Where Logic Meets Love

The Happiness Project: September is Parenthood Month

Thursday, September 1, 2011

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The Happiness Project: September is Parenthood Month | Faith Permeating Life

Before you ask: I am NOT pregnant.

Mike and I are still a few years away from adopting kids, but I felt like I should devote a month to getting a handle on who I want to be as a parent. I will probably have a few posts this month delving into broad, theoretical ideas about parenthood, but primarily I want Mike and me to discuss and hopefully agree on some of the basic rules that will govern our household. I think knowing that we're on the same page about things will give me a greater sense of peace about the idea of becoming a mother -- which currently still freaks me out.

But first, I need to do a brief recap to keep myself accountable.

January-July: Narrowing down my list of resolutions in July has made it easier to maintain the habits I've been building throughout the year. I'm making one small change for September, which is that rather than merely having an e-mail draft always started and waiting, I'm going to try to send a brief e-mail to a friend or family member every day. We'll see how that goes.

August: This month turned out OK. I only managed to get through one work-related book (though it was very helpful), so I'm keeping this resolution through the end of the year. I've given myself permission, when things are slow, to take my book away from my desk and just go read for half an hour. Because honestly, nobody notices where I am, so I might as well take advantage of it.

One change I made, that drove my ability to "work smarter," was to keep a time-tracking sheet. I'll probably talk more about this in a later post. It was very easy to do and gave me a lot of insight into how I work, how long things really take, and just how often I get interrupted at my desk (which is hard data to take back to my boss about my desire to work from home more often). I also paid greater attention to which projects I enjoyed and which I dreaded. I now give myself permission when I feel restless to work on something I find fun even if it isn't a high priority, just to keep my momentum going. Watching myself work was a great exercise.

So, on to September!

I really have only one resolution for this month, which fortunately Mike is onboard with. Every other day, I will send Mike a topic or, more likely, my stance on something (e.g., "I don't think we should spank our children"). I'll include pros and cons where applicable, and probably a few links to arguments that have shaped my thoughts on the matter. Then he'll have a day to think about it, and we'll discuss the following night.

Because I read so many blogs and articles about stuff like this, I already have a lot of thoughts and opinions and ideas, and I want to make sure Mike is aware of those and has a chance to form his own opinions well ahead of time.

We did this before we got married, too -- talked about everything from finances to chores to sex -- and it greatly paid off, I think, so I'm hoping the same is true for raising children. Because we may end up adopting children with unique needs that we'll have to adapt to, I think it's best that we are on the same page for as many things as possible to start with.

For those of you with children, how much (in terms of household rules, approaches to discipline, how you would celebrate holidays, etc.) did you discuss ahead of time and how much has been decided as situations arise? How much do you think it's possible to plan ahead of time?

For those of you in marriages/partnerships without children, how much discussion have you had about these topics?

EDIT: I realized that I should better clarify the kind of discussions I'm talking about. Here are some of the conversations Mike and I have talked about or will hopefully talk about this month:
-Will our son(s) be circumcised?
-Will our children sleep in cribs or co-sleep with us?
-Will our children experience the stories of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny?
-Will we set a price limit or number-of-gifts limit for birthdays and holidays?
-Will our children be expected to do chores? At what age?
-Will our children get an allowance? How much? Will it be linked to their chores?
-Will our children be able to join any extracurricular activity they want, or will we put limits, such as how much money we'll contribute to any activity or how many times a week we're willing to drive to activities?
-Will our children get their own rooms or share rooms?
-Will our children be allowed to have a TV in their bedroom? A computer?
-Will we put limits on how much TV or computer time our kids can have?
Those are some examples of the kind of conversations we've had and that I want to have before we adopt kids.


  1. Here is an interesting article about praising your kids: http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

  2. I think it's definitely important to discuss parenting before you have children. We did. But you cannot plan for everything. Hence, we are currently pregnant two months before we planned on trying to be as such. ;) I do, however, feel that there is A LOT of overwhelming information out there to make a potential mommy crazy. I have read so many "don't do this or your child will be irrevocably affected" in the past few years. And some of it is just ridiculous. There is no CORRECT way to raise a child. I think that your philosophy should be a reflection of your own values and, really, only you and your partner can determine how that manifests. I know tons and tons about child development from my educational background but...in the end I am still going to have to roll with the punches just like any other bewildered new parent. I think you can be somewhat prepared. But not entirely. Every kid and every family is different. Flexibility is just as important to me as a detailed plan. Maybe more important. But that's me.

  3. @RyanTM
    Thanks for sharing that article! Last month I read two books, Switch and Drive, that both mentioned the research on praising intelligence vs. effort. That's one of the things that I want to try to keep in mind as a parent, though I'm sure it will be harder than it sounds, especially as I was praised primarily for intelligence/outcomes growing up, rather than effort.

  4. @Caiti
    Last month I saw my cousin very gracefully handle an intrusion on her parenting by a well-meaning friend, and we talked afterward about how, outside of the child's actual safety, there is no right or wrong way to parent. She said the documentary "Babies" (which I have not seen) solidified that idea for her. I think that's a really reassuring thought!

  5. Discussions ahead of time are a very, very, very good idea!!! Of course you won't cover everything that may come up, but you'll work through a lot of things.

    For us, some of the most valuable conversations were not about "issues" in general but about specific situations, mostly ones I saw on the mothering.com discussion boards. We would talk about what that mom could have done differently, why that child might be acting that way, what we remembered from our own childhoods that was like it but different, etc. Very informative, and 90% of the time there was a nice feeling of being basically in agreement on all this stuff. :-)

  6. @'Becca
    That's an excellent suggestion! Thanks! Mike and I have had those kind of conversations informally; for example, after going to a museum we discussed afterwards how we'd seen parents hurrying their children from one exhibit to the next for no apparent reason other than they (the parents) decided they'd spent enough time looking at something. Because Mike was a nanny for several months this summer, that prompted several discussions on how he handled different situations, and it was really helpful (and reassuring) for me to hear about his approach. Now that he's not nannying anymore, I may check out that site to prompt some of the same kinds of conversations. Thanks!

  7. I have seen "Babies"! And I completely agree!


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