How to be a happy mom (hint: it’s not always about taking care of yourself)

Your kids want you to be happy. Your husband wants you to be happy. And of course YOU want you to be happy.

I was feeling pretty miserable up until a few months back. I was up 5 times a night with a toddler who I didn’t know how to wean (gently) from breastfeeding on demand. And my husband didn’t seem to appreciate the effort I put into keeping up the house, my work, and our son’s routine.

People said I should take better care of myself. Take a night off. Have a bubble bath. Do yoga.

Yeah right. If only being a happy mom were so simple.

I finally got a wakeup call. Then I uncovered some bad habits that were derailing my own happiness.

Ironically, I discovered that being a happier mom had more to do with how I was treating my family than it did with “taking care of” myself. My attitude was in need of an adjustment. To think I had been blaming it on everyone else.

Here are some of the things I learned to do to become a happy mom:

These are some things that I’m learning to do as I go. Many of them I didn’t think of consciously until I tried to put this down on paper. But as I look at what has really turned things around for me, this is it:

Give up control. You can’t make your husband remember to put his coffee cup in the dishwasher every morning. Accept that many things will just not be perfect in your home or your day. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

Aim high for important things. People from in-laws to friends will make comments that sometimes leave you feeling unsupported and questioning your decisions. But if your little family unit is committed to something, remind yourself why and stick to your guns confidently.

Speak mindfully. Remember that the words you use will stick with your kids. And your husband. Think before you make a critical, sarcastic or hurtful remark. It only leads to a downward spiral, ending with everyone feeling badly. Think about whether anything really even needs to be said, and then find a way to say it in a way that brings everyone out ahead.

Give yourself a break mentally. Don’t beat yourself up because something didn’t go as planned. Accept that there will be crumbs on the floor til tomorrow and let the vacuum lay low when you’re just too exhausted to vacuum. (Amazingly, my family would rather have a happy mommy than a clean floor. So I’m learning how to be happy with the crumbs.)

Get sleep! Being tired makes it too easy to feel rotten. I know there are just periods of life where you’re not going to get the sleep you need. But if you’re up too late browsing deal sites or Facebook (guilty!), make yourself turn it off. (See if you can build it into your day or limit your time if it’s what really helps you unwind.)

Talk to people. You don’t have to feel like a downer for letting friends know you’ve been feeling really low when they ask. Sometimes it’s really uplifting just to share. Or don’t even share. Just have a giggle with a friend. Commiserate with other moms. Believe it or not, they’ve all been there, too.

Anticipate your hard times. For me, getting out the door with my toddler is frustrating. I am learning to build in an extra 15 minutes now, so I don’t end up snapping at him and tossing him in the car without his shoes. And then feeling terrible.

Accept a reality check. If your toddler tells you she wants you to be happy, accept the cue that your mood is getting to her. Maybe your husband will call you out. Mine finally helped me realize I was focusing so much on my own misery that I was making my entire family miserable (without actually saying it like that, to his credit). I never want to be the one responsible for making them feel like that again.

Put on makeup. For me, if I spend a couple minutes doing my hair and makeup, I feel completely different. When I trudge through the day without a shower, I’m literally a mommy monster. (Even something small like picking out your clothes the night before can make you feel a little more put together.)

Turn on some music. It’s a huge mood booster. I’d gotten out of the habit, though I used to love being surrounded by music constantly. Music really can make you feel good. (Of course it’s one of those things that doesn’t make the problems go away. But it will make annoying things feel less annoying.)

Look closely at those you love. Smell your baby’s hair. Touch your husband’s bristly cheek. When you’re focused on mom duty, it’s easy to go days without really taking them in and feeling their presence.

Address the real problems. Why are you feeling like you want to throw something? Are you just frantic to finish something that, in 10 years, no one will really care about? (Like cleaning the kitchen.) Or is something else bothering you, and you really need to address it? (You’ve been overspending on Zulily again. Or something much worse.)

The thing that has made me, above all, the happiest?

Seeing my son and husband happy.

There’s nothing like it. I feel deep joy when I see them relaxed and enjoying us being together as a family. A pedicure can’t do that.

I had no idea the extent to which they mirrored my mood. My self-sacrificing, pity-partying attitude just had to go.

Granted, these things will not work for everyone. Your situation may be completely different. But I’m sharing what has helped turn me around from not wanting to get out of bed in the morning to really feeling happy most days.

I hope my experience can be helpful to other moms. Why not share here what you do to make your home a happy place, too?

I don’t want to be a mommy anymore
Acupuncture and your healthy baby

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