15 Things You Should Give Up To Be a Happy Parent

Pregnant yoga

If only this was all you needed to do to be a happy parent

No one could possibly argue that having kids isn’t a lot of work. Physically, it can be brutal. Conceiving the kids, carrying them around in your uterus for nine months, birthing them, nursing them, carting them around when they’re like dead weight, lifting them in and out of the crib, chasing after them when they crawl, and restocking the shelves of your local grocery store once your kids realize their arms are long enough to reach the boxes of cereal that you don’t allow in your house — it’s exhausting.

But before having a kid of your own, it’s hard to grasp just how emotionally exhausting parenting can be, and just how much you need to let go of mentally in order to do it somewhat successfully, or at least happily.

The Purpose Fairy once came up with a list of 15 things you should give up to be happy. Along those same lines, here are 15 things you should give up to be a happy parent, or one who is at least not permanently on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Following the list to a T isn’t some cure-all that will make raising children a breeze, but if you take some time to digest it, it may be easier to process (or even avoid) some of the inevitable migraines along the parenting way:

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  • 1. Personal space 1 of 15
    1. Personal space
    Even if you have the best husband/wife/partner/boyfriend/girfriend/babysitter/nanny/manny/grandparents/cleaning lady/friend/neighbor/older child who ensures that you get some "me" time every now and again, when you become a parent, it's inevitable that your personal space will be violated ad infinitum. To be sure, children are your emotional shadows. But they will also be your literal shadows. And as with your other literal shadow, you'll never be able to shake it.
    As long as you know and accept that, you might just be a little less frustrated each time you take a step and there's a tiny hand or foot not belonging to you that is necessarily standing in (or under) your way.
  • 2. Being alone in the bathroom 2 of 15
    2. Being alone in the bathroom
    You hear people joking about it all the time — about how parents can't even go to the bathroom alone. "Ha ha!" they say. "I can't even go to the bathroom by myself!" they say.
    Here's the thing: They're not kidding. When you're a parent, you cannot go to the bathroom without someone wanting to sit on your lap or have you kiss an owie or tie a shoe or brush their hair or referee a fight — or just want to inspect your poop.
    Just remember: You will get the bathroom back to yourself in a few years (or a dozen and a half years, whatever).
  • 3. Free time 3 of 15
    3. Free time
    Sure, you might think that having a terrific support system means you'll have regular free time to exercise, go out with your girlfriends, have date night with your husband or read a book that doesn't rhyme. But know that just when you're looking forward to your plans the most, that's usually the exact moment when kids throw up/melt down/need Mommy the most. It's what it is. Kids are what happen when you are busy making plans for your free time.
  • 4. Caring what other people think 4 of 15
    4. Caring what other people think
    You might think you already don't care what people think. But once you have kids, you really need to not care what other people think. Someone will always have an opinion, and more often than not it will be about what you're doing wrong (when it's about something you're doing right, don't hesitate to plant a big smooch on that person's cheek). Whether it's the total stranger behind you in the checkout line at the pharmacy, your mother-in-law, frenemy or best childhood friend, someone will always find a way to tell you how you can be doing something better. Sometimes they might even be right, but even when they're wrong, as long as you are at peace with the fact that someone will always think what you're doing is wrong regardless, you'll lie awake with irritation/insecurity/ire just a little less each night.
  • 5. Vanity 5 of 15
    5. Vanity
    Surely before you have kids you have the luxury of time, and therefore the option of putting at least a little effort into your personal appearance. Much (if not all) of that time disappears once you have kids — especially in the first few years of their life. Whether it's permanent spit-up stains on your shirts, the smell of a baby's vomit embedded in your jacket or mascara on one eye and not the other — it's OK to throw in the towel (particularly since showering regularly can be a challenge when you have little ones). Nothing lasts forever, and when your kids are older you'll probably remember with some amount of warmth and humor about the time(s) you wore the same sweats for 96-straight hours. Let it go now when you have little choice; you'll get it back eventually.
  • 6. Ego 6 of 15
    6. Ego
    Of course your kids are brilliant. And beautiful. And brainy. But guess what? So are everyone else's. All parents should think their kids hung the moon. But when you start to see a chink in the armor (and you will), whether it's when you actually witness your kid bite another kid on the playground or realize learning to read is more of a struggle for your kid than it is for everyone else in the class, or your kid's soccer skills are such that it's clear there will be no college athletic scholarship, you just need to take a deep breath and focus on solving the problem at hand without obsessing. Just because your dreams for your kids don't always match reality exactly, you need to realize your child will find another path, and what's important is that you love them unconditionally, even if they have two left feet in ballet class.
  • 7. Staying on schedule 7 of 15
    7. Staying on schedule
    Maybe you've always prided yourself on arriving on time. You know better than to keep anyone waiting. After all, it's rude to keep people waiting. But when you have kids, especially in the beginning, it's best just not to make concrete plans. And when you have your first kid? Getting out of the house before the crack of noon might seem impossible. Best not to try, if you can avoid it. Figuring out a routine that involves nursing, changing diapers, napping, not to mention dressing and feeding yourself is often complicated enough — there's little point in making it even more of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle by making appointments before the early afternoon.
  • 8. Control over your house 8 of 15
    8. Control over your house
    You might think you won't be one of those people whose house gets taken over by dried balls of Play-Doh and Lego parts and little bits of colored plastic that belong to some toy that no one can seem to remember or locate. But as much as you might try to maintain some semblance of adult life in your home, it will belong to your children until they are old enough to pick up after themselves (and even then, it's iffy). Let go of the need for perfection, or semi-perfection, or even general tidiness and you may find you'll let go of the same arguments over and over about who put what where and whose job it is to put it away to an impossible standard.
    When your house meets your expectations again, that will probably mean your kids are grown and out of the house, and you'll miss them (although maybe not the accompanying mess).
  • 9. Disposable income 9 of 15
    9. Disposable income
    Unless your last name is Rockefeller or Zuckerberg, you'll probably find that having kids can drain your bank account faster than the shelf life of a Kardashian marriage. Even the best planners and savers are often shocked at the cost of diapers, formula, clothes, shoes, gymnastic classes, birthday parties, Christmas presents, summer camp, babysitters, preschool and college tuition. Keep planning and saving, but it might be best to gently let go of the idea of having the kind of cash on hand that you did the last time you picked up at the last minute for a just-because getaway to Vegas. Vegas will still be there when your kids are out of the house (and maybe at that time they'll even treat you to a round of blackjack).
  • 10. Peace of mind 10 of 15
    10. Peace of mind
    Becoming a parent can mean losing almost all peace of mind. No matter how kind your kids are, once they get on a school bus, get into a car with one of their friends behind the wheel, go to their first school dance, you can kiss your peace of mind goodbye. Your kid may be the bee's knees, but you'll probably always worry about other kids and how their attitudes, behavior and bad habits will affect your kids. No matter how old your kid or how old you are, this will likely stay the same for as long as you live.
  • 11. Defining sanity as you now know it 11 of 15
    11. Defining sanity as you now know it
    Yes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When you're a parent and trying to raise a decent little person, you will go insane. Before you have kids, you have more control over affecting change. When you have kids, you will be surprised at how little control you have. You are raising people, not robots. As much as you'd like them to do things your way, they will assert free will at some point and there's little you will be able to do to change their course entirely. Even if you try over and over and over (and over) again.
  • 12. Sleeping 12 of 15
    12. Sleeping
    It's such a parenting cliché — how little sleep you get as a parent. And yet — it's so true.
    When the kids are babies it's because they need to be fed. When they get older you might be awake with worry while wondering if they're OK or if they will be OK or when they will be better. Or maybe you're up at night fretting about child-related finances or what the future will hold. No matter the reasons, rest-assured (albeit with little sleep) that with parenting come little sleep. It's definitely a package deal.
  • 13. Smoking 13 of 15
    13. Smoking
    Does it really need to be said? Actually, with the smoking rate in the U.S. stalled for the last several years, apparently it does need to be said: Quit smoking before you have kids. Don't smoke around them. Don't smell like smoke around them. Don't bring them places where people are smoking. If you love your children, keep them away from smoke. Always. Doing what you can to ensure their future health will make you happy.
  • 14. Not exercising 14 of 15
    14. Not exercising
    Your life is no longer your own when you have kids. And your kids don't want to live their lives without you. Even if your schedule is crazy and you have no alone time or personal space, try to get out and take a walk every day at the very least. Go alone, go with you dog, go with your kids — but just make sure you go.
    Giving your kids the gift of you when they're grown up is one they'll probably most appreciate.
  • 15. Being less careful 15 of 15
    15. Being less careful
    Before you have kids, the only life you probably think about regularly — as in, all the time — is your own. Most people feel invincible. When you have kids, you'll probably spend more time thinking about them than yourself. But you must think of yourself, too. For their sake. Whether it's getting a little tipsy in a restaurant and then driving home or not taking needed medication regularly, when you're less careful after you become a parent, you're not the only one who suffers the consequences.

What did you realize you needed to give up in order to be a happy parent?

Photo credits: iStock

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