Let's face it: parenting is a long, arduous, and (at least for the first 18 years) largely thankless job. From an outsider's perspective, given the hardships and sacrifices that parents must make, one might wonder why we do it in the first place, and the second, third, or even fourth.

Of course, every parent knows the answer to that question. Parenting can be the most rewarding job in the world, but it takes an open mind and heart to see and experience these rewards. Thriving in this process means always maintaining a good sense of humor.

This is not always easy to do, especially when our needs (i.e., job, social life, spousal relationships) compete with the needs of our kids. Unfortunately, this is often the case, and it's our kids who usually win. For the record, I don't think this is a bad thing.

The process of learning to laugh things off and see humor in any given situation comes naturally to some, but for others it requires a little work. I consider myself to be a part of the latter group. When I first became a father, I was ill prepared for what was in store for me. After years of being a single guy living in New York City (a great place to be a single guy), I became a father and all that changed. It didn't help that I tended to be a self-absorbed whiner who made a point of seeing the negative side of everything.

Despite the challenges of fatherhood, after a few years of parenting, I took my role to a new level and became a stay-at-home dad (SAHD), and that's when the fun really began. While using the word "fun" is a bit ironic, I can honestly say that fun was without question a huge part of the equation. The ability to find humor in any given situation has made this possible, but for someone like myself, it took time for this to happen. Here are 10 things that have helped me along the way.

1. Find value in the process.

Parenting is a journey of discovery, so don't focus on the end result. Your kids will be kids for a short time, so make the most of being together and laugh as much as possible. Have fun with it.

2. Learn to let go.

Like a lot of people, I find comfort in predictability, but life is rarely predictable. It's easy to get frustrated, so it's important to know that when plans fall apart, it's never as bad as you thought. Just let go.

3. Embrace a little mess.

Life is messy, but parenthood is really messy. Things get chaotic, and rather than try to rigidly maintain control, let things get a little disorderly. You can always clean up later.

4. Learn about yourself.

Parenthood is a process of learning who you are and what you're made of. The challenges are enormous, but parents benefit from rising to the occasion and overcoming these challenges.

5. Be a team player.

Parenting is hard, so work together with your spouse and make sure you are on the same page regarding what is best for your family. This will improve your relationship and give you more time together.

6. Don't substitute materials for your time.

Your time is the greatest gift you can give to your children, and can't be replaced by gifts or money. Plus, as every parent knows, kids grow up so quickly; make the most of it.

7. Maintain your identity.

Kids demand a lot of your time, but giving yourself up completely to them is not healthy. Make sure to have your interests and set aside time for the things that mean the most to you.

8. Don't try to do too much.

Trying to get too many things done is a sure-fire path to anger and frustration. Make realistic plans and learn to compromise.

9. Be a parent first.

We all want to please our kids, but our job is not to be their best friend. Accept that you're not always going to be cool and popular, and that you know more about the world than your kids.

10. Embrace the unknown.

Parenting forces many of us into the deep dark place where the outcome is unpredictable. The valuable lesson is to not be afraid and know your family will stand by you.

There is no question that parenting is hard work, but becoming a father has given me the wherewithal to less fearful of the unknown and to strive to do be the best person I can be, while always finding a way to laugh about things.