Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

How to Transform Drudgery into Joy

"Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing. Be there completely. While doing this, you’ll find that you naturally enjoy those seemingly tedious tasks much more (like washing the dishes). It’s amazing how much non-resistance and presence changes everything.” -- Zen Habits

Most of us find it tedious to change yet another diaper, make yet another snack, be patient one more time. Sometimes it feels like parenting traps us in a cycle of wearying repetitive tasks.

But there’s a secret to transforming drudgery into joy: Being fully present.

If we’re only half there, it often feels tedious to meet our child’s needs.  If we’re thinking about that phone call we need to make, checking our email, worrying about whether our child is on the right track, or cataloging our partner’s failures, then the care-taking tasks of parenting will always feel tedious. 

What’s more, our kids will always be demanding more, more, more – because what they’re experiencing is that we aren’t all there.

But being with kids is only boring when we resist it.  When we bring ourselves into each present moment of experience with our children, we find it brimming with life. The creative possibilities are endless.  It's our resistance that's the burden, not our kids.


1. Show up.  When you're trying to focus on something and your child pesters you, naturally you feel like snapping at her.  But your child is sensing that you've become unavailable, and she doesn't feel safe until you return.  Turn off the TV, radio, computer and cell phone. Let the house phone pick up. This is family time; the world will wait.

2. Find a way to make it fun.  Whether it's broccoli or bath time, it doesn't have to be boring. There is nothing we do with kids that can't be made into a game. Play is what brings us alive -- even adults. And anything can be play, even work.

3. Connect.  Forget about structured activity; just snuggle and chat and engage physically.  Drop your agenda and simply appreciate your child: what beauty, brains, creativity, curiosity, aliveness!  When we really connect with our kids, we can't help but feel grateful for the blessing of being their parents.  We're filling their cups -- and it energizes us, as well.

4. Get everyone into the act. Tired of doing all the work?  Make the chore into a game in which everyone has a part.  It may not get done faster, but it will certainly be more fun. Everyone in the house feeling sluggish? Put on music and sing and dance while you work. Or take a break for a quick game of "Steal each others' socks."

5. Not feeling energized?  Fill your own cup first. Tell the kids you need ten minutes and then you're all theirs. Find something you can do for ten minutes that will energize you, whether it's lingering over a cup of tea in the garden, or calling a friend.

Today, try an experiment.  Show up 100% when you’re with your child.  See how much more joy and delight you find in nurturing and guiding.  See how much easier everything is. And notice that it’s a gift to yourself as well.

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