How To Be a Happier Parent

Y’all, I consume Pinterest parenting articles like chips and queso. I inhale them. I eat them up. I keep hoping that one day the magic answer will be divined upon me and Jackie Kennedy will descend from the clouds and say, “You’ve reached maximum potential. Excellent job, momma.”

I’ve really been impacted by articles with tips to being a happier, more productive mom. I’ve got some thoughts on this so I’ll start with an overview of the generally accepted and continuously posted ideas and my thoughts, followed by suggestions of my own for reaching full Jackie Kennedy aura.

Get up before your kid. 

S.O.D. O.F.F. You must have children that sleep predictably, and through the night; kids who brush their own teeth and pour their own cereal. For me to get up earlier than my kids, I have to hire a fortune teller, because I never know when they’ll arrive in my bed.  I’d most often have to get up around 4:30, but sometimes 3 AM. Because I’m not bloody tired enough.

When my kids (that plural is important) take a nap, it is a glorious thing. I revel in it. When my kids sleep until 6 AM, I am grateful. Someday, when they are older, I might consider getting up before then. But right now, that idea is bollocks.

Stick to a schedule. 

I tried this one. It was wondrous. Then my toddler stopped taking daytime naps, and my meal planning, food prep, cleaning at nap time turned in to, “I’ll do it after they go to bed.” Turns out that getting two kids down for bedtime saps all of your energy, so I mostly only can recall a few words after getting my kids to tap out, which include “Where’s the wine?” I generally follow that with a face plant on the couch.

I look at that schedule on my fridge while herding my kids out the door and silently curse Productive Jennifer. Seriously, girl. You’re a git.

Make a to-do list. 

See my thoughts on a schedule. Also, my to-do list looks a lot like this: SLEEP. When it doesn’t look like this, it’s so overwhelming that I just think I’ll go back to work and hire a housekeeper. And a nanny. And a gardener. And a pool boy. (We don’t even have a pool.) I will just hire someone else to live my life. Which is the feeling that made me want to stay home to begin with. So, no.

Keep up on housework.

Is that like Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Because we don’t have cable. I mean, I let my pantry go a few months ago. Like, I open that door and Gozer comes out. It’s scary in there. After I dropped the pantry upkeep, I let the laundry room go too, and Cthulu moved in. I recently invited Darth Vader to summer in my kitchen. I don’t plan on every getting those rooms back. So, I write lists of the housework I need to catch up on, and then tape it to the fridge, so I can laugh at myself.

Parenting advice doesn’t always jive with my life. And it won’t always work with yours. Take it all with a well salted margarita.

Here are my true thoughts on ways to happiness:

Play with your kids.

Kids don’t care if the house is a mess and the laundry all smells. They want you. They want you to laugh and play and dance. People tell you that this time is so fleeting, but that’s hardly descriptive enough. Their childhood is like a kiss in a relationship you know won’t last. Savor it; it will end. Your house will return to clean, someday. Play with your kids.

Share what you love with your children. 

I love knitting, but my boys like making squirrel nests out of my yarn. So I share knitting podcasts with my kids while we play. I share finished knitting projects with the boys, and usually they claim it all immediately, which I love. I ask Carl to help me pick patterns, and enjoy seeing his thought process and preferences. I’ll share adult music that gets us all dancing. When we start doing screen time together, I’ll share movies and video games my husband and I have enjoyed. Share the things you love with your kids.

Let other people watch your kids.

If you’re a SAHM, consider enrolling in a PDO, or joining a gym with childcare. Let other people work and play with your kids. The time away is good for you both. I’ll admit there have been plenty of days where the gym has saved us all from my exhausted wrath by giving me a space to work it out. Plus, there’s something magical about seeing your child through someone else’s eyes, and people who work with kids all the time may have input about developmental delays, or ways to manage particular behavior you hadn’t noticed or given up on.

Share your time with friends.

Finding people that “get you” may be a challenge. Find them. Laugh with them; vent with them. Get out of your house with them. We need human connection, even us introverts. Good friends who can commiserate or laugh with you, or bring you coffee after the longest nights make this parenting thing so much more.

Let go of perfection.

This may sound simple, but it’s not. My Type A vomits all over my house almost every time I walk inside. I’m learning to let that go. If a sink of dirty dishes means that my two year old and I were laughing over a puzzle, or watching ants in the backyard, it was worth it. If a sticky floor means that I snuggled an extra 20 minutes with my baby, it was worth it. Let go of the ideal home you see on Instagram; those posts are snippets of a life. No one lives their life in snippets. Clean, crisp, and perfectly poised doesn’t have to be you everyday.


Practice self-care when they nap. 

Some people like to tell you to nap when your kids nap. I love this, I think it’s smart. But, more broadly, you should care for yourself. Sometimes that means a nap, sometimes it means a Netflix binge, or reading. Or writing your blog. But, crikey, don’t spend it cleaning. Unless that feels like self-care.

Be kind to yourself.

You are enough. Your family is enough. This does not last forever. Snuggle in, and enjoy this short kiss of a moment. You’ll be too exhausted to remember all the dirt and mess in a few years anyway.





One thought on “How To Be a Happier Parent”

  1. This is all true Jennifer and I appreciate you leaving the expletives I understand out. You, your kids, and I get that enough without adding to it. Love you, Aunt Gina

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