It is safe to say that parenting is one of the most difficult jobs someone can have in a lifetime. The demands exist around the clock, the appreciation comes years later and the stress of being a good parent can take a toll on physical and emotional health.
While most parents are thrilled to have children and grow their family, research has shown that overall happiness declines for parents because of how stressful the job is. This is especially true for South Asians who are very happy to be parents but tend to consistently deprioritize their needs for the sake of the children.
What many parents don’t realize is that as a family they and their children are interconnected. The happier they are, the happier their children will be. Follow these tips to improve your happiness as a parent:
1. Let go of the perfectionism. Children do not thrive because they have perfect parents. In order to be successful and happy, children need healthy parents who are not consumed by the little details.
2. Update your values. South Asian parenting is very different from Western parenting. However, trying to maintain the exact same values that your parents taught you while raising children abroad may not be practical. Even if your mother used to make homemade chapatis every day, ask yourself if it is practical given your current lifestyle.
3. Let go of guilt and shame. Parents may feel guilty or ashamed for a number of reasons. Most commonly, they feel guilty for not being perfect or for deprioritizing their children for other things such as work or household chores. Learn to be kind to yourself and accept that mistakes and changes in priority will happen. That does not make you a bad parent.
4. Manage stress in a healthy way. When children see their parents stressed, they tend to pick up on their stress. When parents hide their stress, children can feel it anyway and still feel anxious. The best lesson you can provide for your child is to show them how to handle it in a proper manner. That way as they grow they can rely on your tips to manage their own stress.
5. Nourish your relationship. South Asian parents tend to deprioritize their marriage when they become parents, assuming that their marriage will stay strong while they care for their children. However, marriage is like a garden and requires constant attention and nurturing to remain healthy. Research shows that the better the marriage is, the better parents they are and the happier their children become.
6. Learn from your children. Between taking care of the children, tending to the house, holding down a job and paying the bills, life becomes very serious. Children are born to laugh, smile and be creative. Take a lesson from them and put aside the dishes one night to play a game, have a laughing contest or do some crafts. It soothes the mind and it is a great bonding opportunity for you and your children.
7. Celebrate often. As parents, you may find yourself disciplining, cleaning and saying no a lot. Balance that by finding little moments in your life to celebrate with your family, such as a good day at work or a child’s successful project. Some days you can just celebrate life and that you are part of a family together. Do something meaningful and watch your mood be lifted.
8. Laugh. If there’s nothing to laugh about, laugh anyway. Exercising those muscles and engaging in laughter can trigger a feedback loop in your brain that will keep you laughing. Your mood will instantly lift and your children will feel the effects of it as well. They will probably want to join in!
9. Make changes. Many parents recognize that they are overwhelmed and stressed but do not know how to become happier. Know that without changing something in your life, your mood will not magically improve. Make a list of your priorities and question yourself whether all of those things are truly necessary. Change one thing at a time and notice a shift in your mood.
10. Ask for help. Parenting was not meant to be done alone by a single parent or by a couple without help. Even if extended family is not nearby, ask neighbors or friends to help you or hire a professional to help you with your household tasks.
11. Have adult time. Being a parent does not mean you are no longer a daughter, son, friend, or lover. Nurture your adult side by spending time with your siblings, parents, friends and partner. It will be difficult not to think about or talk about your children, but stepping away from your role as a parent once in a while can restore balance in your life.
How do you increase your happiness as a parent? Please leave your comments below.