20 Things Parents can Stop doing to Be Happier

happy mom

Being a parent is hard. The physical exhaustion. The extreme financial commitment. Both of which, of course, pale in comparison to the infinite emotional devotion.

And then, we parents make it harder on ourselves.

We make it hard on ourselves because we get caught up in the hype of the latest parenting theories or because we are caught in the rat race for the pursuit of the “best” in academics, athletics or the arts. We complicate our personal and professional lives by feeling extraordinary guilt for doing normal activities like working, spending time with our partner and friends or taking time for self-care.

And then, we confuse being a parent by turning an important role in another human being’s life into a verb: parenting. Oddly enough we don’t do this with our other interpersonal relationships: when we work on our other relationships we are not “friending,” “partnering” or “daughtering/sonning.”

I might get flack for saying this, but here it goes: while being a parent is my greatest privilege and responsibility in life, it is not the entirety of my life. Oh, to be sure, there was a period of my life where I fell into the belief that if I didn’t subjugate most of my needs (and certainly all of my desires) for my daughters then I was a terrible parent.

In fact, the only people who cared more about me than my kids was the airline industry who wanted to be sure that I put my oxygen mask on first. Please. I had thrown the oxygen mask out the window.

Yet, despite being super-mom, I knew that the life I was living was not the one I hoped my daughters would live. I didn’t want them to see my life as an example of what they could expect for their own lives.

Because it is hard for us to take our own advice, I thought about what advice I would give my daughters should they be in my shoes.  It was essentially a list of “stop doings.”  Should you find yourself in this “over-parenting” mode, you might discover some good advice here.

Here are my suggestions, stop:

  1. comparing your children to others’
  2. comparing your parenting to others’
  3. going to every last party, bake sale, book drive etc.
  4. worrying about academic development in preschool/kindergarten, instead allowing space of varied developmental curves
  5. thinking that getting into the right school solves everything
  6. confusing your childrens’s feelings for your own
  7. living in the superlative. You don’t need to be the “best” parent or your kids the “best’ kids
  8. thinking only the best is good enough for your children
  9. enrolling children in dozens of activities
  10. thinking that it is your job to find your children’s “thing”  (or that children even need a “thing”)
  11. making your children your entire world
  12. trying to be perfect and to do it all, perfectly of course!
  13. cooking every last meal
  14. feeling guilty for not being Martha Stewart, Mr .Rogers, Bill Cosby and Michelle Obama rolled into one
  15. constantly entertaining your children
  16. helping more than is helpful on your kids’ homework
  17. believing everything your kids say is true or that everything someone else’s kid says is a lie
  18. expecting your children to be good at everything such that you treat not being good at something as a deficit
  19. using each stage of  your child’s life solely as preparation for the next
  20. solely measuring your efficacy as a parent to your children’s happiness or success

Yep, we order in some nights. Other nights we eat cereal. I’ve relaxed my standards from everything has to be perfect to so long as things are functional and good enough that this might just be fine. I worry, for sure, but I also know that my kids can get through minor disappointments and inconveniences of life without falling apart of believing that they are unloved.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal of parenting: raising a whole and wholly competent adult?   If we do our job right, we become obsolete.