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Rule 3 of Parenting: Be Content

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Richard Templar explains that your mood is as important as your childrearing strategy and how you live as a family, if not more so.

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This chapter is from the book

Contented parents make for contented kids. I certainly found out when I was growing up that stressed parents don’t make their kids relaxed and at ease. So it stands to reason that you need to make sure you’re as happy and relaxed as you can be.

This isn’t some guilt trip to make you feel bad every time you’re grumpy or unhappy. Not at all. Quite the reverse, in fact. Our kids need to learn to read people’s emotions and recognize that everyone has their off moments. We all have bad days and tough experiences that affect our moods, but there are also things we can control. Aspects of our lives where we can make choices that leave us happier than the alternative. And the very fact that a certain choice makes us less stressed is in itself a good reason to make it. I’m not talking here about day to day mood swings, but about making big decisions that will reduce your stress levels in the long term.

So if breastfeeding your baby makes you feel really rotten and though you’ve really stuck at it, it’s still making your stress levels rocket, you’re probably doing your child a favor by choosing to bottle feed them, whatever anyone else may tell you. Sure, the milk itself may be less perfect, and in an ideal world breast-feeding is better, but this isn’t an ideal world and that’s only one aspect of the equation. Sometimes bottle feeding really is the formula for a happy baby (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

Here’s another example. Some families—entirely understandably in my view—find vacation travel deeply stressful. Yes, they’re supposed to be relaxing, and you feel you “ought” to enjoy them, but actually they never seem to turn out to be all that pleasurable. I once saw it described as “hard work in a different place.” The effort of getting everything organized, buying and transporting all the stuff you might need as you don’t know what’s at the other end, traveling long distances with fidgety kids, and then finding at the other end that the kids struggle to cope with a dramatically different temperature and are cranky, and won’t eat anything that’s available ... Not exactly the recipe for a calm, happy family able to fully enjoy their time together. So why not give yourself a break? Find somewhere nearby to vacation. It may not be as exotic, but if it means you can relax more and enjoy the trip, surely it’s better for everyone? Once the kids are older you can think about taking more adventurous vacations again.

In the end your mood is as important as your childrearing strategy and how you live as a family, if not more so. So don’t let anyone guilt-trip you about the way you do it. If it makes you more relaxed and less stressed, it’s probably the right thing to do—whatever it is.

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