“Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” – Michael Levine
Driving home from a long day at work, I was imagining the blissful greeting from my beloved children. But the actual scene I came home to was a different story. Sienna, my 9-month-old, was crying. When I picked her up, instead of gurgling a happy hello, she baptized me in the carrot puree she’d had for dinner. Alessio, my 2-year-old, tried to snatch Sienna away so that he could squiggle into my arms. “Sienna down!” he demanded.
What parent hasn’t wanted to run out the door at times like these? In fact, I have. Just to count to ten, and try it again — my grand (re) entrance. This time, I tried to reason with my son even though I was beyond exhausted.
“Alessio, I need to say hello to Sienna too. Why don’t you be the wonderful brother and person you are and…”
“No!” he shouted.
“You don’t want to be the wonderful person you are?”
“No!!!” he shouted louder still.
“Then what do you want to be?”
“A man!” he said.
What can you do with an answer like that but laugh!
The thing about kids: They bring out both your best and worst aspects. They cannot mend a marriage, as many sometimes think possible. But they will certainly draw out hidden aspects of yourself that, under less challenging circumstances, might lie sleeping but are there nonetheless.
I read a recent article on parents who hate parenting. The gist is that parents are less happy than non-parents. The studies say the more kids you have, the less happy you are. Another study showed moms in Texas preferred housework!!! to taking caring of their kids. These are sad facts.
Last week, my co-worker was sick. I told him to go home and get some rest. He said, “I get more rest here than at home with two toddlers.” And he’s a great dad.
Though statistically families are actually spending more time together, both moms and dads feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids. The guilt factor, along with the stress of multi-tasking, eats up a lot of the joy we could be having with our kids – or taking the time for ourselves we desperately need.
Ways to Feel More Joy in Parenting:
- Make time for yourself. Take a break from looking after the children. Exchange babysitting services with a neighbor, even for a short time once a week.
- Practice time management. Set aside time to spend with the children, time for yourself, and time for your spouse and/or friends. Learn to say “no” to requests that interfere with these important times.
- Avoid fatigue. Take care of your health. Exercise. Go to bed earlier and take short naps when you can. Taking care of kids requires a lot of energy.
- Talk to someone. Sharing your worries is a great stress reducer!
- Talk to your children. Children can feel your stress, which may cause them to be stressed. Have your kids open up about what is going on with them. This can help decrease the tantrums.
- Take a weekend away with your significant other. It does wonders for your relationship.
Good parenting requires at least two decades of constancy and caring, and loving more than you ever thought possible – which also means there will be moments your heart will break. Things will go wrong. You’ll make good decisions and terrible ones. But more things will go right.
Kids are not the magic factor that will make your life suddenly better, or turn you into somebody you are not. Kids are blatantly beautifully exactly who they are. And we should be too.
My little getaway tonight is sipping a glass of wine and daydreaming. A trip to Paris would be nice, I sigh, as I collapse on the couch and finally take a moment for myself.
Illustration by Rima Hawkes Graphic Design