We’d probably all like to say that parenthood is an adventure and a joy. But for so many of us, we feel too busy, too anxious, and too worried about expectations to enjoy this fleeting and precious time the way we really want to.
Raising kids is never easy, but it can be easier. Most of all, it can be a deeper, richer, more life-giving experience than we thought possible. With a shift in perspective, some healthier habits, and a more relaxed but present approach, you can find the depth, satisfaction, and joy available to all parents. Let’s look at 7 ways you can enjoy parenthood more.
It’s tragic that we waste so much mental and emotional energy worrying about the expectations or successes of others, and waste so much time running around trying to meet these real or perceived demands.
Advertising,marketing, television shows, and online media are all geared up to do this in us, to create a sense of inadequacy inside so we constantly go looking for that next “perfect solution” to our parenting needs.
It seems all of society wants us to constantly be comparing ourselves with other parents, measuring our choices against the choices of others. I’ll let you in on a secret, parenting isn’t a competition. It isn’t a contest. You’re not training Olympic athletes or designing advanced computer systems; you’re raising a child and building a meaningful relationship with a human being.
Let it go, this contest with others and with yourself. Choose to be in the moment with your child, enjoying and learning from every subtle and bold interaction the two of you share. They aren’t perfect, you’re not perfect. Just enjoy the imperfect beauty of life together.
Put the Phone Down
This is probably the most damaging of habits modern parents can have when it comes to enjoying parenthood. Our constant but very often, quite meaningless, connection with the outside world through our phone, our computer, and our tablet, is driving us apart instead of bringing us together.
How often do we see this – parents locked into their phones, their social media, their text messages, while their kids sit idly by? How often do we do it ourselves? All that wasted time we spend watching or focusing on mostly empty things or matters that can wait for later, could have been spent connecting with our children.
Every moment with them (and that time goes faster than you think) is a gift. Choose to make the most of that gift by being present with them. You have an opportunity to guide them, teach them, help them explore, laugh together and uncover deep emotional and psychological truths within one another.
There will always be more time for media. There won’t always be more time with your kids. Choose relationship over distraction. Choose life over the digital facsimile.
Get Up Before Your Kids and Create Personal Time
This can really make a difference in your mood, your health, and your mindset. And it lays the foundation for how the rest of the morning and day will unfold.
Go to sleep a bit earlier and then rise each day while the house is still quiet. Create a space of quiet contemplation, deep thought, and stillness. You can take a walk, read for pleasure, meditate or pray, exercise, or just sit peacefully with your coffee or tea and watch the sunrise slowly change.
Your child’s outlook and attitude are heavily influenced by your own. If you wake up late, find yourself always rushed, anxious, and scattered, so will they. Respecting yourself with this affirming personal time helps them respect you more and teaches them to respect themselves by emulating this more peaceful, organized, and mindful pattern of approaching the day ahead.
Create a Morning and Evening Routine With Your Kids
We just talked about the importance of making time for your own morning routine. It’s just as important for you to work with your kids to create a healthy routine for their mornings and evenings as well. You can learn more about the value of morning routines in last week’s article.
A healthy family morning routine can completely change your child’s focus, mood, and confidence. You can discuss the patterns that work best for everyone. Then give them fun worksheets with their morning activities that they can check off or color in. They may groan a bit at first, But as time goes by, they’ll begin to enjoy the organization and ease of their routine and find new confidence as they accomplish more with their time.
Make morning routines fun with music you can all enjoy or sing to, verbal trivia games or jokes. Make time to talk with one another too, not just move around each other.
These routines also lower your stress by getting rid of bad habits, wasteful activities, and unnecessary conflict in your home. A morning routine creates an environment where family members can listen better and respond more authentically.
As far as evenings go, it’s a great idea to set regular sleep times for your kids based on their ages. Set firm rules about turning off or putting away all electronic devices a few hours before bed if possible. This helps calm their minds down before sleep.
Nighttime is also the perfect time for deeper connection and conversation. Make bedtime something special by hanging out together for a little while. Talk with them after they snuggle into the covers. Read a story together, look at the stars, or reminisce about fun memories. Evenings can be one of the most rewarding times of peace and connection you experience as a parent.
See a Person, Not a Burden
This might sound harsh but it’s worth saying. Over time, especially the more familiar we become with those nearest to us, it becomes easier to see our relationship and our responsibilities to them as a burden instead of a gift. We begin to look at our time with others, especially our kids, as something that’s stealing away our life instead of enriching it.
Don’t feel bad; most parents experience this feeling now and then throughout life. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, even angry. But adopting this mindset is a sure path to dissatisfaction, contempt, and regret.
Parenting is full of responsibilities. And it takes so much of every part of us to do it well. But often our worst feelings and beliefs are the product of misplaced bitterness or bad external ideas.
The key to it is remembering to always see your child for who and what they really are, a living being, an individual worthy of life, love, connection, learning, and a promising future. They are beings of great creativity, perspective, promise, with unique motivations and individual personalities worth exploring.
As much as parents might feel like it sometimes, kids aren’t attachments or accessories on top of our lives. They aren’t simply mouths to feed or machines to fix. Children are human beings to love, not problems to solve.
Each moment with your child, whether it be trying or liberating, is an opportunity to build a more enjoyable and more meaningful relationship with an amazing person. They certainly need a lot from us. But we need a lot in life too.
Try shifting your mindset toward human touch, toward connection in whatever you’re doing together, and watch as your attitude slowly begins to change and your time seems to grow in value when you’re with them.
Let Them in on the “Secret”
Depending on our personal parenting philosophy, parenting is often a constantly shifting affair of information and secrecy. Of course, there are things that children don’t need to know, can’t yet understand, or only need a part of.
What we’re really talking about here is letting your kids see more of your life, letting them experience some of what you experience (in a safe way), and allowing them to help and collaborate more.
Kids love being part of their parents’ world. As they grow older, let them help you more. Invite them to be a part of conversations more frequently. They often have insight we tend to overlook. Let them see a bit of where and how you work. It gives them a more holistic picture of you, so they see the reality of how life and work function. This shows them that work isn’t some “magical” place completely untouchable to kids. This also helps them understand the importance of what you do for others and for the family.
Invite your children to be more involved, more vocal (in a healthy and respectful way), and a more vital part of your life. They will feel a great deal more valued and loved and you’ll find yourself loving their presence and perspective. If not at least their ability to help you relax and not take everything so seriously all the time.
Play A Lot More
Adults don’t play enough. We seem to have forgotten how or why we once did it. Strangely, the ones closest to children, namely parents, often are the worst at this. We watch our kids having a blast. We send them outside to play together. We buy them things to further that cause. But we’re lousy when it comes to play in our own lives.
Play isn’t just for kids. It’s for all ages, from birth to old age. Playing together with our spouse, our friends, our new baby, our toddler, and our growing kids, doesn’t mean we’re losing a grasp on adulthood or our maturity. It actually shows greater wisdom and maturity, the realization that a playful heart is one that sees the world more clearly and sees others as equally creative and worthy beings.
Play ignites our imagination, gets rid of stress and worry, ignites intimacy, puts problems in perspective, and brings us a lot closer to each other. Indeed, it’s usually the wisest among us that still understand this and they do what they can to play a bit every day.
Instead of always leaving your kids to play on their own, go enjoy that game with them. Build blocks or Legos together. Make a blanket and pillow fort and sleep in it with them for a fun overnighter. Dress up together and act out a story. Come up with silly word games during car rides. Have tickle fights and pillow wars, and choose to see the opportunity for levity and play built into so much of life.
Parenting is a big responsibility. But it’s also one of the most profound, beautiful, and life-giving things you will ever experience. Don’t let it pass by without making the most of this time with your kids. Put the phones and other distractions down. Stop comparing yourself with others, play and laugh more, establish good routines, and see your kids as the unique individuals they are.
Torrone Law helps families find a sense of wholeness and assurance during difficult seasons. Let us guide you through divorce, custody and adoption with confidence. Connect with us today to learn more.
For more information about enjoying parenthood, check out our frequently asked questions and answers below.
I feel so overwhelmed; can parenthood really be an enjoyable experience?
The answer is yes! It’s no secret that raising kids is often very difficult. It takes a great deal of resources, time, and focus to do it well. But some of the stress we experience is of our own making.
If we move away from obsessing over ideas of perfection and judgment, away from listening to everyone’s expectations and society’s demands, and move toward a more peaceful, more mindful, and more connected parenting style, we can find greater joy and fulfillment.
What are some things I can do to find greater enjoyment as a parent?
Start by shifting your perspective from one where you view your kids as a burden or accessory in your life toward one where you see them for who and what they truly are, unique individuals worthy of love, learning, connection, and a bright future.
Enjoy more play time with each other. Create healthy routines for mornings and evenings. Have the entire family put away their phones and other devices a few hours before bed, both to relax and to connect with each other. Eat together at the table with no screens or devices. Let them be more involved in your life and set aside time in the morning before the kids are awake to think clearly, meditate or pray, exercise, read, or just sit in peace with coffee and a sunrise.
What are some great resources for learning how to enjoy parenthood more?
Experienced family counselors are a great guide and resource with a wealth of knowledge. Find a good one and you’ll discover a wealth of practical and relational wisdom. Connect with mentors and older friends who’ve already raised children successfully and get their feedback and parenting advice. Choose a respected book on the subject and read quality articles online. And don’t forget that certain community centers and organizations can also be a wonderful parenting resource.