How to Take More Pleasure in Parenthood: 4 Tips for a Calmer, Happier Existence

Self on 08.29.11
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Photo: Katie Morton

It's easy to let insignificant problems ruin your days, especially when you're a parent to small children. The vigilance and supervision required to raise safe and well-behaved kids can make life feel like hard work.

Combine your constant efforts with the tantrums and bad attitudes kids have sometimes, and it's not at all uncommon to feel annoyed and put out. Here are four ways to stop feeling exasperated and start feeling calmer and happier on a daily basis.

1.  Gain a Positive Perspective

The secret to overcoming petty irritations is to view those concerns within the context of their significance. When a bad mood strikes, get your perspective back in check by being grateful for your good fortune.

In the scope of human existence, you're extremely lucky. Chances are, you're raising a healthy child in premium conditions. The simple fact that you're probably reading this article using a device connected to the internet means you aren't dealing with illiteracy, living in extreme poverty, or fighting disease like so many others around the world. You probably have a roof over your head and can afford all the food and water required to sustain you and your family.

I'm sure you have many more blessings aside from the basics of sustaining existence. Count those blessings often for a boost of optimism. Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project suggests developing a daily ritual to cultivate gratitude. Gretchen thinks about what she's grateful for each time she crosses her threshold. I think about how good my life is each day when I walk my daughter outside.

2.  Connect With Other Parents

There are times you'll feel like the only one who's unfulfilled, frustrated or struggling. These are all common states for people in general, and especially for parents. It's easy to feel that way when you have the expanded responsibility of caring for kids, and you're expected to put others' needs before your own.

We are social animals and feeling connected to others makes us feel good. We all need to feel understood and heard, even when we're not especially proud of our feelings. By sharing your troubles with other parents, you can connect and feel not-so-alone.

For an instant boost, call or email a friend to laugh, talk and share. I schedule regular date nights with my husband, and regular girls' nights with my friends. And if you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it. It's likely that the person you ask will have felt the same way at some point.

3.  Stay in the Moment

It doesn't always feel like it, but childhood is fleeting. When you dwell on the past or worry about the future, then you miss out on the small joys that are right under your nose. When your mind wanders away from the present, you miss out on living life -- which happens in the now, not the past or future.

Harvard researchers found that regardless of the activity, when subjects were focused on the task at hand, they were more likely to feel happy than if they were distracted or thinking about something else.

When you savor those precious moments, you experience the everyday beauty that makes life worth living.

4. Practice Compassion

When our kids seek our attention, it's because they want to feel loved and validated. But there are times when we assume these intrusions on our time are a test of our patience and limits. Well, and let's be honest: sometimes kids are testing us!

Imagine what it's like to be in your child's shoes, to rely on someone else to meet all of your needs: what if that someone lacks consideration, focus and patience? It's part of a child's survival instinct to try even harder to get that person to pay attention.

When we parents allow ourselves feel what it's like to be that vulnerable, it makes it easier to focus on our kids and be patient with them, which in turn, makes our kids feel less needy and less attention hungry. When we practice compassion, our kids feel more secure and are less likely to push our buttons. That's a win-win.

The next time your day feels demanding and you find yourself wondering, "Why me?!" know that it's because you can handle it. Think back to these four tips and pick a couple to practice: get perspective, be connected, stay present or practice compassion - and you'll feel calmer and happier instantly.

Katie Morton is the founder of The Monarch Company. Get a FREE copy of her eBook, 10 Steps to a Blissful You, to get started on developing extraordinary willpower for life.

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