What does a happier mom do to achieve that level of satisfaction? Instagram and Pinterest show smiling photos of moms with laughing babies and eager, helpful children. (On white couches no less!) And as eye-roll annoying it is to see the same stock photos over and over again, part of me is envious. Those moms look happy, healthy and relaxed. They have clean homes, happy kids and a seemingly perfect life, right?
But we all know “Pinterest Perfect” is a lie, and real life is messy. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your life as a mom! So what secrets do happier moms know?
Happier moms aren’t happy because they have “perfect” kids, or fantastic family support, or instagram-worthy homes. They aren’t happier because of their job, their looks, or any other external factor. A happy mom is a mom who is satisfied with who she is and what she has, right now, right here.
On a good day, I will have dusty shelves, a cluttered front hall closet, and overflowing laundry baskets. Someone will have screamed at me, I will be up late working my butt off, and I’ll doze off while using the bathroom. On a bad day… well, it’s definitely not something I want a picture of.
But my happiness doesn’t depend on what I do, or how my kids act. I can be happy with my life, no matter what.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about being a happier mom.
1. A happier mom takes care of themselves.
This is probably the most obvious and the most basic — and maybe the hardest thing to work on.
Happier moms take care of their own needs and wants. No one’s happy when they’re hangry and tired. We all know that sometimes the best cure for a toddler tantrum is a snack, a hug, and a nap. And that cure doesn’t go away just because we grow up.
You’re obviously going to feel better about yourself, your life and your situation if you’ve had enough sleep, you aren’t hungry, you’re clean and you’ve done something that recharges your soul. Making sure you get regular food, rest, showers and time for yourself are healthy habits of happier moms.
So why is it so hard to do these basic things? It’s two-fold.
First: we’re busy. I fall into this bad habit of doing chores, showering, or even just taking a few minutes to myself while my kids are eating — and forgetting to feed myself. I stay up way too late working on projects, because it’s the best time of the day to focus without interruption. And I sacrifice my own health and wellness in the process. Is it any wonder that sometimes I’m irritable and snappy?
Second: we buy into the lie that self-care is selfish. And it’s not. Taking time out for yourself is life-giving, not taking from anyone. It might be cliche, but you can’t give what you don’t have. And if you aren’t taking care of yourself, then you can’t take care of anyone else either!
2. A happier mom takes control of her time.
The one thing that’s guaranteed to stress my two oldest children out is rushing. If they feel rushed, or feel pressured to meet a deadline, they both tend to freak out and panic. And in their anxiety, they will be grumpy, easily upset, and it takes only one little thing going wrong to set off a tantrum.
No one likes to feel rushed and hurried. That feeling that you’re late, you’re one-step behind, that you’re forgetting or missing something creates a feedback loop of anxiety in our brains, where we’re constantly afraid of making a mistake and mad that we’ve made a mistake already. Living with that fear and frustration does not let anyone be happy.
But when we have a plan for our days, even if it’s a loose plan, we instantly feel better. And the more you can prepare for and plan for the things that come up, the more secure and unhurried you’ll feel.
Happier moms have a plan for their days. They know what to expect and they take interruptions in stride. Because they have a goal and a plan, it’s easier to handle the unexpected.
3. A happier mom sets healthy boundaries.
Happier moms have a word in their vocabulary that many of us moms don’t have.
The word “No.”
Happier moms know how and when to say no.
They can say no to their partners, their kids, their moms, their friends, and work. They have no problem saying to to baking cookies for the class party or volunteering at the Girl Guide campout.
And they know why to say no: to make room for the “yes” that makes them happy.
Happier moms say no to the obligations that will stress them out, tire them out, take up valuable time they don’t have for things they don’t love. And they say no so that they can say yes to the things they love to do and that will make them and their families happy.
So maybe you’re a mom that actually really enjoys camping out with your kids, so saying yes to being a parent chaperone at that Girl Guide campout is right up your alley. You’ll say no, then, to that invitation out with friends to a paint nite that, well, might be nice, but you aren’t artistic, and the idea of being in a room full of strangers trying to do art isn’t your idea of fun.
Saying no doesn’t have to mean being heartless or uncaring about the happiness of others. And it doesn’t mean you’re selfish, only doing things that *you* like, expecting everyone else to fall in line. Being able to set healthy boundaries means picking and choosing what things you can do, without stress, without feeling obligated or uncomfortable, and saying no to what doesn’t serve you and your family.
Healthy boundaries puts a value on your time. And when you value your time, you’re a lot more careful about where you spend it. After all, you want to make the most of the valuable time you’ve got! There’s no point in wasting it.
And when you value your time, you end up valuing yourself too.
4. A happier mom cultivates healthy relationships.
There’s nothing more draining than a toxic relationship. Spending time with people who belittle you, criticize every little thing, manipulate and treat you horribly will impact your health — both physically and mentally. These are people that no one who wants to be happier needs to include in their lives, so it makes sense to limit your contact.
But a relationship doesn’t have to be toxic to be unhealthy. Negative people who complain constantly, people who always make themselves the center of attention, and “fairweather friends” aren’t healthy relationships either.
So instead, happier moms surround themselves with people who are genuine and healthy too.
Rather than chatting with a person who is continually critical and always finding fault, healthier moms develop connections with people who are authentic, with a realistic view of both the good and bad sides of situations. Someone who can both empathize and brainstorm solutions to problems is someone who will cheer you on in tough times and celebrate the good times.
Happier moms will choose to spend time with generous people who can take turns in conversation, invitation and hosting in lieu of those who require others to constantly reach out and make way for them. The give-and-take of an intimate discussion, alternating who hosts the playdates or dinner plans, and giving as much as you get will ensure that both friends feel close and no one is taken advantage of.
And happier moms pick friends that can commit to plans instead of friends that change with the seasons. After all, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of rejection that you get than when someone blows you off because they found a “better deal” somewhere else.
5. A happier mom pays attention to the bottom line.
They say money can’t buy happiness, and that’s true. But money buys you choices, and that can help with your overall happiness level.
So happier moms pay attention to financial issues. Because they have healthy habits that help them take care of themselves, set healthy boundaries, and take control of their time, they aren’t interested in wasting their money either.
Happier moms aren’t using retail therapy. And they aren’t impulsive buyers. Happier moms set limits on their spending, while leaving room for fun in their budgets.
Just like happier moms have a plan for their time, they have a plan for their money too. And they stay focused, though they aren’t going to be miserly either. There’s a plan for saving for the future, and there’s room for a little splurging too. It’s all about paying attention to what’s going on financially.
6. A happier mom sets goals.
Happier moms know they aren’t “just moms”. While they value their role as mother to their children, their identity doesn’t end at “mom”. So they have interests and goals outside of being a mom — as well as goals for mommy-ing too!
Having a goal gives you something to work for, to work towards. It helps keep the days from feeling mundane and endless. There’s a reason for the work and something more than just the basics of feeding and cleaning up after kids to look forward to (not that keeping your kids healthy and fed isn’t important too!).
If you haven’t ever really set a goal — whether for work or for parenthood — try it! It can be as simple as “I’m going to make sure I kiss each of my children at least once today!” or more lofty like “I’m going to start a blog this year!”
7. A happier mom creates routines that work for them.
Routines are the secret weapon of every busy mom everywhere. Having a good routine lets you put your day-to-day life on autopilot. So happier moms create routines that actually help them do what they need to do every day.
Having a good routine has so many benefits. It prevents you from getting overtired (decision fatigue is exhausting!), it helps you clear your mind for more important things, and will actually speed things up for you, without ever making you feel rushed.
But it’s important to make sure your routines serve you, rather than staying devoted to the routine at the cost of your sanity. Staying flexible in your routines helps you adjust to emergency diaper changes, unexpected phone calls, and interrupting questions from inquisitive kids who need to know why goats have horns right before you leave for that doctor’s appointment.
8. A happier mom recognizes they have choices.
How often do you react to circumstances rather than choosing a response? A child spills their drink, and you react with harsh words in the heat of your annoyance. Your partner is late, and you react with irritation in your frustration. You impulsively promise ice cream to excited kids after having fun at the park, only to regret it later when they crash from their sugar-craze.
It’s easy to fall into the cycle of reacting in the moment rather than choosing a healthy response. Happier moms, however, recognize that they have choices — and they exercise that choice.
There’s nothing more empowering than the ability to choose something for yourself. So recognizing that you don’t have to be trapped by your feelings and reactions, and instead you get to choose what you’ll say, how you’ll respond to that accidental spill, that spouse working overtime, or those hopped-up-on-sweetness kids will instantly improve your mood.
Recognizing that you have a choice puts you in control of your life.
9. A happier mom knows when to delay gratification and when to indulge.
Sometimes, you have to work before you can play. And sometimes, you need to relax so you can work better later.
It’s a balance, and it’s all about knowing your own needs in the moment. Happier moms pay attention to their own physical, mental and emotional needs, and do what it takes to meet them, because happier moms know they’re the ones who are in charge of their own happiness.
Let me repeat that: happier moms know they are the ones in charge of their own happiness.
No one else is going to make you happy but yourself.
Sometimes, that means you need to buckle down and focus on the job at hand. Getting distracted and procrastinating won’t make you happy when you have a deadline or project hanging over your head.
And sometimes, it means that you need to take a break and relax to recharge. Working too long and too hard can lead to burnout and stress, and that doesn’t make anyone happy.
Knowing what you need at any given time — and making the right choice for yourself — is going to be a huge part of your overall happiness in the long run.
10. Lastly, a happier mom takes responsibility.
Here’s the truth about happiness: it’s short-lived.
No one is going to be emotionally happy constantly. That’s not even emotionally healthy.
But happier moms have an overall level of satisfaction and contentment that lasts, even through the daily rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows. It’s that feeling, at the end of the day, of satisfaction and contentment, that you know you did your best. And it’s that feeling of anticipation and curiosity when you wake up.
The only way you get those lasting feelings of satisfaction is by taking responsibility.
It’s choosing to take care of yourself and take control of your time. It’s setting those healthy boundaries. When you take responsibility for your own happiness, you naturally gravitate to people who have a similar outlook on life. And it’s a lot easier to exercise self-control, to pay attention to where you’re spending your time, money and energy when you own your choices.
Being happier means taking responsibility for all your choices — and being grateful for the ability to make them.