If you’d asked me if I was happy, I would have said “of course.” I was living my dreams of being a mother and wife with a career that was fulfilling.
But I would have welcomed more happiness. More laughs and lightheartedness. More fun. A lot of my mom friends felt the same way. We were so intent on perfectly doing all the things for our family that we had little space left in our minds and hearts to generate more happiness.
I know that sounds unsettling, even harsh. I don’t mean it as an inditement of our relationships with partners or motherhood. I mean it as a wakeup call to look at what’s most important to you and ways to foster greater happiness in your life.
What Steals Happiness in Parenting
The thief goes by the name of Overwhelm. You are stretched too thin. So many things need to be accomplished before greater happiness can make it to the top of your list.
At work, you’re thinking about what to make for dinner and who needs a bath. At home, you’re replaying the frustrating meeting with your boss earlier in the day.
Your day is one long to-do list where the goal is to check things off, but only after you’ve met everyone’s expectations. You are running from the moment your kids wake up until they’re asleep. You keep your head down plowing forward through the days, weeks, and seasons.
I remember feeling like my day started after my kids were peacefully sleeping. Nine to 10 pm was time for me and my husband. But we were so exhausted, all we could do is discuss the next day’s logistics and zone out in front of the TV or read a magazine. Then rinse and repeat, day after day.
The busyness prevented me from realizing I was losing happiness to Overwhelm. Had I been more aware, I could have made some minor changes that would have increased the moments of happiness in my relationships. I could have enjoyed my three little humans that I loved so much more frequently.
How to Reclaim Your Happiness
To reclaim your happiness, you need to first pause the busyness to assess if you are losing happiness to Overwhelm. (Since you’ve read this far, I think you are 😊 Keep reading.) What regrets might you experience if you sacrifice fun with your children to your to-do list?
Next, think about the ways you could generate more happiness. Whatever you choose make sure it’s authentic to your family (not what you see other moms post on social media).
Get curious and experiment without judgment. Choose to be proactive instead of reactive about making something good (your life) even better. Give yourself space and grace if you struggle to meet your intentions or maybe get initial pushback from your partner. Just like anything worthwhile, practice begets success!
Here are some tips for you to consider.
- Commit to being present wherever you are. This helps you feel more confident that you’re achieving all the things in the right place at the right time.
- Implement a daily ritual with your family that focuses on positivity. For example, at dinner ask each person to list three things that went well that day.
- Notice when you are most happy with your kids and do more of that. Seems obvious. Less obvious is to intentionally schedule it on the family calendar. Do it. You won’t be sorry.
- Laugh with your kids because it’s the best! From the moment they first laugh as an infant, sharing fun and funny things strengthens the bonds between one another. Do you have a family jokester who makes everyone laugh? Do you watch funny animal videos? How about a crazy dance party? You get the idea.
- Worry less about housework. Or better yet, get your family involved. Melinda Gates established a rule in her family that no one left the kitchen after dinner until she left the kitchen. “What happens is that the last 15 minutes gets divvied up really fast. And then five minutes later we all go upstairs.”
- Teach kids to do random acts of kindness for family members and friends. Your heart will soar whether you are the recipient or a witness.
- Ditch FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Comparing your life to someone else’s highlight reel sucks your mental energy and contributes to the pressure to do even more.
- Spend time in nature. Whether you’re alone or with your human and furry family, soak up the fresh air, peacefulness, and awe of Mother Nature.
- Practice gratitude. When your day goes off the rails as it will often do, think of 3-5 things (big or small) for which you are grateful.
- Celebrate success at home and work. Take the time to appreciate effort and achievement before moving on to the next thing.
I know you’re under a lot of pressure with a challenging day-to-day schedule. You’re stretched too thin. I get it.
That said, you can intentionally choose more happiness. You can show your kids how to choose more happiness. You can create more memories to savor. I’ll never forget a trip when after many hours on the road my younger son had us laughing so hard I had tears running down my face.
To help you get started creating space for more happiness, take a few minutes to review Reclaim Happiness from Overwhelm and consider experimenting with at least one strategy. If you need other suggestions, ask your kids. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at the simple things that bring them happiness. They might bring you happiness too.
Think about the next 30 days. Consider choosing at least one way to add more happiness to your life.
- What will it take to experiment with it?
- What challenges might you need to overcome?
- What support or resources do you need?
It isn’t a cliché. You really can choose happiness. Pause, get curious, and experiment. Make improvements along the way. You’ve got this!