In our last article, 7 Ways to Enjoy Parenthood More, we looked at developing some new habits, mindsets, and choices to bring about greater fulfillment and more peace of mind into your life as a parent. Parents often get very little help or relief, and what advice they sometimes receive is not all that good.
Our society often seems good at teaching us how to maximize productivity and efficiency, how to really ramp it up and get things done, but not always so good at showing us how to slow down when we need to, and how to pursue more meaning and connection.
As parents, we desperately need more joy in our lives, more space to think clearly, deeper connection with our kids, and a lifestyle that promotes and feeds these things so we don’t lose track of why we became parents in the first place.
We think it’s worth exploring further. So, let’s look at 7 (more) ways we can enjoy parenthood a bit more.
Leave Perfection Behind
Deep down, we all know perfection isn’t possible, but we still strive for it every day. Shooting for excellence, even a measure of greatness is a wonderful pursuit. But obsessing over perfection will tear us apart, wear down our intimacy with those we love, and rob us of the joy we are meant to experience as parents and in every other part of life.
The idea of perfection says that in everything, including all of our parenting practices, there will be some ultimate ideal to live up to. This is false. While a great deal of wisdom is universal, each one of us sees life differently, goes about parenting differently. We all have unique ways of teaching and modeling behavior, encouraging our kids, disciplining, developing character, and helping them find their way in the world. And there is so much value in every one of these different ways of parenting.
Setting our kids up to copy our own perfectionism, whether it be in the home, in school, or in other parts of their life, is a quick way to set them up for a life of perpetual disappointment, stress and anxiety, conflict, self-loathing, and eventual breakdown. All of us already hear it enough from the world around us. We don’t need to feed that monster at home. A mindset of perfectionism may seem like just another one of our cultural norms, but it shouldn’t be.
Instead, pursue a life that models attributes like a peaceful demeanor, compassion, patience, creativity, praise, individuality, teamwork, humor, self-discipline, hard-work, organization, planning ahead (without obsessing), a focus on relationships and connection above material gain, contemplation, honesty, and the pursuit of meaning and purpose. These serve as a great foundation for a life that is not only successful but meaningful, not simply full with activity but fulfilled.
This one is sometimes pretty difficult for us as parents. We find it hard to let our kids fully express themselves at times because we’re the parents right? And we think we’ve got to be right all the time, got to have the first and last word in every conversation or argument, and always get our two cents in. But how much are we really listening to our kids? Are we really hearing them or simply glazing over what they say just to get on with what we want to say?
It’s true, you’re the parent, and still have the final say when it comes to the home and with your kids. But parenting isn’t about being right all the time. It isn’t about always being in control. it’s about exploring and finding the truth together. It’s about not only allowing but encouraging them to speak their heart and mind whenever they need to.
We want them to feel invited to share their thoughts and feelings with us, to confide in us when things get too big or too scary, or just too confusing. But how often do we ignore what they’re trying to say because of our anger? How often are we really sitting silently and listening to every word out of their mouth?
Parents sometimes feel that if they humble themselves and listen more, their kids will have less respect for them. Interestingly, the opposite is true. The more you honor their voice, their heart and mind, the more they will respect you as their father, mother, teacher, mentor, and friend.
Let your guard down and create an environment of open communication, open-minded listening, and greater compassion when it comes to sharing. You won’t believe the intimacy, respect, healing, and maturity that happens because of it. And your child’s own social skills will expand as well.
Physical fitness may be great for long-term health and wellness, but it can do wonders for parenthood as well. Anyone who exercises even once in a while knows how much stress can simply drain out of us with a good workout or fun outdoor activity.
Stress and the way we cope with or put it to greater use has a profound effect on our children. They look to us for stability, for guidance, for a clear example of how to navigate through stressful times in a positive way. Regular exercise can relieve tension and anger, and help us work out inner conflicts without taking them out on someone we love.
Exercise gives you quality time in solitude to contemplate your life. It clears the mind. It often cleans out negative thoughts, cluttered thinking, confusion, and repetitive mental patterns. This frees us up to make clearer, wiser, and more thoughtful decisions as parents. It also helps us find more relaxation and a greater sense of personal identity and self-respect.
Finally, exercise models healthy living for our kids. Of course, don’t get obsessive with it. Don’t let it become a burden or an addiction. Enjoy your time. Don’t set it up as a chore but pursue it because you like it or at least value what it provides.
Carve Out One-On-One Time Each Day
Life is busy. And parents are some of the busiest folks out there. But we’ll never get this moment or this day back again. With all that’s on our plate, it’s easy to let days or even weeks go by without spending one-on-one time with each child. But goodness, does it do wonders for our family!
For a child, there’s nothing better than a parent wanting to spend real time with them, down on their level, playing a game or with toys, cuddling and reading, playing catch, wrestling around, going on a drive or an outing, exploring the outdoors, or just doing any old thing together. When a mother or father shows they value that time enough to make it happen consistently, their child grows exponentially in confidence, in emotional intelligence, and in their ability to create and keep healthy, long-term relationships.
Not only do kids love this time, but you’ll discover that it just might be one of your favorite things in the world. You get to remember what it’s like to play, laugh more often, get silly, explore new opportunities together, and see the world in a larger, more hopeful light, instead of the usual pessimism and over-seriousness we spend so much time drudging through.
One-on-one time affords us more opportunities to talk about important subjects with our child. It allows them to express themselves more freely, to feel comfortable sharing the deeper things in their world. It sets them up to keep these healthy relationship habits throughout life. And finally, it just shows them how much they are truly loved.
For single parents, making this time each day can be especially difficult with everything on your plate. It good to ask for help, from siblings, parents, and friends. They can take care of a few things now and then so you can spend quality time with your children.
Expectations can be a killer in this life. Our family has them for us, our co-workers and bosses, our friends, and of course we have so many expectations for ourselves. While there is no way to do away with all expectations, we can put them in the right place and deflate them when they get too puffed up.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about how we should raise our child, conduct our family life, or build our career. Sometimes, these opinions even turn into demands if the person is close to us. This isn’t how parenting should be.
You are the parent. It’s your child we’re talking about here and the two of you as mother and child or father and child, are building a lifelong relationship with each other. That is a personal and sacred thing.
We should always seek good counsel, an abundance of wisdom, practical advice, and all the support we need from those we love and trust. But we need to do so on our terms, not letting others bully or guilt us into what they want.
Most of us could stand to let go of such intense and unrealistic standards for ourselves and our kids. We set the bar so high sometimes that no one can reach it, and only bring dissatisfaction, feelings of failure and inadequacy, and hopelessness to our lives and to our children. Take time to develop an outlook that values realistic goals, worthy pursuits, mindfulness, and plans that encourage one another’s passions and natural gifts.
Break the Patterns
While certain patterns, good habits, and healthy morning and evening routines are a good thing, patterns can often become stagnant, redundant, lacking in purpose, and outdated for our present needs or desires.
This stagnancy wears both us and our kids down, creating a space where routines become the focus instead of connecting with one another. Break out by getting out more often. Take more walks. Be spontaneous and dive into unplanned activities – short drives, movies out, hikes, rainy day activities, visit friends you haven’t seen for a while, take a train somewhere, eat at a new restaurant, or go play in the rain. Just throw a wrench in the works once in a while so you and your kids don’t succumb to a life of routines and patterns without purpose.
Even more than this, though, take time to reevaluate your current routines now and then. Often, what we’re doing is something that used to be ideal but no longer fits our life or goals. It may simply be a habit or a false comfort and not a pattern that helps us grow, moves us forward, or provides wellness and connection. If it isn’t encouraging these things, it’s time to let it go.
Create More Time as a Couple
If you’re married or simply in a committed relationship, making time with each other a priority isn’t just good for you, it’s good for your kids too. For parents of children, getting deliberate about spending time together and finding new ways to build intimacy, provides positive effects that trickle down to your kids.
They see you valuing love, affection, communication, enjoyment, and relationships more and they begin to want it more for themselves. They see that it’s possible to be a successful adult without becoming a workaholic, or disconnected from your family.
Displaying affection for one another helps your kids learn how to be affectionate as well, not repressing or hiding their emotions but expressing them in ways that affirm themselves and those they love.
Your time together also lowers stress, helps you work out conflict before it grows too big, eases tensions, allows you to put your heads together on future plans, and restores the pleasure and fulfillment of a committed relationship and family instead of drowning in the routine, responsibility, and schedules.
There are so many things we can do to enjoy parenthood more. It’s a long season of much greater responsibility but it can also be the most meaningful and some of the most fun we’ll ever have in this life.
Don’t let schedules, unrealistic expectations, the demands of others, or random distractions steal from the beauty and richness you were meant to enjoy as a parent. Take full advantage of the time you have today. And as you find and display more focus on the things that matter, so will your kids.
Torrone Law helps individuals, and families find support, clarity, and wholeness during difficult seasons of life. We help you navigate separation, divorce, custody, and adoption with greater confidence and ease so you can focus on your family. Connect with us today to learn more.
For answers to questions about enjoying parenthood more, check out our frequently asked questions below.
How can I relieve some of the stress of parenthood?
Parenting requires a lot from us, and it can sometimes wear us down on several levels. This not only affects our own health, but increases tension and conflict within the home.
As a parent, you can reduce stress by organizing your daily routines and schedule with greater care. If you help your kids by putting together healthy morning and evening routines, their stress levels go down and their organization and sense of purpose goes up. This tends to calm the entire home down and frees up more personal time.
Block out time each day for personal care and solitude. Give yourself time before everyone wakes up and other times in the afternoon and evening, where you can sit quietly and think, take walks or do other exercises, pursue hobbies, read, and also spend time alone with your spouse or partner.
Talk with your kids if something needs to change. Discuss the new choices they need to make and new patterns everyone should adopt to create more connected, more respectful relationships with one another.
Do away with the idea of perfection and stop listening to the demands of others. Ask trusted friends and family members to help you by watching the kids so you can go out, help you by running a few errands, or cooking a meal now and then. Get more sleep, play more often with your kids and on your own, and always find ways to welcome more laughter into the home.
How can I enjoy time with my kids more?
It starts by shifting our perspective. Kids aren’t attachments in our lives. They’re not simply responsibilities. They are living beings, each with unique characteristics, mindsets, experiences, desires, dreams, and ways of approaching the world. It helps to always look at them through the lens of a deeper relationship instead of something we simply have to look after.
Spend time with each child daily if possible. Listen more…a lot more. Play with them often. As a family, spend a lot more time away from electronics and screens. Screen time changes your child’s psychological and neurological processes, lowers their ability to relate to others, lowers attention spans, and gets them addicted to constant, immediate gratification. Instead, pursue fun activities, road trips, board games, great conversation, biking, hiking, and paddling, making or building something together, creating art, or visiting with friends.
Invite them to share more in your experiences too. They will feel more a part of your life and the whole family, and see themselves as being a valued individual and important member of your family.
If I need answers to parenting questions, where do I turn to?
Talk to a trusted friend. Long-term friends are some of our best encouragers. They also tend to be honest. And honesty is definitely something we need. Seek advice and ongoing counsel from a licensed family therapist. They have a wealth of knowledge and practical tips for parents. There are countless excellent books on parenting, along with online information sources like blogs for parents, both public and private organizations with additional parenting resources, and support groups around the world, either in person or online.