You can’t quit this job, but you can make it better

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Having kids sometimes feels like running a race you can’t win against a clock you didn’t set. Parenting today is often characterized by feeling overwhelmed and dissatisfied, two feelings that are exacerbated by headlines like “How Having Children Robs Parents of Happiness” and books with titles like All Joy and No Fun. Yes, you love your children, but you’re not alone if you sometimes hate being their parent.

But for some parents, that feeling is more than a passing mood. Instead, it’s a part of full-on parental burnout, a state that shares many of the same traits as professional burnout…

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With Thanksgiving coming, and the winter holidays zipping up close behind, many families are planning visits or travels with extended family. Those trips are a wonderful time to reconnect — but they can also be fraught. Between expectations and past experience, lots of us are traveling with metaphorical as well as physical baggage. Master your mental game with these tips and make this your mellowest travel year ever.

Know why you’re going Not everything about a family holiday trip might be precisely a dream vacation for parents or teens, but if you hold your reason for going close to your…

image: KJ Dell’Antonia

Nanmowrimo(National Novel Writing Month, held annually in November and challenging writers to draft a 50,000 word novel in a month — that’s 1666.66 words a day) is exactly 7 weeks away as I write.

49 days.

And I need a new story.

My agent has a draft of the novel I wrote over the course of NaNoWriMo last year (I’d estimate that about 10K words of that draft remained in the final draft, which went through another 5–6 iterations and benefited from the brilliant editing of Jennie Nash at the Author Accelerator program). …

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“Mild” isn’t just the lamest variety of hot sauce. It’s also the state of mind I strive for daily, especially when my kids seem to come only in Devil’s Extra Spicy. At some moments — especially when they’re trying to get out of the house in the morning, or things are otherwise tense — their response to the simplest of questions has enough Scoville Heat Units to blow your tongue off.

The natural urge is to react in kind, and that’s when I want to dial it back. They’re Sriracha, and I’m spaghetti sauce. …

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Admitted: one of these sucks. The other I love. Both help.

Here’s the biggest takeaway from the chores chapter of How to Be a Happier Parent: kids will do chores. Seriously. They’re all capable. The only difference between a kid who doesn’t do chores and the 5-year-old in Peru’s Amazon region hauling “logs bigger than her legs” to help build a fire is (I hate this, I really do):


Man, that blows. But there really is one simple truth about chores, besides all the things that conspire to make it harder to get kids to do them (and they’re…

Here’s how a wet, cold, miserable Memorial Day weekend might make you happier than the one you’re imagining.

I know what Memorial Day is supposed to look like.

frank mckenna on Unsplash

Maybe yours won’t. Maybe your view looks more like this one:

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I’ve been thinking for a long time that there is just too much stuff in our house. I spend so much time shuffling the stuff, rearranging the stuff, lifting the stuff off the floor and stuffing it back into someone’s overstuffed cubbie.

So. Much. Stuff.

In what I thought was a wholly unrelated move, this week I finally read Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

And then this research dropped into my inbox: An overabundance of toys may stifle toddler creativity. It’s a tiny study, but the results back up that anti-stuff urge I’ve been feeling. Give a kid 16 toys, he…

Photo by Bianca Lucas on Unsplash

Here’s what we did at our house last week: swapped rooms. One sister moved to the guest room, the other sister moved to the boys’ room and the boys moved to the biggest bedroom, previously inhabited by their sisters.

In the process, we took every single thing out of every single room and closet, and five years of accumulation became bag after bag of trash, and pile after pile of stuff to pass on. The result is glorious, but the way it felt to deal with all of those unwanted stuffed animals, crushed puzzle books and broken remote control just-about-anythings…

Issued by Kinney Brothers, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love setting goals for the New Year. Or for the summer. Or for February. Whenever, really. I love setting goals and making a plan to achieve them (sometimes an overly ambitious, too elaborate plan, but I’m improving). Maybe you’re the same way, or maybe you hate the very idea. But change is so tempting this time of year — and it’s even more tempting to try to use that on our kids.

Most kids don’t exactly hate goal-setting, but it’s not usually high on their radar. The younger the child, the less likely they are to be thinking past…

This year, spend less, stress less and make everyone happier.

illustration by KJ Dell’Antonia

What your gut tells you about toys is absolutely true: they’re better in some ways, worse in others and much cheaper and more widely available than the toys your parents bought when you were a kid. Just 3 percent of the world’s children live in the United States, but they consume 40 percent of the world’s toys. Consuming does not mean using: parents report that most kids only play with about 5 percent of the toys they own, possibly because they have so many they don’t know what to do with the rest.

And yet, whether you’re wrapping up your…

K.J. Dell'Antonia

5 years writing the New York Times’ parenting column plus one book (How to Be a Happier Parent) taught me this: family can be joy, not a stressor. Mostly.

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