6 Secrets of a Happy Mom

secrets of a happy mom

“Happiness depends on ourselves.” said Aristotle, exploring the idea that happiness is a central purpose of human life.

In this article we will explore the secrets of a happy mom – simple, actionable steps and minimal habits to embrace to increase our happiness every single day.

1. YOU come first

“Put your oxygen mask first before helping others” was the key sentence of my 20s. I probably said it thousands of times in my 7 year aviation career. I never got what it really meant until I became an overwhelmed mother of 3 kids under 3.

 

Sleepless nights holding sweet breastfeeding babies or pink fluffy monsters scared toddlers, foggy mornings of fixing everybody’s breakfast before my own, tired TIRED days of paying attention, comforting, playing, working and trying to function. Go, go, go, until one day when we simply cannot anymore.

 

We start to resent our partners for not being as sleep deprived as we are. Or our kids for not being “better” sleepers, eaters, sharers, fill-in-the-blank-ers. We judge other mothers who seem to have it more together than us by picking up on what they do different.

 

All of this because of something that seems to be really ingrained into our DNA: us women, and even more so mothers, we tend to put the needs of the people we love ahead of our own. It comes more natural to us to care about others than to care about ourselves. It’s more intuitive to feed our kids first and then inhale whatever is left on their plates. Without ever sitting down. Or using grown-up cutlery. Or chewing.

 

As a newly starting to date young woman, I use to write in my diary “I just want a boy who knows how to make me happy”.

 

At 35, I finally understood that nobody is responsible for my happiness but me. It is not reasonable to put the burden of making us happy on any other human (big or small) and expect them to fill in voids we don’t know how to fill ourselves. And for me, that came down to being brave enough to talk about what’s ok and what’s not ok from a place of integrity and calmness. I will explore the concept of healthy boundaries in future articles.

2. Plan ahead

There are moments in my day when I am simply not equipped to make decisions. That happens when I’m lacking the resources (emotional, mental or simple logistics). As a result, it will end up being a draggy miserable process and some really unfortunate decisions on my part.

 

When it comes to small decisions such as what to eat, what to wear, what to read, I batch plan ahead when I know I have the mental capacity to do so.
During Saturday or Sunday afternoon quiet times, I go through my calendar, then do the meal planning for the week ahead. I don’t reinvent the wheel, I just have 3-4 weeks worth of meal planning and the respective shopping lists.

 

In the night, right before tucking in the kids, I lay down the next day’s clothes. I do the same for myself after I take a shower.

3. Special time

The concept of “special time” is a Parenting by Connection tool I learned from the Hand in Hand organization. It is a dedicated block of time we give to our kids. Then without complaining, being distracted by other activities or people and with absolute enthusiasm, we give our kids the precious gift of undivided attention and willingness to just be with them. It worked miracles with my kids.

 

After my commitment to put my own needs first, I decided I will offer myself special time. 15 minutes of giving myself permission to do whatever I wanted to be doing, without beating myself up for not being more productive, procrastinate less or do something for the house and the kids. I would ask myself “I’ve got 15 minuets. What do I really want to do.” Some days I would nap. Others I would be on Instagram. Sometimes I would just meditate. No matter what I chose to do, I would stop the auto-pilot inner dialogue telling me that it was not ok to take this time and waste it. Initially I would spend the first 10 minutes worrying about the non-ending pile of other “must do” on my list – must put on a load of laundry, must start peeling carrots, must pay this bill. In time however, I learned to silence the lizard brain. Slowly, my mind caught up with my soul and I valued this time more and more.

 

What would you do if you have 15 minutes? Put on that timer. Do it.

4. Special time with our partner

It happens in every single home after having a baby: we are so in love with the tiny human who grew in our bellies, we tend to forget all about the big human who made the tiny human together with us.

 

My husband Steven has a another theory about this: “we spend so much time cuddling and giving our babies love, attentions and closeness, our cup of physical contact and cuddles is full. So we no longer feel the need to cuddle with our partners as much as we used to.” If my man felt this way, you can only imagine how I felt.

 

When a new baby joins the family, the beginnings are rough – sleepless nights, emotional roller coaster, physical pain, animal desires to protect and care for the tiny. Nothing and nobody else matters.

 

While connecting with our children is vital for their development and even survival, it is sometimes done at the expense of disconnection from our partner. By the time we wake up from our foggy period of bonding-feeding-adjusting, we don’t know anymore how to reconnect with them.

 

In my own family, I once again embraced the idea of special time. And while it is really starting with just what the other person wants to do or talk about, it is a way of re-connection and becoming intimate again.

 

We have date nights every coupe of weeks and the rule is to talk about anything and everything except KIDS, MONEY, HOUSEHOLD. You’d be surprised to find out how little we talk about outside these topics. A bit scary and embarrassing. This is happening to you too, right?

 

Start the night with what is going good for you personally, or for your family. Take turns.
Continue discussing random stuff, such as “What would you rather have on your life: a pause or a rewind button?” or “If you could live inside a tv show for a week which one would you choose?”. If nothing really comes to mind, download the Conversation Starter App and just shake your phone for a new juicy topic.

 

Listen. Try to not give advice. Put the phones away. Hold hands.

5. Special time with each child

Human beings flourish when they feel connected to each other. When we feel listened to, understood, not judged, loved for exactly who we are, we thrive. Every single person is wired for connection. This is even more important for children. Any break in connection can signal to them they are not safe. Connection is not a one time thing we do. It’s a nurturing mixing pot of actions, dialogues and habits.

 

I used to say I wasn’t capable of multitasking. I can do more things at the same time, but chances are, the more I pile, the worse the result. Like that one time when I was trying to change a poo diaper while talking on the phone with my friend. The result was not pretty and my friend didn’t feel listened to.

 

I was really terrified of having more than one child. As an older sibling, I always felt I wasn’t treated fairly by my parents. Worse of all, I felt my sister was loved more than me. Weirdly enough, she confessed as an adult that she had the exact same feelings – she felt I was loved more than her.

 

Before I had kids, I thought love was a grad. You love some people a little bit, some a little bit more, some none at all, and some we love so exhaustively, we can’t even imagine breathing without them. But as I grew in experience and wisdom, I realized that love is just LOVE. Love can’t be measured in quantity or quality. We either love or we don’t. As it comes to our kids, every single mother loves her children (ALL of them) to the absolute best of her capacity. The trick comes when we have to show that love to them. It’s not enough to just love our kids, we must show it.

 

It wasn’t until I held all of my three children in my arms that I realized  love doesn’t get divided when we have a second or third child. It’s just that my heart expanded so I can love each of them more. I’m sure that’s exactly what my parents felt, however from feeling to showing is the strenuous part.

 

I tried many things to make all my children feel loved: I listened for what they asked for (more mama), I gave them things they asked for (more mama, more treats, more books at bed time, more time playing, one more of …), however they were always asking for MORE. And in time, their demands for more only made me feel stretched too thin. I believed for a really long time that a good mother doesn’t say no to her kids. (gasp for air!) I’ve changed since.

 

Once again, I must mention and thank Hand In Hand organization and their forward thinking and kind approach to parenting. Their tools saved my life as a mom.
To simplify their belief to the absolute basic: When our child feels connected to us, she can think, function independently and be her truly magnificent, kind, sensible and good self. When that cup of connection is constantly kept full, our kids will be able to function well. When they feel disconnected, off track behavior will emerge in a desperate attempt to reconnect with us. When a child is misbehaving, many adults say “She’s just asking for attention” but they rarely take that literally. She’s asking for attention because she needs it. Giving attention to our kids will not spoil them.

 

If we do have the resources to give attention, none of it can be done in a group setting. Every single child needs individual connection – maybe not constant, not at the expense of a sibling and certainly not used as a currency, but they do need it.

 

I used to reconnect with my older daughter when the babies were sleeping. Nothing fancy, just sitting down next to her on the carper and telling her I have some time and would like to spend it with her. I did whatever she asked. I pretended to be Elsa, or the pink pony, or her base for acroyoga. And when that timer went off, we were both happier in our respective roles.

 

With the twins, I take one at a time after the bath to read a story and do some rough play (my boy really has different connection needs).

 

After these times, each one of the kids feels special, loved and cared for. Individually. Every day. It’s should be in our calendars.

6. Prioritize sleep

After the kids go to sleep, there are a million other things to do: clean the kitchen, prepare the lunch boxes, take a shower, read, talk to our partners, catch up with social media, friends or family members, iron, laundry or exercise.
For many years, I convinced myself I was a night owl. I would stay up really really late, binge-watch “Sex and the City” and “Friends” (hey, are we the same generation?). Unfortunately for my inner owl, my kids didn’t seem to function the same way – they wake up at 6:30am without fail and none of us can function past 7pm at night. Not to mention that school starts early and all the kids classes during summer break are in the morning.

 

It was easier to breathe through the initial tiredness and celebrate the fact that my portion of the day was just starting after the kids went to sleep, but I was deeply regretting it the next day. If we allow it to continue (as I did), chronic tiredness will become the new norm. I will not announce here all the downfalls of sleep deprivation, but the two that kicked my butt back to reality were: inability to lose weight and inability to cope with early morning demands.

 

I shifted my entire perspective and instead of having my portion of the day at night, I swapped it for the first part of the day. I go to bed ridiculously early and I wake up even more ridiculously earlier. I’m an introvert who fuels on solitude. My current settings (3 kids under 4, one louder than the other) doesn’t promote this kind of environment. So I start my day early, fuel my own needs first and then I can proceed to attend to the needs of the ones around me. It’s a very simple shift and just a decision to put my phone down at 8. In another room. I then take a book and read in bed until my eyes almost close. I have a silent alarm on my wrist at 5:15. I wake up and meditate, exercise, drink my tea and write before anybody else moves. I love the silence of the house. I love the sun rising. I love the peace. Even more than that, I love that when my kids are finally awake, I can be present, engaged and generous with my attention. You can sustain that only by taking care of yourself FIRST.

 

For a friend who forgot how to find her happiness... share!

We can't give love, attention or time if we are running on empty

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6 Comments

  • Mariam

    Reply Reply July 5, 2016

    ? I also need convincing about my inner owl’s schedule.

    • Talida

      Reply Reply July 6, 2016

      Owls are so much fun Mariam 🙂

  • Lindy Son

    Reply Reply July 5, 2016

    I love this!

  • Lilly M.

    Reply Reply July 6, 2016

    I want to know more about practical stuff. How do you plan ahead, what do you do.
    This was a great read, thanks!

    • Talida

      Reply Reply July 7, 2016

      Lilly, I make most of my decisions when I don’t have to make them. I prepare in advance when I’m not stressed because I know that I make poor decisions when pressured by time, other people or circumstances.
      I have a meal plan (which I will share soon, as there have been many requests for that), I prepare the clothes the night before for the kids and myself and I have a 5 point to-do list. Not more. It’s just enough so I don’t feel overwhelmed about it.
      I give myself a blank day during the week so I can squeeze in the unplanned.
      That’s about it 🙂

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