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Happy Parents

November 4, 2012

This past week I launched a Kickstarter project aimed at the printing of a bumper sticker. The sticker reads: “Kids need happy parents.” It sports a couple of smiling faces. Here is the story behind the sticker, as seen at Kickstarter.com:

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“There’s a popular bumper sticker circulating implying kids need both parents in order to thrive. While this is true, it’s also true that both parents need to be HAPPY in order to provide their child(ren) with the highest possible level of care and compassion.

This bumper sticker acknowledges that the best situation for a child lies in parental happiness, whether they are living together or apart.

I am the single father of a wonderful seven year old girl. Her mom and I have discovered that our paths to happiness lie in different directions. We are both actively involved in our daughter’s life, but when we were together it was obvious we weren’t happy or at our best. So splitting up was the best thing we could do for her. The old adage of ‘keeping together for the child’s sake’ didn’t hold true for us. Yet the split wasn’t failure. It’s entirely possible to successfully co-parent without living together and feeling you’re being held back by a relationship that isn’t working out. Hence this bumper sticker. I believe the best thing parents can do for their child(ren) is to discover their own happiness and share it, whatever it takes.”

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Now, here is the untold story behind the sticker (exclusively available here). One day, when my daughter was a toddler and I was still in the new-parent phase, feeling overwhelmed and unfulfilled in my own needs, I got stuck behind a car with the “Kids need BOTH parents” bumper sticker. It stuck in my craw, which as everyone knows refers to the stomach.

I felt an abiding discontent and resentment. How dare they tell me what was best for my family! I wanted to flag the driver down and engage him in a conversation. But that’s the thing with bumper stickers: you don’t get that opportunity – at best you can respond with a friendly wave: at worst, with the finger.

“Parents have needs too,” I muttered as the family advocate turned off the road. And then I thought: I should make a bumper sticker! Parents have needs too. That would tell them. That would serve as a poignant reminder that if a parent’s needs aren’t being met they can’t provide their best level of care to their child(ren).

I didn’t do anything with it. Somewhere down the road I realized who that bumper sticker was really intended for. I realized it wouldn’t bring happiness into the world, but guilt. And it wouldn’t serve as an effective means of acquiring those unfulfilled needs so there was no reason to pursue it.

It was a good metaphor for our relationship. It continued to struggle over the years until we finally agreed we’d be happier on our own. There were some stressful moments but on the whole our shared love for our daughter enabled us to navigate the rapids peacefully. And as the waters settled and I could see a clear path towards further happiness, I realized that’s what I want to share with the world. That’s what I wanted to paste on my tailgate.

Happiness. There’s nothing like it. Kids with happy parents become happy children. Kids NEED happy parents. This doesn’t advocate towards divorce or prolonging marriage for the child’s sake. It doesn’t whine about parental needs. It just reminds us that the best thing we can do for our children is find our own happiness.

If you would like a bumper sticker, please visit my kickstarter project at:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1956771655/happy-parents

As of November 4th this project has reached 85% of its funding requirement. There are 21 days left in which to meet the remaining 15%. Assuming this happens, the stickers will be available through this website even after November 25th. Thank you for your consideration!

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