I am a Positive Psychologist, Happiness Expert, and the mother of two beautiful children. I have been through those infant years of midnight feedings and endless diaper changes, soothing tears and singing lullabies. There were times when I looked in the mirror after a long, sleep-deprived night and thought, “Who is that? And when I will come back?”
As my children have grown into their teen years in what now seems like the blink of an eye, I have looked back on those moments of creating my young and growing family with fondness. And I have made the poignant realization that, through all the different stages of motherhood, every “mirror moment” when we wonder where our fresh-faced, more energetic and youthful selves have gone, can be met with a peaceful pause that supplies a lifetime of joy if we allow the moment to happen.
Throughout my discussions, professional research, and personal experiences, I have formulated some tips to finding and maintaining happiness in all stages of motherhood while striving to create or maintain a happy family.
1. Choose Happiness
Happy people are happy because they choose to be. Mothers cannot control the next diaper change, the emotional roller coaster of a tween/teenager, or the natural progression of children becoming adults, any more than we can control when it will rain—but we can choose our reaction to the situation. Happiness is a continuous and conscience effort in motherhood. Pausing daily to take stock of even the smallest blessing can change how we approach the demanding life of caretaking. As a result of our conscience effort to be happier, we can find more control of our emotions and become better prepared to handle whatever the day brings. There is proven truth in the statement that “when mom is happy, the family is happy.”
Breathing deeply in any moment of stress or uncertainty will give you time to pause, regroup, and better see the situation at hand. Moments of quiet reflection are valuable for taking stock of the situation, adjusting an attitude if needed, and enabling a positive outlook. Breathing deeply for a few seconds not only physically reduces stress, but does wonders for mental health. I have come to know these moments as the ultimate spa for the motherhood mind—relaxing, rejuvenating, and absolutely necessary.
3. Be Your Own Best Friend
Make time to treat yourself like you would a best friend. The caring, the attention and concern that you would give your best friend—give to yourself. Take time to listen to your inner voice like you would to your closest friend. And take the time in your busy life to physically meet your friends. Regardless of the stage of motherhood you are in, friends are a staple for airing your thoughts and feelings, receiving comedic relief, and are a wealth of support. Taking time for your friendships can also help create better friendships with your children as you set an example for them of self-worth and healthy, supportive relationships.
4. Eat and Play Healthy
Put healthy food on your plate at regular times for you and your family. Take time to take care of your health by practicing moderation in your food intake and developing an exercise routine. Not only is good nutrition and regular exercise proven to help your overall physical health, it is also one of the main factors in how you feel emotionally about yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I have what I need in my life to be healthy? Do I feel good about myself?” I cannot stress enough how important a role food, diet, and consistent exercise play in self-esteem. Remember, that no matter the stage of motherhood, we only get one body to experience it in. Eating and playing healthy with your children can aid in creating close, active, happy families.
5. Make Happiness Happen
Realize the events, things, thoughts, and activities that really move you. How often have we seen a beautiful sunset that caused us to slow the car down? Or stopped walking to watch the sky transform into dusk? How often have we purposefully shared that moment with our children? With so many distractions in the world of mothering, it is easy to quietly observe the moment while chaos happens around us, but verbally sharing the moments that move us with our children builds trust with them. Essentially we show vulnerability and gain more love. Taking the time to create happy experiences with our children directly creates happiness for ourselves.
6. Service with a Smile
Mother Teresa, that pinnacle of genuine love, said with regard to service, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” One of the greatest gifts of happiness we can give ourselves and our children is the act of service. As women we generally desire to help, to nurture, to aid those around us in need. We want to put a Band-Aid on someone’s pain. But often times, those who need us most are our children. Whether you are a new mother or a seasoned veteran, service is ongoing and can bring the most satisfying joy to our life. Service comes in every step of mothering. By showing them how to give as a mother, our children can learn how to give to others in the family themselves, and will be better prepared to offer service outside the family when they are ready to.
In the words of Robert Browning, the great author and poet, “Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” Whatever you do in your life as a mother regardless of age or stage, love yourself, and your children, with all that your heart can give for what the day requires. Leave some room for yourself to catch up with its own best friend—and choose to be happy. If you can do this, you will not only improve your experience in motherhood, but the lives of your family for generations to come will feel the gift you give to them.
Lisa Cypers Kamen is acclaimed for her engaging blend of positive and spiritual psychology coaching, workshops, and philanthropic projects. Through her books, radio show, media appearances, and inspiring documentary films, such as “H Factor: Where Is Your Heart?,” Ms. Kamen serves to educate, facilitate happiness, and cultivate greater well-being in private and public audiences around the world. Ms. Kamen recently launched Harvesting Happiness for Heroes, a pending 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation dedicated to bringing integrated psychology coaching tools and mindfulness training to Veterans and their loved ones challenged by combat trauma and other post-deployment reintegration issues. Ms. Kamen is regularly featured for her work, including on The Huffington Post, ABC and CBS television, Yahoo News, and Money Watch. She completed her Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica and resides in Southern California with her two children. You can visit Lisa on her website, Facebook or Twitter.