“I love my kids but I don’t like parenting” is a familiar feeling for many of us. We love our children to bits, and we’re grateful for them, but the act of parenting day in day out is, quite frankly, a grind. Recently, an article with this exact sentiment went viral and I swear you could almost hear the collective exhale as parents everywhere celebrated the fact that “Yes! Finally, someone said it!”
The author of the piece, Liz Krieger, is brutally honest about her parenting struggles, some of which are chalked up to the “sheer, repetitive monotony of it all.”
This is something I definitely identify with.
The unchanging, rote nature of day-to-day domesticity is what numbs my brain and makes me dislike a lot of what parenting is at this stage: drag them out of bed, make breakfast, make lunch, forbid television, referee bathroom disputes, find mittens, hustle them out the door, go to work, come home, make dinner, battle over homework, drive to activity, argue over dinner (“vegetables again, mom?”), coax them into bed and sleep.
Some parents like the little kid stage the best, where the problems are small and the snuggles are big. And some parents, like me, got a little lost in how small and meaningless much of that felt. Yes, teaching kids to not drink bleach and to look both ways before crossing the street is VERY important, but simply keeping them alive didn’t give me the same satisfaction I get from a good heart-to-heart over bullies and crushes.
The meltdowns, the hard conversations, the teachable moments, that’s when I shine. I do my best parenting when I feel like what I’m doing and saying is actually making a difference to my kid.
But I cannot stand the lunchbox, homework, “please do your chores and flush the damn toilet” dance.
So maybe one of the ways to become a happier parent is to look for ways to break the monotony. Because listen, there’s no getting around the fact that parenting is a grind. And it’s not always fun or rewarding. I would love to write Ten Simple Ways to Turn Parenting into a Whimsical Wonderland of Joy and Enchantment but I can’t even think of one strategy to accomplish that goal, never mind ten.
But what if small changes in our routines could alleviate some of that boredom?
What if instead of railing against the doldrums of parenting we focused our energy on making it suck just a little less?
If you’re willing to try, start by making a list of your top five parenting pain points. Keep them small, like “making lunches.” Remember, it’s the minutiae we’re dealing with, not getting her a full scholarship to Harvard.
Then imagine how you might approach each task differently. For example:
- If it’s making lunches, consider changing up when you make them, so it feels like a different chore. And think about what you make. Google “easy, creative school lunches” and ask your mom friends for their go-tos. Use social media to ask for suggestions.
- During stressful and hectic times like the morning rush out the door, try blasting your favourite tunes to give the activity a different feel, and to keep everyone happy and moving.
- Tune into a podcast while cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry. Put a friend on speakerphone and catch up while you work.
- Try switching up the evening routine by serving breakfast for dinner once a week. Or declare a screen-free night where everyone (including mom) curls up with a book or quiet toy. Kick it old school by giving the kids a deck of cards, marbles or dominoes to play with.
- If you can, outsource the stuff you really hate doing. Try giving the kids more chores, asking your partner for help, hiring someone, or investing in meal subscription boxes that can take some of the pain out of meal planning and prep.
You can also go deeper by making more significant changes to your daily routine
Having me-time in the morning. I get up at least an hour before my kids so I can enjoy some alone time and prepare myself for the day. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, scrolling Instagram, going for a run or enjoying a cup of coffee in silence, carving out time for myself helps me start the day more calmly and mindfully, which means I’m less likely to lose my sh*t when the chaos begins.
Start a journal. I know what you’re thinking: who has time for that? Or, aren’t I too old for a diary? Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to have a sparkly unicorn on the cover and a flimsy metal lock. I like this one because the idea behind it is to write one line in the morning and one line at night. You can use the morning entry to set your intention(s) for the day and then in the evening, reflect on something that happened and how it made you feel. Use it however you’d like because the purpose of any journal is to help you connect with your thoughts and work through your feelings.
Set weekly and monthly goals. Keep them simple and short-term so you’ll see results faster and be more likely to stay motivated. Goals encourage us to think about what we want and what is possible. Goals make us think about the future, so try to set some that give you something to get excited about. Whatever it is, make sure it stimulates your brain and makes approaching life’s boring chores a little more bearable.
The bottom line: You might never come to like the day-to-day parenting routine but trying different ways to go about it might help you dislike it a little less.