familySo we have the superior French parents, and we have our Tiger moms, and soon we'll hear all about how Argentine, Tanzanian, and Eskimo parents have got parenting right and we've got it all wrong -- as usual. What's with all these books about how much better parenting is in other countries? Why do we keep comparing ourselves to everyone else?

And don't get me started on the endless mommy wars. Parenting in America is a battlefield, and we are one anxious, confused, conflicted bunch of parents. Are we making it harder than it needs to be? Here's a radical idea from Washington Post writer Brigid Schulte: "Perhaps instead of snapping up the latest foreign fad or obsessing over every international test score ranking, American parents would do well to look no further than a very American ideal: the pursuit of happiness."

After all, it's not even fair to compare ourselves with, say the French. They have high-quality, government-subsidized daycare. Not to mention, most countries (except ours and Swaziland) provide a year's paid maternity leave after each child. Compared with families in other countries, we're mostly parenting by ourselves (each nuclear family on its own), and we have HIGH expectations -- higher maybe even than parents with more of a safety net.

Which is where the pursuit of happiness comes in. Sociologist Christine Carter suggests we ditch the achievement parenting and focus on happiness -- and success will follow. Radical idea! Put happiness first, and that will feed success, instead of vice-versa! "When our children are happy, when their brains are filled with positive emotions like engagement, confidence and gratitude, we know from science that they are more likely to be successful and fulfill their potential."

So what would that look like? And do we have the courage to pursue real happiness?

This would mean we parents taking care of ourselves (trying to get sleep & a little exercise), forgetting about perfection, enjoying the moment, doing simple things together as a family, like having family dinner -- even if it's just some super-simple buttered pasta and steamed broccoli. At least, that sounds like happiness to me. I'm willing to take that leap of faith and try it out.

What does your family focus on more -- survival, achievement, or happiness?

 

Image via Kelsey Lovefusionphoto/Flickr