12 ways to being a happier, less-stressed parent

I’ve been doing some thinking (which can be quite dangerous!) and I’ve realised that we can be happier, less-stressed and enjoy life more by making a few changes to the way we think and act, and becoming intentional in wanting to see a difference!

[As the last blog was so short, I thought it was time to shake it up a bit!! Originally I was going to post this in two parts, but it wasn’t “flowing” right, and it had to be posted as one! If this is too long for you, just skip the points that don’t apply! Haha! I would love to hear some of your top tips – especially as I am still so new to this mothering business! Leave a comment and share your wisdom!]

Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt so far…

1) Don’t compare yourself
Hand’s up if you’ve compared yourself to someone else since this morning? I bet, that would be the majority of us! We do it all the time! And it’s a big part of why we are unhappy! There’s a quote I love,

“Comparison is the greatest thief of joy” {Roosevelt}

and isn’t it true!?

The more we keep comparing ourselves, the more we become unhappy and get the “grass is greener” syndrome. There’s only one way to tackle this. STOP! Each time you want to start comparing…STOP! You got that? STOP!

2) Money can’t buy you happiness
There seems to be this belief that money = happiness. If you really think about it, that’s just not true. Sure money can buy you nice houses, great holidays and all the clothes in the world, but it’s your choice to be happy or not. You can choose to be happy, rich or poor!

So, whether you’re loaded or you struggle to make ends meet each month, your children’s happiness does not derive from it. Your child won’t look back on their childhood wishing they had more toys and clothes, they’ll remember the love you gave them and all the fun family memories!

Emilia’s favourite toy at the moment demonstrates this perfectly – it’s an unused, styrofoam Costa coffee cup! Yup! She is easily pleased…and so is her dad with her choice of toys! Haha. It cost us nothing, and yet she is as happy as can be! I am sure those of you with kids, will remember times when the kids would rather play with the gift wrap or packaging than the actual present! Children at such a young age have nothing to prove or don’t compare themselves to each other, they are just happy with what they have. Let’s try to nurture that quality in them for as long as possible!

What’s your choice?

3) Your family, your way!
Just like we all love different things, and have different tastes, so our parenting style is going to be different from each other’s. We need to learn to respect and support each other as parents, rather than criticise and judge each other. All we want is the best for our children. Let’s embrace our different styles and learn from each other. Be confident in your ability to raise your children! No one knows your children as well as you – no one loves them as much as you – so don’t be letting Natalie from down the road, make you feel like a rubbish parent because she parents her kids differently to yours! Your family, your way! The end.

[Disclaimer – By parenting styles, I am not condoning anything that would harm your child.]

4) Live in the moment

This is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given and has become my life motto. When you are too busy worrying about stuff, you are not enjoying the present – your child beaming at you with delight, the glorious sunshine, your husband holding your hand, the colours of spring – all those fleeting moments, that can bring you such happiness and warmth. Decide to be present, to live in each moment!

5) Count your blessings
I am sure you heard it all the time growing up, I certainly did, “you are so lucky to have so much, think about those kids in poor countries that have nothing.” Then my mum would whip out a pamphlet from the Red Cross and show me photos of starving kids. She would normally time this perfectly, just before we wrote our Christmas or Birthday wish lists! But it really did have an impact on me. I grew up to do lots of missionary work, living in Mexico for 2 years as part of it, and I saw just how incredibly blessed we are to be living in a developed country.

The next time you want to grumble about our free healthcare system, or complain because your favourite type of bread was out of stock….try a dose of perspective (easier said than done!). There’s a saying going round at the moment, “first world problems” for all those menial, outrageous things we get worked up about – when in comparison to real life, they don’t even deserve a mention! Seriously….

6) Figure out your work-style
Here’s where my German side is going to come out! Watch out!

I was raised by a very efficient, organised and hard-working German mother. She taught me a lot about using my time wisely, being punctual and all other good German traits 🙂 As I got older, I didn’t want to be so German anymore – I wanted to be like my husband, and other laid-back types like him! They thrive on leaving everything to the last minute, and yet they STILL get everything done in time, and they are never put out!

Well, trying to become “laid back” was like trying to squeeze into one of Emilia’s baby grows! I just wasn’t made like that! I would end up more stressed, and very annoyed at Paul – a complete disaster! It wasn’t until we had Emilia that something suddenly “clicked” and I realised that for me to be stress-free and happy I needed to figure out how I work.

So now, I am writing up weekly meal plans, and have a cleaning rota in place, and plan each day as best as I can – but I am more relaxed and feel more in control than ever before. I am as German as you can get in my day to day routine, and I am proud of it!

What’s your style? If you’re not sure, why not try different ways and see what works best! Once you have figured it out, work it!

7) Don’t be hard on yourself
Are you your own worst critic? Do you constantly feel guilty for not doing more? Do you feel guilty when you sit down and have a break here and there? STOP IT!

You have to make a decision to be kinder to yourself. No one else can do it for you.

Once you learn to be kinder to yourself, you will notice being a little kinder to your other half too – and you will reap the benefits!

This is the German part of me I HAD to UN-learn! As long as you are doing the best you can, you can’t do anymore. I am sure your kids and husband would rather have a more relaxed mummy, than an OCD-clean house!

8) Appreciate yourself
This is a toughie! If I said to you, rate yourself out of 10 on your looks, your work ethics, your personality….I wonder how many would give themselves a 7 or more. If I asked you to rate your friend on the same things, you would all probably generously give out 8s, 9s, and if bribed, 10s! Why are we so stinking stingy when it comes to appreciating ourselves and knowing our worth??

Of course it’s nice to get praise from family and friends, but I don’t think it will ever truly sink it unless you can start to believe it. Which can take time. And practice. And sometimes you will just have to start “convincing to yourself” until you believe it!

I think it’s a life long journey, this one, but one that I would like to embrace and be challenged by! I hope you will too…

9) Choose your friends wisely
Time is precious, right!? Good friendships take time to nurture and maintain – but it’s so worth it, right?!

Then there is always that one “friendship”, that person we feel obliged to see for some reason or another, that one person that can make you feel like you are doing everything wrong, and all they do is put you down and burden you with negativity! Uh, just stop putting yourself through such torture! If you absolutely have to stay in touch with those kinds of people, or because they are family (my sympathies), then at least don’t spend so much time with them. Limit how often you are in contact with them. If they’re not family, and they’re not friends, maybe it’s time to say goodbye, and go your separate ways?

Prioritise your time to be spent with people that support you and believe in you, the ones that will laugh with you and help you through the hard times.

Time is precious.

10) Plan in some “me time” regularly
Speaking of time, make sure you have some much needed and deserved “me time” every now and again! Even if it’s just 30 minutes a week! Do something you love doing, treat yourself, look after yourself.

I know as mums we are always told that this is so important, but we always ignore it!

Happy mum = Happy family = Happy mum

It’s important. Schedule it in right now!! (If you’re a planner like me!)

11) 3 positives from today
I like to do this with Paul, especially when one of us has had a bad day! List 3 things that you enjoyed about the day. Your mind is so powerful, and just focusing on a few positive things can really help turn a bad day around. It doesn’t always work, but it definitely teaches you to focus on the good stuff, to have a brighter outlook on life. As soon as Emilia can talk, she will be doing this each day before bed!

12) Prioritise and be flexible
If you are like me, and love a routine, try to ensure that you allow room for flexibility. How? Prioritise tasks that NEED to get done today, and don’t worry if other things have to be postponed for the sake of some flexibility!

Chances are, if you love routine, your spouse prefers spontaneity (opposites attract and all that!) – and a balance between the two is perfect! The next time your partner suggests taking you and the kids out to the cinema last minute, wave those chores goodbye and have a great, guilt-free time making memories with your family! Life is too short not to enjoy it!