As a nanny and preschool teacher, I praise and admire parents. Raising or caregiving for children is incredibly rewarding but inarguably exhausting. No sentiment seems to affect parents more than guilt. Guilt for going to work and leaving their children in the care of others. Feeling guilty for stopping off to treat yourself to lunch or a quick (secret) shopping spree without taking something home for the kids.
Guilt for not knowing exactly what your upset child wants. Worst of all, the guilt of feeling like you are constantly failing because let’s face it, do any of us actually know what we’re doing? In truth, the secret to being a great mom or parent is to be a happy mom or happy parent.
Sacrifices are Sometimes Made
Parenting is potentially one of the hardest jobs in the world. Every child is unique and opinionated, similar to every person that exists on the planet. This includes you, so becoming a parent can be considered the ultimate sacrifice. Children have needs that have to be met no matter how busy, tired, or sick you may be.
See a Different Perspective
I have a close friend who lives across the country, we rarely see each other but talk every chance we can. She is a mother of four boys ages 5 and under. She also happens to run a medical department at one of the hospitals in her city. We spoke recently and she told me (mid-yawn) she was up until 4:30 dealing with a family emergency.
Then she had to be at work by 7. She followed that up with “I know it’s not ideal so please don’t judge me but I’m going to the drive-thru for the boys’ dinner because I just don’t have the energy to go home and cook a huge meal for everyone.”
Pressures of Parenting
I don’t typically judge people because I believe life is hard for everyone. Therefore, it’s not my place, or anyone else’s, to criticize someone for how they deal with those hardships. After our conversation, it occurred to me though, parents feel so much pressure! Pressure to maintain clean homes, cook healthy meals, and balance work and family. They’re expected to attend PTA meetings, put kids in extracurricular activities, and so on. This pressure is often the underlying cause of the guilt most parents feel.
Read: Single mom besties move in together to raise their families as a platonic unit
Happy Parents Make the Best Parents
We all grew up, meaning we were all kids once. Most of us wanted, someone to validate our feelings, be proud of us, and love or encourage us. Kids just want to be seen, heard, and feel loved. You can’t cultivate a happy and supportive environment if you are not a happy parent. Fortunately, society is slowly shifting into a place of less judgment and more understanding. With that shift comes a change in priorities. The realization that “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Being a happy parent is the only avenue to successful parenting.
Dangers of Parental Burnout
Feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or like a failure as a parent is completely normal. You’re not a failure though. You are in fact the opposite. You love your kids so much that you feel a sense of guilt, or inadequacy for not being able to meet theirs, and society’s, demands. Parental Burnout is a real disorder according to UC Louvain in Belgium. Symptoms include feeling distant from family, fantasizing about “escaping” or suicide, constant fatigue or exhaustion, emotional distancing from kids, and in extreme cases can lead to child or spousal abuse.
Granted you can’t remove all stress from your life, and you’re bound to have days where you feel frustrated or sad. sad or frustrated. This is also totally normal. However, numerous things can be done to nurture mental health and ensure you and your partner are overall happy parents.
Here are suggestions to help you be a happy mom and parent:
- Ask for help! A happy parent will ask for help from family or a babysitter. While you should always be careful about who you leave you leave your children with, you can benefit greatly from getting a break.
- Try to find some time to work out, take a walk, or get some fresh air.
- Find time to connect with your partner.
- Schedule a playdate. You can either stick around to visit with other parents, this will help you feel more connected to people in the same boat as you. Or you can drop your kiddo off and offer to host the next playdate at your house. That way both sets of parents get a much-needed break.
- Eat something tasty and nutritious. A happy parent knows their body needs nutrients to function. Additionally, food brings people together, and some might even say happiness.
- Don’t be such a stickler for the rules. A happy parent knows that sometimes an unexpected day off or surprise treat makes the whole family feel better. Surprise your family occasionally with a later bedtime or trip to get ice cream after dinner. The extra quality time will bring you closer as a family. Also, by learning to relax, you’ll be an especially happy parent.
At the base of every recommendation, you’ll find an underlying theme of self-care. That means that if not every suggestion resonates with you, that’s ok. The important thing is to do things that make you happy, not stress about the little things, and most importantly lower your expectations of yourself. You are great and doing the best you can, perfection is unattainable no matter how smart, strong, talented, or loving you may be! Remember, your kids don’t need a perfect mom or perfect parent, they need a happy parent.
Keep Reading: I Was So Happy To Become A Mom, But I Don’t Recognize Myself Anymore
- “Being a mom can be hard: Here’s how to be happy.” Forbes. Tracy Brower, PhD. March 8, 2021.
- “How Parents Fare: Mothers’ and Fathers’ Subjective Well-Being in Time with Children.” Sage Journals. Kelly Musick, et al. September 20, 2016.
- “What makes a happy mom?” Citizen Times. May 1, 2017.
- “14 habits of happy parents.” Parents. Marion Winik and Kimberly Zapata. February 23, 2022.