I spent a lot of time as an “unhappy mom.” That postpartum depression was no joke and a horrible way to spend the first few months of motherhood. But recently, I’ve reached a new phase where I can truly say I’m happy. I still have my days where it’s like, “Leave me alone and nobody gets hurt!” Those days are definitely happening less frequently and my frustrations are more in line with what I can deal with without laying on somebody’s couch (although I am not opposed to a little therapy).
I’ve been thinking about all the “happy moms” I know—what’s their secret? What do they know that other moms don’t? I think I’ve got some ideas:
1) They keep their expectations in line with their child’s developmental stage.
In every class I’ve taken in graduate school thus far, they talk about developmental stages. Lord, I could talk about it in my sleep by now but I wish I had learned this before I became a parent. Learning that babies make messes as a way of learning about their world, or that two-year-olds can’t sit still for longer than 15 minutes—that would have helped me keep my expectations in check when feeding my kids or trying to make them sit through church service. Happy moms are happy because they’re not fighting nature.
2) They learn to be flexible.
By my very nature, I’m a control freak. If I decide that we need to be out of the house and in the car by 8 a.m., then it completely unacceptable if the kids are running around looking for their shoes at 8:14. But if I was going to get through motherhood—not just get through it, but thrive—then I needed to let go and let God. Even if I thought my way was the right way, motherhood has a way of knocking you on your ass often enough for you to stop and think, “Hmm…this is not working.”
3) They value their role in their family.
You know that saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”? It’s true. Mothers have a way of dictating the mood of the family. If she’s happy and thriving, the family follows. This is not saying that Dad is not important, but hey, this is a list for moms.
4) They know the importance of time-outs—for moms!
What happens when your child is overstimulated or tired or in a grouchy mood? You put them in time-out (or some form of time-out that gives them a chance to calm down). We should be doing the same as mothers. I used to hold everything in until one day I’d explode, leaving two scared kids and a confused husband to pick up the pieces. Now when I feel myself getting too worn out, I go to my room. Then I don’t come out until I feel like myself.
5) They have someone to lean on – whether it’s their mom, sister, or friend.
What fun is it being an island? Sure, it is entirely possible to go through life without any help and some moms pride themselves on being able to say they did it on their own. But you know what? You do not get an award for Most Independent. You do not win an all-expense paid vacation if you say your kids have never spent the night away from you and your youngest is in high school.
6) They do not spend time fretting about things they can not change.
The best thing my high school did was teach me the serenity prayer and make me recite it every day in religion class.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
7) They are fulfilled with their life’s choices.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom but would rather be at work, earning money, or you’re a working mom who wishes she could spend more time with her kids, if you’re unhappy about where you are in life, your demeanor will show it. No matter how much you try to hide it, it will come to the forefront eventually. Happy moms figure out how to get that satisfaction they crave.
8) They are wise enough to know the hard times don’t last always.
Colic? Frustration over potty training? Picky eaters? Happy moms know that kids will go through phases where you want to scream every day. But then it passes and you don’t even remember what you were so upset about.
9) They give their children “roots and wings.”
Some moms hold on to their children so tightly that it’s a wonder they ever learn how to walk. And I understand that. Shoot, I wrote about it, remember? But I’m learning that my children were not put on this earth just to be my little roommates. That they have gifts that require them to grow beyond my embrace and into the world. I’d be doing them an disservice wishing they’d stay small forever.