On Parenting, Guilt Trips and Permission to Be Happy

Regardless of what goals we may have in life, we all chase after the same fundamental objective: to be happy. We go about this both directly and indirectly, participating in activities that we think will make us happier. You might work towards owning your first home, landing that prized promotion, or hitting it off with the girl of your dreams. And as parents, our happiness can oftentimes be derived from our children. We smile when they smile.

When you have these pieces of the puzzle in place, or at least the appearance of having these pieces in place, you should be happy and not just look the part. And yet, so many of us aren’t. So many of us are stressed, anxious, exhausted or overwhelmed with a sense of existential angst. We feel guilty for not doing enough or not being enough.

We don’t grant ourselves the permission to be happy.

The Life of “Not Enough”

I’m not allowed to enjoy this moment fully and be content with my lot in life, because I still have a pile of laundry that needs to get done. I don’t have the permission to be happy, because I should be winning more bread and bringing home more bacon. I should be spending more quality time with my children and not focusing so much on work. I should be providing what’s best for my child and not worry about how that could impact my own health and well-being.

But that’s not fair, now is it?

As a work-at-home dad–and I’ve only been at this game for almost a year and a half–I always feel like I can be doing more. While my life may be pretty good by most objective standards, I always feel like I’m coming up short in one way or another. Until I live up to my full potential, I don’t deserve to be happy yet. Until I am perfect with every hat I wear and in every sphere I inhabit, I can’t be happy.

In reality, it is inherently impossible to live up to impossible standards. You can’t be Supermom. You can’t be Superdad. You can only be you and trying to measure up against the Facebook version of your friends is only going to result in feelings of inadequacy.

Perception and Reality

We all have a friend who looks like he has his act together. He’s got the perfect job, living in the perfect house with his perfect spouse and his perfect children, eating their perfect meals and enjoying their perfect vacations. He’s got no relationship problems and no financial struggles. That’s just what we think we see. What might surprise you is that someone else might think you are that friend.

Everyone faces their own challenges, whether that means they have to work late at night in order to make ends meet or their relationship with their children isn’t quite as picture-perfect as it may seem. As Nicky says in Orange Is The New Black, and I’m paraphrasing to keep this blog PG-13, some “stuff” stinks worse than other “stuff.”

But make no mistake; we all have our “stuff.”

Don’t be so hard on yourself. If you question whether you’re doing enough for your family, then your heart is already in the right place. Give yourself the permission to be happy. Life is too short to be miserable.