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.
+ 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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