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15 Things You Should Give Up To Be a Happy Parent

By Meredith Carroll |

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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Maybe parenting can be a little less exhausting if you're willing to let go a little

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.

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

Photo credits: iStock

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About Meredith Carroll

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Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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26 thoughts on “15 Things You Should Give Up To Be a Happy Parent

  1. Kate says:

    I get that this is supposed to be a funny article, but a lot of just really didn’t ring true, even in jest. I have two kids under four and I have *never* had someone in the bathroom while I was using the toilet (showers are another story). And my pre-planned free time is MY free time. It doesn’t matter how much my kids “need mommy,” they have a perfectly capable father who can comfort them. I think that we, as moms, put way, way too much pressure on ourselves (seriously, you want people to just stop trying to be places on time?), especially when we have a partner (my best friend is a single mom to two so I am willing to concede a few points). But when we assume that “kids need mom” and they will “shadow” you, we aren’t doing them any favors to gain independence.

  2. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    It has taken me so long to get used to having someone in my space all the time. My son is three and loves to touch and explore everything. Including me. There are times that for my own sanity, I have to say, “Mommy needs some space right now.”

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.” http://www.themommypsychologist.com

  3. Sara says:

    Meredith,
    You successfully hit upon many points that I hear from new and seasoned mothers. Regarding Kim’s comment, I didn’t think this article was supposed to be funny- except when: “It’s funny ’cause it’s true!”
    I would only add that the unknown element is that as a parent you can often function in ways you never thought you could- such as sleep deprived!
    Best,
    Sara

  4. Jen says:

    As far as “me” time: My husband has kicked me out of the house and told me to go do something and that I wasn’t allowed back in the house for “x” number of hours. It is good and healthy to get away from the kids now and then. I find I am a better mommy when I can recharge my batteries. I know I need it when the normal kid antics get on my nerves. A few hours off and I think they are cute again. By recharging myself I am far more patient.

  5. Linda T.O.O. says:

    This is the perfect example of the slideshow that shouldn’t be.

  6. Linda T.O.O. says:

    On the topic, I haven’t given up most of these things. Smoking and ego, maybe, but not the rest. But “being less careful”? I’m not sure what that even means, and I have to click on a slideshow to read about it, so I guess I’ll never know.

  7. kaylam says:

    how about getting through one of these without your little one needing your attention ASAP! :P

  8. heather says:

    it will always be important to have me time!!! maybe im just lucky to have a good husband, mother, and mother in law to help me out when im stressed. i would not be a good mom if i didnt get away every once in awhile.

  9. Amber says:

    I think if you didn’t find most if not all of this true, you probably fall into one of the following groups of people;
    You work outside of the home
    You have a very rare and amazing husband (or caregiver who takes care of your children)
    You have a fairly good income
    You’re very simply the Alpha Super mom everyone dreams of becoming. All hail

    Anyone who spends their full time with their children know that you do indeed have to give up a majority of these things (really, you do). My husband works like crazy to support us financially, but that means that if I want to go the bathroom or take a shower, my daughter is with me or the door is open (when she was an infant, she was obviously with me). My intellectual pursuits now continue, but no longer in theory, but in reality. And children learn from their parents… and if they don’t learn from their parents, they’ll learn from whoever spends the most time with them. My sister has four kids and works and still has given up most of these things. Why? Because if you spend your life trying to either control every movement, you’ll go crazy. And if you spend you’re life after kids focusing mostly on yourself, your kids will feel like you don’t care and can grow up to be not just independent, but selfishly so. What am I saying? I’m saying everything in balance. Kids need a healthy, sane mom. Me time is hard to come by, but it has to happen at least once a month. It’s a challenge raising a kid who’s both independent AND caring, and the fact of the matter is we are social creatures, so we will have both positive and negative interactions. I have learned that the key to my sanity is indeed giving up caring so much about what others think, trying to control every tiny thing about my house, and watching any movie/tv show I want when I want (I still watch what I want, but reserve those which aren’t kid appropriate for when my daughter is otherwise occupied). Just remember, wherever you’re dropping the ball or leaving things be, somebody must be picking it up for you. And those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to have that support… Well, we simply envy you.

  10. Megan says:

    Well said, Amber. I can relate to almost all of these. I find it hard to understand how someone can take offense to this. My LO follows me EVERYWHERE around the house and yes, that doesn include the bathroom. It’s hard to find the time to look as good as I use to and I am not always on time for appointments. @Kate, just because these don’t “ring” true for you doesn’t mean they don’t for other mothers.

  11. stephanie says:

    I don’t know.. As a mother of 3 kids 8,6 and 3 I’ve been around th block with little ones.

    I have never allowed my children to b in the bathroom with me. when I showered I put my babies, infants, toddlers whatever in their crib where they were safe whiile I showered for 10 minutes. when I got out of the shower I would put them in a papasan and they can hang out with me while I get ready.

    I am a very devoted mother. however, becoming a mother doesn’t mean i have to give up ALL of my privacy. my kids know when my bathroom door is closed. They can knock but when I am done then I wiill help them (unless of course its a huge emergency). My friend when my kids were litte allowed them to always come in when she was in teh bathroom, showering, anything. and as they grew up they become completely glued to her where there was zero indepence. Now when they are 9, she can’t even pee by herself without her kids screaming, kicking at the door to let them in. Maybe extreme case, but a case nonetheless.

    My kids learned at an early age various privacy, correct behavior, and so forth. They did it all lin their toddler and preschool age way, and they had fun doing it but it didn’t mean that they had to be joined at my hip to make me a better mom. thats all.

    and my frankly, my kids are soooooo better off because of it. They are just the right amount of indepence that works for our family.

  12. Adrienne says:

    I ditto amber completely! I would live to have planned free time but if my kid winds up sick or injured I’m just not gonna enjoy it if I’m not with them. I definitely need more me time, but that is just very hard to come by. And also I may not be a single parent but I have a husband who works very hard and is required to travel a lot so I am alone with no support system around. So yes almost every single one of these ring true for me, bravo!

  13. Athena says:

    I am struggling on giving up a lot of the luxuries I gained back once my daughter grew out of the toddler years now that I have a newborn in the house. It was so easy for me to think that “Oh yeah, I will manage getting my 5 year old to school on time everyday, by myself, with the new born, only two weeks after my c-section” And when reality hit, it hit hard! I do believe that the one thing I have learned to give up is my ego, so I could learn how to ask for help and how to accept help that is offered. I was a single mother with my first one, so being able to ask for help wasn’t always an easy option, so I had this big bitter chip on my shoulder that was (and still is) very hard to let go of. But even with having my bf home in the evening to help, it still gets very difficult to find time to nap, eat, shower etc, when he is exhausted himself from working all day to support us and needs his sleep just as much as I do. Oh and it’s a million times harder to get ANY sleep in a house with a baby who is colic….

  14. Natalie says:

    Haha I love this all but 3 are my life. I have forgotten that I am supposed to pee alone LOL My son is two and I am atay at home. His playdate schedule is so extensive that I relish the 3hour nap time for him 3 hour cleaning the house time for me :) I usually dont even get to clean alone. So I keep recleaning what Ive already cleaned. Thank goodness for a great boyfriend and Moms Night Out!

  15. monica says:

    makes me happy to have had twins because they entertained themselves so much I did not feel the pressure as other moms did (do)
    HOWEVER, just got a new puppy for the first time in my life and I can relate to everything in the slideshow…he follows me everywhere, barks if someone else is getting my attention etc…!

  16. Giselle says:

    I won’t lie. My son (who’s 7 mo old) sits on my lap when I go to the bathroom. Sometimes he might play on the floor (only at home) or be on his baby potty .,. But he’s always next to me.

    I don’t agree w/ the vain one. I always get a shower. I actually had a swing next to my shower for this reason. Lots of times he is just in the shower with me.

    The sleep one – I bed share, and I’ve always been well rested. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel exhausted sometimes, but I’ve always gotten a full nights sleep. My son nurses (side lying) and we both stay asleep through it.

    I also have an incredibly hard time keeping any appointment or being anywhere on time. I threw that out the window after 2 wks post pardum. Lol.

  17. Linda T.O.O. says:

    “I think if you didn’t find most if not all of this true, you probably fall into one of the following groups of people;
    You work outside of the home
    You have a very rare and amazing husband (or caregiver who takes care of your children)
    You have a fairly good income
    You’re very simply the Alpha Super mom everyone dreams of becoming. All hail.” Not everyone is parenting babies though. Even when mine were tiny, I still found time to exercise and see friends. I sincerely don’t even know what the author meant by some of these because they’re in a format that makes me not want to read them. We need a photograph of “peace of mind”? Really? And I’m supposed to be willing to give it up? No thanks. The fact that no one ever wants to say out loud is that some people, for whatever reason, find parenting easier than others. When my daughter was a baby, I had a friend who absolutely flipped out after her second child was born. I was pregnant at the time and she regaled me with horror stories, but I didn’t find the transition all that difficult. My third baby died, so by the time I had the fourth, I wasn’t going to let a bunch of petty things bother me. It’s not about being an “alpha super mom” (whatever that is), but let’s face it, some people just have a harder time with parenting babies and toddlers, and I’m not going to feel bad that I didn’t, just like I’m not going to feel bad that I can effectively parent a teen and preteen now. BTW, I quit working P/T outside the home when my oldest was 3 and started my own business when my youngest was in school full time, my husband works an awful lot, and our income is fairly modest.

  18. J says:

    This slideshow makes parenting sound miserable and freaks me out about having kids.

  19. Again says:

    And, another one of these posts. Really? Parenting is the worst thing that’s every happened to you? Soooooo tired of these complaining, self-pitying, parent-martyr posts. When I saw the article header, I thought, “Oh good, something helpful to coach me on how giving up [x] will help me connect with my kids better and center my life.” Nope. Pity party. I haven’t been on babble in ages for a reason, and now probably won’t be back for ages. These posts are the pits.

  20. Sarah says:

    Why is it that “parenting” automatically includes conception, pregnancy, childbirth, etc.? That is certainly part of the experience for some people, but it is not true for many moms and all dads (contrary to popular belief, they are parents too). Rather than assuming that is the norm, seems like it might be worth acknowledging it isn’t.

  21. bwsf says:

    I don’t feel like I really “gave up” most of these, I just don’t miss them. All I miss is a few extra hours of sleep a night and the chance to pee alone. But I know that even that will come back to me. They’re only little once, might as well just give into everything it is to parent small children and enjoy it before it’s gone.

  22. anon says:

    Oh people, lighten the hell up. It’s HUMOR. H-U-M-O-R. Yes, parenting is a wonderful, amazing thing we should feel privileged to experience. But, Jesus H, some of it is just so damn strange/gross, how can you survive by doing anything but laughing at it?

  23. red says:

    so far so good lol the only one im not sure of yet (my son is only 9 months) is the bathroom thing. my husband and i have been together 6 years and hes never been in the bathroom while i was going so i doubt id let anyone else in… i get potty fright and cant go even in public bathrooms if i know anyone is anywhere in the same room o_o

  24. Ash says:

    Well, the hardest for me has been giving up a clean house. I’m too tired even though I go to bed at 9 pm. And I feel like I miss out on things with my son if I’m cleaning all the time. I work full-time and my husband helps out with tons of household things. Me time is very important but I find when I do have it I’m usually thinking about or talking about my family the whole time. I’m not worried about missing exercise. I didn’t do that before I had kids. Now that I’m pregnant with baby number 2 I’m missing out on a lot more stuff since I’ve been so sick with morning sickness. That makes me sad.

  25. educator says:

    I did not finish reading this article because I cannot get past professional writers and parents referring to their children as “kids”…come on people are you a goat? I realize that term “kid” is somewhat a term of endearment, which I use from time to time. However, I think when used in a writing abut children they should be referred to as such…children. I am sure my opinion is not worth diddly to you, but I felt strongly enough about this to speak up or out, whichever you prefer.

  26. Onome says:

    I love this article. It is so precise about the true life of a parent except u havn’t been there. I have 3 children and it sure drives me crazy when going to the toilet and someone wants me to do homework or tell me about a fight. For execise, u re right, we sure need to get moving. U are so right about the budget and letting go of luxuries. I remeber how I use to stop and cry when my boys were still small and I was all alone with them – wondering how the hell I got there without any practical manual that worked!.

    Nice piece. Sure will keep for my daughter’s guidance someday.

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