My visiting card says, 'Psychologist, Trainer, Writer and Mom'. I always get amused responses from recipients of my card, who invariably comment on the 'and Mom' part. I tell them that I can do everything else part-time, but being a mom is my full-time job. And, it is a job that I absolutely love.
I am often asked, “How do you do so much and still seem happy?” My standard response is always, “I do the things that happy moms do!” I am now going to share some of these tips, and encourage you to adapt these to suit your own lifestyle and needs. After all, motherhood is supposed to be a happy journey, not one fraught with stress and sorrow!
The term 'happy mom' is a highly subjective concept, as happiness may mean different things to different moms. This article is not an attempt to define happiness and provide a formula for achieving it. On the contrary, it is a humble endeavour to share the basic principles that are essential to create harmony and balance in the lives of mothers and help them feel happy and content.
Ten things that happy moms do
Here is a list of simple things that moms can integrate into their daily routine to bring about tremendous stress relief, and a feeling of joy and well-being. The first letters of these tips combine to read 'BEING HAPPY'.
1. Begin your day with some ‘Me Time’: Set your alarm clock 10 minutes ahead of your regular wake-up time. Begin your day with a few minutes of solitude. Enjoying that first cup of coffee alone, in the stillness of your living room, can set the tone for a calm and peaceful day ahead. You can use this time to collect your thoughts, plan your day and, most importantly, run a mental checklist of all the things you are grateful for.
2. Exercise: It is a proven fact that exercise is good for the body, mind and soul. Not only does it loosen up the stiff muscles and get the circulation going, but can also make you feel relaxed and happy because it leads to the release of endorphins or the feel-good hormones responsible for promoting a sense of well-being.
3. Invest time in building a support network: Many mothers feel stressed because they feel they should do everything by themselves. Relax. You are not carrying the load of the world on your shoulders; in fact, there is really no need to! Invest some time in networking with those around you and, over time, you will have your own support network in place. In case of an emergency, you can safely reach out to one of them for help and support. This way, you will always feel assured and confident. These are must-have feelings to be happy and stay on top of things.
4. Nurture your friendships: Some of the happiest moms I know are those who have their own circle of friends to hang out with from time to time. Having friends to fall back on during times of stress or difficulty can enhance your happiness quotient. What’s more, being able to chill and let your hair down with a bunch of like-minded individuals periodically is the best way to relax, rejuvenate and recharge your figurative batteries!
5. Give yourself permission to slack off: It is good to be neat and organised. However, occasionally, it is also okay to just let things be and slack off. If the dishes aren’t washed or the laundry isn’t done, it’s not the end of the world. And if the house is not spic and span when relatives come visiting, that’s okay too! You are human, and you deserve a break. Besides, who’s going to remember? Were I to ask you if the dishes were washed and stacked at 5:00 p.m. on 4 December 2006, would you remember? Of course not. Life is too precious to waste away worrying only about household responsibilities. Make some time to connect with your kids and goof around. These memories you create will be remembered for sure.
6. Have your priorities in order: Stress increases when we feel overwhelmed by things that have piled up on our psychological ‘desks’. I always advocate decluttering as a way of clearing up not just your physical environment, but also your mind space. Do away with the stuff that you don’t need – both in your home and in your mind. This will create enough space and time for you to focus on the things that really matter to you, and leave you feeling lighter and happier.
7. Accept yourself: Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect mom’. Remind yourself that you are doing your best and you don’t have to wear yourself off in the process. Maybe you aren’t doing a few things that other moms do. So, what? Who’s judging? It is not a contest. When you acknowledge your limitations and accept them, you’ll also be setting a good example to your children. They will learn that it is okay to not be perfect and yet love themselves. This will ease the pressure for everyone and let you all breathe easy and be happier.
8. Practise letting go: You are a mom, not God. If you try to control everything in your environment, including your spouse and children, you are bound to feel unhappy, disappointed and bitter. Instead, if you learn the art of letting go, you will feel relaxed and your children will thank you for it. If your son has not done his homework, let go. He will learn about the natural, logical consequences that follow. If your daughter forgot to take her Science project to school, let go. She will learn to be responsible the next time.
9. Plan a day off: As much as the family and society expect everything to be the mom’s responsibility, it is all right even for moms to take a day off. Your day off can include anything, ranging from a luxurious day at the spa, to a simple curling-up-in-bed-with-a-book-and-some-hot-tea. When you do this from time to time, you’ll stay fresh, relaxed, and happy. To be able to do this, you need to have followed tip #3. Remember, your support network is in place. So, plan a play-date for your children and take the day off to do what you need to. It is a win-win situation for all.
10. You are not a supermom: One of the biggest mommy stressors of modern times is guilt at not being able to do this, that and more. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are just a mom, and NOT a supermom! Even the seemingly ‘perfect’ supermoms have their flaws. No one is perfect. So, relax and choose happiness over stress.
When your children are older, they are going to remember fondly the time they spent with you, and not how well you handled the household responsibilities. Even if you are a lousy cook and a poor homemaker, if your heart is filled with love and compassion, you will be seen as the ‘best mom in the world’ by your children. So, focus on building memories and you’ll soon be happier than you ever have been. I hope the above tips to ‘BEING HAPPY’ will help you enjoy motherhood.
Mina Dilip, Child Psychologist, Trainee Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills (PTUK)
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