Motherhood is stressful. There’s no getting around this fact, no matter how organized we try to be. Wrangling kids, whether it’s just one or many, can be overwhelming at the best of times. So often we feel stressed out, angry or sad – even when we have every reason to be happy. Guilt begins to eat at us because of things we’ve done or haven’t done, and we find it so easy to give in to self loathing and criticism. It is important to remember that nearly every mother feels this way now and then. But there are important tips that you can utilize to figure out how to be a happier mom.
Practice Self Care
Perhaps the most important thing that all mothers should strive for is to practice self care. Moms are pros at putting others before themselves, but this isn’t how it is supposed to be. Obviously with children it is imperative to keep them safe, happy and healthy. But mothers need to remember that their own safety, happiness and health is just as important. Taking a break now and then – either leaning on a spouse, family member or friend – is a great way to de-stress. Of course, it isn’t always possible to leave your children, in which case practicing self care must be done in whatever time and place you have available. Take fifteen minutes after the kids go to sleep to read a book, watch a show, meditate or even take a bath. A few minutes every so often throughout the day can do just as much good as taking a couple of hours all at once.
Let it Go
When your kids are making you crazy, take a cue from your favorite Disney princess and let it go. Unless your little one is putting himself (or someone else) into a dangerous situation, sometimes it’s better to just look the other way and let them be kids. Of course there are limits to this way of thinking. If you see them about to make a huge mess or create a situation that will wreak havoc on your life, then do step in. But stop sweating the small stuff. Try not to micromanage every situation, and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier for you to cope.
When things are just too much for you at the moment, grab up the kids and get out of the house. Head to a park or the mall or to somewhere that the kids can just run around and burn off some energy. Try and choose somewhere that you can sit back and watch but still relax. Breathing in fresh air is a known mood booster, and by letting your children expel energy, it’ll make them more docile later in the day/evening. Grab some fast food for dinner so you don’t have to cook. Getting out of the house will help you to feel better about the way the day is going, and a little sunshine can help to free your mind, leaving your more ready to take on whatever lays ahead. Need ideas? Check out this book of 101 Things to Do Outside!
Ask for Help
Most mothers are so afraid of being judged and looking bad that they are often afraid to reach out for help. But the secret that all truly happy moms know is that they can’t do it alone. It all goes back to practicing self care. Ask your partner for a couple of hours to yourself some evening so that you can catch up on your work or passion projects. Ask your mother or in-law to watch the children while you have a bath or catch up on cleaning. If money allows, hire a babysitter once in a while or even a house cleaner who can help you get your home under control. Figure out what you are struggling with and find the right person to ask for help. The secret of how to be a happier mom is to really work on knowing that you are never alone.
Many mothers feel like they are trapped in a life they can’t control once they have kids. They lament their lack of exercise, focusing on the benefits to their bodies, while forgetting that exercise has huge effects on the mind. Exercise releases endorphins, which can help boost your mood almost immediately. And the great news is you don’t have to have a gym membership to get it. Active moms will find ways to exercise no matter what they’re doing. Park a little farther from the grocery store, walk around the block with the baby in a stroller, go for a family bike ride. There are dozens of ways to be active with the whole family. You can even grab some fun exercise cards to work out at home. If money and time aren’t an issue, definitely invest in a gym membership and make the time to go. A few hours a week working out is one of the best ways to fight against maternal depression.
Perhaps the number one tip for how to be a happier mom is just this: don’t compare. Theodore Roosevelt said once that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy,’ and he couldn’t have been more right. In this day and age, with social media such a huge part of our lives, it has become easier than ever to compare our situations to others. Now it’s simple to see exactly what every other mother is going through with just a scroll through your newsfeed. We see houses cleaner than ours, kids in nicer clothes, families with bigger smiles and always more exciting lives being shared. It makes us feel bad about ourselves. But the truth is that someone else is staring at your photos, wondering why your life is so much better than theirs, as well. We are all dealing with our own issues, and we can all find something to admire about one another’s lives. But when we stop comparing and start being grateful for what we do have, our happiness grows.
Bend the Rules
Being the authoritarian can sometimes be a bit of a bummer. Our inner ten-year-old will often scream at us for telling our actual ten-year-old that she can’t play video games on school nights. But one of the best parts about making the rules is that we also have the authority to break them. Sometimes, for the sake of our sanity, and for the mood boosting potential of seeing our little ones smile, it is a great idea to bend the rules. The happiest moms are the ones who are making memories that their kids will cherish. If we are always sticking to the rules, there’s nothing exciting for the kids to look back on. But you’d be surprised how something silly like the night mom let us have ice cream for dinner can become an anecdote your kids are telling for years. It won’t just be a memory for them either. It will bring a smile to your face every time you think of it.
Laugh It Off
Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh. We laugh when we’re happy and excited, but sometimes we laugh when we feel helpless or completely baffled, as well. When you come home to find that your toddler has smeared the contents of their diaper all over the walls or you find that your seven year old has filled the bath tub with peanut butter, it is the easiest thing in the world to get angry, scream, rage and yell. But these are the moments that define us as mothers. Your reactions to these types of situations will stay with you and your kids for a long time to come. Try and see the funny side right at the beginning. You can’t change what has happened, and you are totally within your rights to be upset. But when you can laugh it off – share in the comedy of this moment with your kids – you will immediately feel better. There is time enough to talk to them about why they shouldn’t try this sort of thing again, and you’re going to have to clean it up no matter what. But laughter – even if you have to fake it at first – is always going to be a better reaction than anger. And since laughter (even just the act of smiling) releases serotonin (the happy-making brain chemical), you really will be a happier mom for it.
At the end of the day, being a happier mom doesn’t come through any one particular way of doing things. It’s really all about cherishing the little moments with your kids – appreciating them for who they are and the value they bring your life. It is knowing that your life is better because they are in it. Letting yourself get stressed out once in a while isn’t the end of the world – kids will do that to anyone. But embracing the idea that they are a gift to show you that life is precious and out of your control is a bright blessing indeed.