well, resting well and thinking positively have a huge impact on my happiness, which, in turn, makes me a happier parent.
10. Have a sense of humor.
If you put a comedic spin on everything, you'll be happier! Seek laughter and enjoy the funny things your kids do. The parenting journey seems like a long one at times, but it goes by quickly. Smile, laugh, and enjoy all that you can.