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Bringing More Joy into Your Parenting Journey
Not too long ago some research was published that talked about the Parenting Happiness Gap. The research set out to explore whether or not having kids made people happy or unhappy.
Many parents are surprised when they hear that parenting and happiness can go hand in hand. After that research study showed that there is such a thing as parental happiness gap, many parents incorrectly assumed that having kids was the reason for their unhappiness.
In this lesson we are going to explore more about this and I want to tell you somethings that may be getting in the way of your happiness and how you can bring more joy into ordinary parenting moments.
So first of all, let’s debunk the idea that being a parent leads to unhappiness. Kids are not to blame here. And... Parent’s aren’t either.
The headlines about this research were super catchy. but really the research showed that parenting is basically a really tough job.
Parents need support to do their job well.
You need to have the right information, expectations and support to feel satisfied or happy about your role as a parent.
When we are talking about support, it’s not just about having hands on help like having a nanny, day care or grand parents that can offer extra child care, having a cleaning person or a laundry fairy. (Wouldn't a laundry fairy be great?)
The support that can make a big difference to how you feel about parenting is the kind of support that helps you to be informed and realistic about the parenting journey.
So you don’t have to guess and worry. And instead make informed, confident decisions.
Similar research on happiness showed that parents who find a sense of purpose in their role of parenting tend to feel happier as well.
Why does this matter?
Well let’s talk a bit about the science of happiness.
Researchers think of happiness as having satisfaction and meaning in your life.
The definition of happiness: Happiness is the propensity to feel positive emotions, the capacity to recover from negative emotions quickly, and having a sense of purpose.
Something that may be getting in the way of your happiness? A confused sense of what your purpose is as a parent and / or maybe you are missing tools to deal with challenging situations.
Parenting often comes with a handful of emotionally charged moments, worry and conflicts. And lots of parents don’t quite have the tools to face and recover from such emotionally challenging situations quickly.
This isn’t about blame or guilt, but more so sharing with you the truth. Most parents go into this job, this very hard job with very little training and skills.
Most of the parents that I work with come to me for support, reassurance and to learn new ways of dealing with parenting challenges.
What’s more, so many parents tend to hold on to this idea that happiness in parenting has a lot to do with managing to raise perfect children.
If not perfect than at least children that are easy going. No tears, no tantrums, no power struggles, no complaints, no sibling conflicts...
Ok...let’s get real here…. This kind of thinking is such a trap for unhappiness!
Happiness as a parent cannot be tied to having perfectly behaved kids.
Because all healthy and growing children will misbehave and make mistakes.
Bringing happiness in your daily life, and in your role as a parent is not about perfection.
It’s not having everything go exactly as you want. Yes, you can encourage your children to be cooperative, and yes you can have a lot of joy filled moments but happiness starts with having the courage to embrace the chaos first.
People that are more willing to embrace the uncertainty that is to be alive tend to feel happier.
Happiness comes when you develop the ability to navigate all sorts of experiences and still come back to that feeling of "okayness" of being just fine with who you are and who your child is in this moment in time.
And now some ever better news. Beyond having that flexibility and ability to bounce back, and having support for your parenting journey, happiness can also be cultivated from having meaningful relationships.
Meaningful Relationships as a Path To Happiness
A study on long term happiness done at Harvard University showed that good, and healthy relationships with those closest to us are vital to long term health and happiness.
Robert Waldinger, director of the study, and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School explains that your relationships and how happy you are in your relationships has a powerful influence on your health. He also explains that taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a very important form of of self-care as well.
Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.
What’s more, meaningful, connected relationships, relationships that are full or warmth and acceptance lead people to live longer and happier lives. These relationships, well they start at home. With you and how you interact with your child.
Happiness, especially in parenting comes from your ability to notice, beyond the daily hassles, the small moments of joy you can build with your family.
It also comes from being deliberate and mindful to recover from any challenging moments by offering forgiveness and kindness to your child and yourself. You see happiness doesn’t come from perfect experiences but from being willing and able to reconnect with those that matter to you when necessary.
So there are many tangible ways for you to create more connection and build your relationship with your child. In doing so you also increase the potential for happiness in your home.
Whatever struggles might be or what you feel is a source of unhappiness right now for your family, I want to encourage you to think about these idea of finding moments of connection and keeping the idea of relationship building in mind. This is a really powerful way of bringing more joy into your parenting role.
Remembering that happiness doesn’t come from the absence of conflicts and experiences but rather from having the ability to bounce back and from that sense of having a family and community that you belong to.
You can choose to create this kind of environment for your children as well. Where you nurture close, loving, warm, respectful relationships.
If you have any questions about how to bring more joy into your parenting journey please share them in comments. I look forward to hearing about your reflections and experiences.
Do you think the parenting happiness gap is a real thing?
What would help you most to feel happier as a parent?
Check out the worksheet below with more questions and a space to reflect on your purpose and goals for parenting.