On Being a Happy Parent and Holding Boundaries

Something I’ve learned along the way – to be a good parent – first you have to be HAPPY within yourself.

Happy Parent

I am often told by my ‘parent’ and ‘non-parent’ friends that I should focus on myself, as much as I focus on Kiddo. I should do things that make me happy (first) and that should be a prime focus of my life. I should not allow motherhood to take precedence over all these other wonderful aspects of a person called ME!  I understand their concern but I often just let this friendly advice slide, especially, the one that is given by non-parent friends. I mean what do they know about raising a child and the sacrifices that one has to make? Hunh, hunh! J (non-parent friends, pls don’t take offence)

Giving your child the top most priority is a default setting of any parent and it actually takes effort, considerable effort to think about one’s own happiness – FIRST.  We have many aspirations but we let them slip by because in the order of priorities – our children come first. Infact, some of us even take pride in being martyr-like, consoling the lack of our own fulfilled lives saying, “I am doing this for my children’s happiness”.  Okay, but what about yours? We all make “adjustments” for our lil’ ones, and it is natural for them to be the center of our lives because as adults, because the responsibility is greater on our shoulders, which also means responsibility for looking after our own happiness is also OURS.

Ofcourse, having a child does change things around and it is quite difficult for a non-parent to grasp. But what us parents do not understand is that how other people see us – tired, exasperated and someone with a long list of “I wish I could..” and that makes them sorta freak out. They don’t see us as making “adjustments”. They feel we have sacrificed our own sense of “I” and “I wants” to be a parent. And maybe we are – pushing out our wants and desires, in the hope, that we are giving something far more valuable to our kids – our time and attention. But is it?

Shouldn’t we be focusing on building a happy and joyous life in which are children are included, rather than having a life which revolves around our children’s happiness but inturn compromises on our own personal happiness, confidence and self-esteem?

My life coach says, K Your happiness is your responsibility. Not your child’s. Not your parent’s. Not your friends. Noone but YOURS. You have to learn to hold and enforce boundaries. Not just with your child but people around you.

But why are boundaries so important for our personal happiness?

Healthy boundaries help us to think about ourselves and also ensure we don’t allow ourselves to get pushed into a corner or do the things we don’t want to be doing. How this relates to parenting is asking yourself – “am I holding the right boundaries that ensure I get my “me” time”. “Is my growing child able to understand that my parent is also a “person” with needs?” Holding our own boundaries prevent us from being carried away into a situation, like, OVER-PARENTING. It also helps us to recognize our own needs and of our child and balancing it.

I recently read this article on “Raising Successful Children by MADELINE LEVINE” that said, “Parents also have to make sure their own lives are fulfilling. There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of over-parenting than an unhappy parent. “

On introspection, I do realize that my life revolves around my kiddo. My needs and wants come last. As a result, my daughter doesn’t see me as a “Person – K”, she only sees me as a “Mom”, who is and should be devoted to her. So therefore, sometimes, she feels “her wants” are in conflict with her mom’s.

Also, because, in reality, Kiddo is the center of my universe and as a result I over-parent. I want to make sure I am there to handle and address every mood and mistake. I am the Ms. Fix-It Mama.

It’s funny now that I think about it because I used to often think how little my parents knew about ‘positive parenting’ and would pride myself in being ‘well-educated’ in this subject. Yes, perhaps I am. And in a lot of ways, I am much closer to my 7ry ol’ Kiddo than I was ever to my parents at this age. She trusts me with her feelings and can walk up-to me to share anything without feeling embarrassed or afraid. I feel good about it. But today, after reading this article, I realize that my parents did a fantastic job of being a “balanced parent”. They were neither too intrusive nor indifferent. They focused on their happiness and held healthy boundaries with us.

Like for example, our room was located next to our grandparent’s on the ground floor of our house and our parent’s on the first floor. We only got to sleep in their room on Friday’s and sometimes only twice in a month. They would party out every Friday and Saturday night and Sundays was family time. They gave us space to grow, think and handle shit on our own.

As we grew up, I learned the ropes of life on my own. I would go through phases of sadness and extreme exhilaration and through it all, my mother was balanced. She didn’t give too much attention to my mood swings. As I grew older, I just thought my parents were perhaps unconcerned about what happened to me. LOL. Whereas, today, I feel and respect their decision to “let me figure it out on my own”. They had the courage to “hang back and watch us make mistakes. Today, I don’t think the world is going to come crashing down if things don’t go my away. I can work through my happiness and grief with the love and support of family and friends. And most importantly, I KNOW HOW TO BE HAPPY ON MY OWN.

As M puts it so well in her article, “The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.” My parents just knew it! They were present, alert and available to guide if necessary.

However, I do feel that I need to work harder towards creating a “balance” and “holding boundaries”. I want to be the parent who my child respects for “making adjustments” and not feel guilty or remorse for the “sacrifices” I made because I was a parent to her. Neither do I want them to feel that their mother’s life is empty today, because at some point, she was too busy filling it up with only parent-time. I want to be the parent who nurtures the child but also nurtures his/her own inner being that teaches the child something which he/she will never learn in any classroom, that, “looking after your own happiness is as important as looking after other people’s happiness”.

I want to end this post with what I think was the best piece of the article I shared earlier –

“Children thrive best in an environment that is reliable, available, consistent and non-interfering.

A loving parent is warm, willing to set limits and unwilling to breach a child’s psychological boundaries by invoking shame or guilt. Parents must acknowledge their own anxiety.

Your job is to know your child well enough to make a good call about whether he can manage a particular situation. Will you stay up worrying? Probably, but the child’s job is to grow, yours is to control your anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of his reasonable moves toward autonomy.

Parents also have to make sure their own lives are fulfilling. There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of over-parenting than an unhappy parent.

One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”

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15 thoughts on “On Being a Happy Parent and Holding Boundaries

  1. Love this! I’ve struggled with the balance of being the best, involved father I can be, and being so involved that my kid’s freedom is suffocated and I start to lose identity because ‘I’ don’t actually exist outside of my children any more.

    Starting to strike the balance now, but it’s taken 6 years to start getting it right!

    • Ditto. It has taken me a while to realize that I need to strike balance. Working on that now.
      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts! I don’t get to see a lot of daddy bloggers here. Welcome! 🙂

  2. Greta post, thank you. As a parent, you’re right in that our default setting is to make our children our top priority, and I’d definitely say my wants/needs come last in our house. But I think making a little time for yourself, does make for better parenting. I know that when I’m happy, I’m more patient and fun with the kids, which I’m sure they enjoy 🙂

  3. Definitely can relate to this! Me time often involves a chore or some sort of task when perhaps I should focus more on how I can grow within myself. Great post.

    Stopped by from #loveallblogs

  4. A fab post! My daughter is just one and I’m still learning, however I have always so far just let her get on with it and learn how to do things for herself. This Includes feeding herself from six months, not constantly catching her when she falls and she’s fantastic. She will and can feed herself anything and if she tumbles now she knows how to save herself. I loved the quotes!

    Popping over from loveallblogs

  5. A thought provoking post. I love the quote at the end. As a single parent I have half my time with my kids, and half my time on my own. When I’m on my own I spend my time doing things for me, and then when I’ve got the children I focus mainly on them. I’m hoping that I have a good balance.

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