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01st Jun 2016

5 Tried and Tested Skills You Need To Be A Happy Parent

Fionnuala Zinnecker

Becoming a parent taught me many things, from the basics of dressing a newborn to deep and meaningful stuff like the depth of a mother’s love.

Becoming a happy parent took a while. Of course I was overjoyed with my first and subsequent children as each of them arrived. The change in lifestyle wasn’t a shock, but it did take a while to adjust to. Realising that things weren’t going to go back to pre-child normality and then finding some work-arounds helped. Out of all that I have learned on the road to becoming a happy parent of small children, there are five skills I want to share with you. If you don’t already employ them, start today.  They are easy and, best of all, they work.

1. Spot cleaning – I have become a bit of an expert at spot cleaning. Pre-children, before leaving the house, I used to have a quick look in the bathroom mirror to make sure I had no lipstick on my teeth. Now it’s to check whether there are any dribbles or blobs on my face, clothes or hair. My shoulders seem to be the best place in the house for children to wipe their runny noses or burp up milk onto. A quick scrub on the spots with a facecloth is usually enough to let me pass as clean enough to leave the house. And speaking of the house, spot cleaning works just as well there too. No time to wash the kitchen floor or clean the bathroom? Grab a dishcloth, rinse it in some warm water and give the worst spots a rub.
2. Creating the illusion of being well-dressed – I like to be well-dressed but with children, you can’t always do it. With a bit of creativity though, you can pass as well-dressed for short trips like the school run or the grocery shopping. The trick is covering up. A blazer, a scarf, stud earrings and knee-high boots over clean-ish jeans is my go-to combo. It doesn’t matter how grubby your top is or whether you have got odd socks on. In fact, come summer it gets even easier. You don’t even need socks. To the casual passer by, you look like a happy parent who has got a grip on things.

3. Recognising the poo face –  and, for that matter, the wee wee dance. These are two incredibly important things to look out for in your child, especially once they are out of nappies and very especially if you are in the middle of doing the shopping. The staring, concentrated face of a small child who is avoiding eye contact and the jiggly, hoppy movements of a boy who hates to dance send off alarm signals to me. We high tail it to the nearest loo before there are any accidents, even if that means leaving the half-full trolley in the middle of an aisle.

4. Listening and learning – I find that learning a little bit about Star Wars, Lego or whatever my children are currently in to makes listening to their endless stories about it a little easier to follow. Children love it when you interact with them and place importance on what is important to them. So next time they are talking about their favourite game, toy or cartoon, throw in a few buzz words you’ve picked up from their ramblings. Even if you get it totally wrong, they’ll be happy you’re involved and will probably find it hilarious that you can’t tell a Wookie from a Serpentine.
5. Accepting the way things are – accepting that neither the house nor the car will be clean for another 15 years or so, accepting that children don’t understand being quiet, accepting that meals out are rushed, accepting help and accepting that you can’t be the best parent in the world 24/7. Accepting certain things makes parenting a little easier. Why try to change them? It won’t always be like this. Be a happy parent now.

Fionnuala is a Project manager and mama to three bilingual boys living in Germany. Coffee in hand, she is usually found minding the children, planning projects, writing or cooking, all while keeping an eye out for vintage treasures and taking photos for her brilliant Three Sons Later blog.