Six Traits of Happy Moms

I like to think I’m pretty happy. Well, most of the time.

But sometimes I get tired and stressed and frazzled and frustrated and resentful and tired (did I say that twice?). I know, I am entitled to feel these emotions. I mean I have three busy kids, a husband with a big career, and my own blogging empire I’m trying to build. Of course I should be stressed sometimes, right?

As women, we have more opportunities than ever before, so why are we so bummed? Why do we spend all our time complaining about how tough our lives are, while others go out and live it?

What about those moms that just seem happy and content — all of the time? What is their secret? How do they keep it together when the rest of us are moaning about car pools, ballet recitals and science fair projects? How do they not get sucked in to the vortex of complaints about just how hard it is to be a mom.

I started thinking about some of the happiest moms I know, and five came to mind. After assessing my list, I realized they were a diverse lot: a full-time executive in the financial industry, a teacher, a home-schooling military wife, a part-time pharmacist and a regular stay at home mother.

Despite the fact that their approach to their careers, parenting roles and family dynamics were all different (one mom has four kids, another two, etc.), they are all happy. Or dare I say happily satisfied with their lives.

What does this group have in common?

They are appreciative. On my recent girls trip I was discussing my good friend’s potential relocation due to her husband’s new military assignment. “That sucks that you have no control over where you are going,” I said sympathetically.

“That’s okay,” she said in her upbeat way. “I have three healthy kids and I don’t have cancer. Wherever we land, we land!”

She was not being glib or trite. She was recognizing that although her whole life was about to be uprooted, she knew she had a lot to be thankful for…what I often call an attitude of gratitude.

People often think happiness is about what you achieve or possess, but one of the keys to being happy is being satisfied and appreciative with what you already have.

They are confident. None of these moms live vicariously through their children, or get their self-worth because of their kids’ successes (or failures). They also don’t look to others — spouses, friends or co-workers — for affirmation. These content mothers are confident with who they are and how they parent.

And more importantly, they like themselves. When you are happy with yourself, you believe that others will like you as well. This eliminates a lot of the insecurities that breed with us moms, and what causes most of the drama.

The cherry on top of their happiness sundae: when you feel confident, you don’t feel guilt (or at least not as much.) And nothing is a happiness sucker like guilt.

Photo by Charles Henry

Photo by Charles Henry

They have their own passions. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, a sure path to unhappiness, bitterness and resentment is to lose who you are in your children (see my article on how I got my Stay at Home Happy.) Each of my happy friends have outside hobbies and interests that they pursue with zeal. Running, traveling, book clubs, music/concerts, faith groups and fundraising are just some of the things that occupy their time when they are not being great mommies. Sometimes they share their passions with their families, but sometimes they save it just for themselves. I think that is awesome.

They invest in their karma. I’m not sure if all my friends believe in karma, but they all certainly have a lot of it. I think it’s because they are all givers. For example, one of my best friends — who is among the happiest people I know — also likes to gamble (responsibly) sometimes. I can’t blame her, as she wins way more than she loses. One particular Tuesday she had some free time, so she hit the casino for a few hours to play some games that I don’t understand. After being up — nearly $600  — she decided to call it a day. What did she do? She bought the table a round of drinks, tipped the dealer, gave $400 to charity and put $100 away for a night out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was a great day for her and for everyone around her.

My other happy friends are also givers. They run charity events on behalf of loved ones, volunteer to teach Sunday school, lead Girl Scouts/Boy Scouts, etc. And here’s the catch: they do these things without complaint. I also think they know how to say no without guilt, which is equally important.

I know a mom who does so much for her family and community, but she is also constantly telling you how much she does for her family and community.

“There was no one to run the pre-school party so they begged me to do it. Now I have that, the book fair, the end of school party and our vacation to plan for. I am exhausted,” she told me. Over and over.

While I want to be appreciative of someone who gives so much of her time, it is hard when you see how negative and bitter she was about it. My happy friends don’t ruin their karma with complaints; instead, like Finding Nemo, they just keep on swimming, and having a good time while doing it.

+ They are optimistic — and accepting. As annoyingly overdone as Pharell’s song “Happy” is, the man has got a point.  “Bring me down, can’t nothing bring me down, my level’s too high!” This is so true for my content friends. They always handle adversity so much better than I do.

Once my friend with a full-time career told me her husband had to go in for surgery. He would be unable to do much for six weeks. She travels a bit, and has two active kids. “How are you going to do it?” I exclaimed, getting more and more stressed and trying to mentally figure out how I could help.

“It will all work out,” she said. “If we miss something, we miss it. I just need to make sure my husband gets better, and my kids stay healthy. The rest is gravy.”

Hmmm. I sat on that for a bit. I was way more freaked out about it than she was, and I had way less on my plate. And of course, she was right. Her daughters missed a few gymnastics classes and probably didn’t sell as many Girl Scout Cookies as they normally would, but they were no worse for the wear, and the family came out of that stressful situation in tact.

What I also notice about my happy friends is that they complain the least. And they have a lot to complain about. My one dear friend’s husband has been deployed for six months. No complaining. Another’s husband has to travel internationally for weeks at a time. No complaining. Sick kids — well, a little complaining, but instead of wallowing in self-pity like I do, they use it as an opportunity to do something constructive, like clean out the closets or do their holiday cards in July.

Most of my happy friends often choose to live in the moment. I rarely hear words such as “I will be happy when X is over” or “It will be better when school is out.” Since happiness is a conscious decision, they choose to be happy. Right now. This is something I’m always working on, but haven’t quite been able to grasp.

They are fun. Man, are they fun. My happy friends are the first ones to stay late on the dance floor or have the best costumes for a theme party. They don’t get embarrassed (see “they are confident” above) and are always willing to try something new, such as painting or Zumba or rock climbing. They take vacations with their families and girls weekends with their friends. They are committed to enjoying life, and don’t get rattled when things don’t go as planned.

Being happy is a full-time job for my friends. It is a way of life that they embrace fully. And I believe they work hard at it.

While sometimes trying to be positive and upbeat — especially when we are not naturally that way — can make us feel like a phony, gradually that “pretend” feeling subsides, and our feelings are no longer forced. We become the way we act.

I once heard a phrase: going through the motions can trigger the emotions. You know what I’m talking about….like when you are frustrated but you put on your happy face for your kids. Next thing you know you are in the middle of a tickle fight, and you forgot why you were so grumpy.

By embracing the moment, not the negative emotions, it can free us from our unhappiness. And who doesn’t want that?

Are you happy? What do you do to keep your happiness mojo on the upswing?

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Five Signs You Have a Girls Weekend Coming Up

One of my most popular posts was Five Signs You Need a Girls Weekend. I’m no fool. I know my audience.

And as my trip gets closer, I’m not going to lie — the band Europe’s song “The Final Countdown” is playing on loop in my head (and now I’m guessing the song will be playing in your head for the rest of the day now too. Sorry.)

In eight days I will be leaving on a jet plane. That’s 192 hours for you mathematicians.

Now that I am extremely experienced at dumping my kids with my husband or a relative, providing my children with the opportunity to spend more quality time with my husband or other loving relatives, I have noticed there are some tell-tale signs of my impending departure:

  • All the laundry is actually done, folded, and put away neatly in a drawer for the first time since, well, my last girls weekend. All needed clothing and accompanying equipment for children’s activities are in labeled bags. Written itineraries are waiting on the counter three days in advance of departure. Some may think this is done because I am a control freak. Some would be wrong. I do this so I don’t get annoying phone calls while enjoying my lunch-time margarita.
  • The refrigerator is stocked. So is the bar. I do the first because I don’t think my husband actually comprehends how much his dainty girls eat (and subsequently belch), and I do the second to ensure I get to go on another girls weekend.
  • The house is (relatively) clean. I do this to show how much I actually do while he’s at work all day, and to invoke guilt upon my return to a messy house.
  • I am highlighted, plucked and manicured. And usually have new shoes. Why I do this for my girlfriends, I have no idea…
  • The children are actually behaving. I’m not sure if this one is reality, or just me seeing the best in them since I know I’ll be leaving them soon. See next point.
  • I feel guilty. And then I don’t. And then I feel guilty again. Although I write constantly about how parents should not be controlled by guilt, for me, it’s one of those things that I intellectually understand, yet emotionally have a hard time managing. Fortunately, my guilt seems to drift as soon as the Southwest flight attendant says “You are now free to move about the cabin” and is basically non-existent by the time I meet up with one of my besties at the nearest TGIFriday’s for our first cocktail.  I mentioned I was experienced at leaving my kids, right?

In all honesty, the hubster is awesome when I’m away, and I can enjoy my trip even more knowing that his job is a little easier because I had everything prepared.

The new shoes? Well, it is a girls weekend after all, and what girl doesn’t love new shoes?

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Let me know about your next girls weekend, and what you did (or didn’t do) to prepare.

 

 

Passport to my Dreams

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In order to hone my craft, I am starting to participate in a writing challenge offered by Mama Kat, a blogger and social media expert with more followers and experience than I can fathom at this point. One of the writing prompts she offered this week is: what does the word passport mean to you?

Last year, as the Big 4-0 loomed closer, and the loss of a friend my age from cancer sunk in, it seemed time to start attacking my bucket list. Although I have travelled extensively throughout North America, I had never been abroad.

The timing just never seemed right. I had a new job. My dad was fighting lung cancer, and I didn’t want to leave the country. I was going through fertility treatments, and subsequently had three kids as a result.  Then, who could I leave three toddlers with for eight days?

But I finally felt like the time was right. Or as I looked at it, now or never.

As someone that lives for history, food and wine, Italy seemed like a natural choice for my first adventure overseas. After securing a doting grandmother to watch my children and enlisting an army of friends to taxi them to and fro various activities, it was time to make it happen.

I talked about my trip all the time and tried to garner as much information as possible from people that had travelled to Europe recently. While most people were extremely excited for me, interestingly enough, not everyone seemed as supportive of my trip.

“I could never be away from my kids for that long,” one mom told me. “I just wouldn’t enjoy myself.”

“Don’t you feel bad that you’re not taking your kids,” said another friend.

And my personal favorite: “What if something happens to you while you are over there? What will they tell your kids?”

While all these statements initially provoked some guilt and second guessing (and yes, also made me a little angry), it also helped me realize what type of parent I wanted to be — one that showed my kids that they should follow their dreams, be adventurous, find their passions and live life.

When I was over in Italy, I spoke with a beautiful woman who showed us around a winery. During our conversation, I mentioned that I felt badly because I was over in Italy and my kids were back home with their grandmother.

“When I was growing up, I spent entire summers with my grandparents and only talked with my parents a few times,” she told me. “I loved every second of it and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I bet your kids are loving it too!”

A view of the Chianti countryside.

A view of the Chianti countryside.

I thought about what she said later that day. As Americans, we do put enormous pressure on ourselves to constantly be there for everything when it comes to our kids. We feel guilt if we miss a new milestone or a soccer game, and because of this, we often miss out on doing the things that we love.

I think it is great that as parents we give all of ourselves to our kids, but sometimes I wonder about the cost. We forget about focusing on other things that matter, such as our spouses, health, interests or dreams until sometimes it’s too late. I believe it’s important to grow with your children, not sacrifice yourself because of them.

My new Italian friend was right. My children loved spending time with their grandmother and the extra attention they received from my friends. When we returned home, they were happy to see us, but no worse for the wear. And I found a new passion in traveling abroad that I can’t wait to share with them (after they get a little older!)

My passport helped me take the trip of a lifetime. The word passport, to me, means living life.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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