What is Success?

When I was gainfully employed at the cube farm, my level of success was easy to ascertain. Did I get a pay raise or promotion? Did my staff’s production and accuracy increase? Did I finish my to-do list for the day? Were my customers happy?

As an at-home parent with two squirmy, crumb-coated customers, I find that measuring success is a bit more slippery.

What is a successful parenting day?

I could use a positive benchmark:
1) My children ate 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.
2) I helped my children share and use their words instead of screaming and hitting each other.
3) At bedtime, we all helped clean up the toys and books and both kids brushed their teeth.

Or I could use a negative benchmark:
1) I didn’t spank or yell at my kids.
2) I didn’t cave in and give them cookies for snack.
3) Neither child broke any limbs, cracked open their heads, or vomited profusely.

I know there is the long-term success of raising a happy, healthy human being. And there are the short-term successes of walking, speaking, potty training, etc. But many days it’s difficult to determine if I accomplished anything tangible at all.

Yesterday: we ate well, including one meal with 5 vegetables (yay, leftovers!); the kids got to be creative with pens and tape and paper; we went on a nature walk through the forest; but, SillyBilly refused to nap and I yelled at him after he woke up Napoleona (boo, cranky tired Mama).

Today: we did more drawings and made felt balls (well, I did, they made felt lumps); we went on an even longer nature walk, filling a basket with “treasures” that we left under a tree for the gnomes; we ate another meal with 5 veggies (yay, cafeteria at Papa’s work!); but, I threatened SillyBilly with no playing outside with his toy airplane for him to settle down and take a nap (boo, cranky tired Mama).

So far, today feels more “successful”, though I’m not sure why. Maybe because I didn’t get crazy angry at the kids at naptime. I’ve noticed that I am much more likely to get angry or upset when my needs aren’t being met (time to myself, sufficient sleep, getting projects done, etc.), which leads me to think that my anger is a kind of self-absorption.

It’s like a combination of Buddhism and Non-Violent Communication: I want to be more compassionate and attentive to my children, but to do that I need to make sure my needs are met as well. Maybe that’s the secret to a successful day.


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