We have every convenience at our fingertips, and yet we are more bogged down and helpless than ever before.
Our generation has made parenting overcomplicated and difficult. If raising kids is so stressful, it’s because the parents have made it so.
So here are a couple of things today's parents need to understand:
- You choose to make too many rules.
- You choose to make a tight schedule and to sign your kid up for baseball, soccer, tennis, fencing, gymnastics, art, sculpting, drama and clarinet so he or she can get into the finest institutions.
- You choose not to spend time with your partner/spouse and make your entire life revolve around your kid(s).
- You choose to not take time for yourself.
- You choose not to have fun.
And on, and on, and on.
I believe that children come into our lives and need to learn to navigate our world instead of completely upending everything.
I have also come to understand that children mimic what they see, not what you tell them. I have flipped the equation from happy kids = happy parents. If you do things that make you happy, your children will ultimately be happy.
Why are we having children if we’re just going to be miserable? Is that what we want for ourselves? It sure isn’t what I signed up for and I simply refuse to settle.
So today, I ask that you sing a new anthem (go ahead, sing it to the tune of the "Star Spangled Banner"):
Oh say can you see. There’s a person here, it’s me.
Maintain your identity as a person. You may be a parent, but you are YOU first.
Keep up your interests and be interesting. Imagine how boring you will become if you completely erase your personality: to your kids, your spouse, your friends and most important to yourself.)
In this amazing experience of parenthood, don’t lose sight of who you are as a human. Make sure that your needs are met, your hopes and dreams followed and your passions fueled so that you will more gladly and happily be able to meet the needs of those around you.
The messaging directed at parents these days is negative. It tells us that more is more for our kids; it guilts us into thinking we’re not spending enough time with our children; it accuses us of not knowing what we’re doing; blames us for being selfish. I’m here to shift the focus.
The thing is, I’m not here to say that child rearing is at all easy. I’m not saying that you won’t lose sleep. There are certain realities that come with having children. But they should be short-lived and not make us insane. I truly believe that the unhappiness too many parents experience is a direct result of their behaviors and choices.
If you want to have fun, to be happy, to be fulfilled…it’s up to you.
If you are happy on a regular basis and feel fulfilled, you can shower your babies with love and attention when you are with them. If you listen and talk to them, they will know how deeply you care. Let’s shed this albatross of guilt. All it does is drag us down. Let’s forge ahead and feel good about the choices we make.
Have you ever heard the expression, “You can’t love someone until you love yourself?” Well, you really can’t care for someone else unless you are taken care of first. If you are unhappy, unfulfilled, or not the person you want to be, you can’t expect to raise kids who will have a different outcome. There’s no need to martyr ourselves for the sake of our children. Make sure you’re a whole and sane person with interests and a complete life so you can be the best role model for your children to emulate.
Here are a few tips:
Maintain a strong relationship with your spouse or partner. The pair of you is the reason you have a family.
Stop comparing yourself to other parents.
Stop comparing your kid to other children.
Take a breath. Take a break. Look at the “man” in the mirror. If you’re happy with your reflection, then you’re doing something right. If not, fix it. Putting someone else down will not make you better.
I don’t have a parenting methodology. And, yes, there are a billion right ways to raise children. You need to parent in the way that’s right for you. I encourage parents to be happy, and in doing so, their children will learn to be happy.
I believe in making life easier. I believe in enjoying my kids. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Let’s not make it harder.
Michal Levison is a writer. For more visit her blog, "Bump to Bean: Confessions of a Modern Mom."