The secret to happiness as a mom.
Lofty title, right?
I am, admittedly, not an expert on anything, and certainly not on motherhood. I’ve only been at the work of motherhood for around 4 years and yet I feel strongly that I have stumbled upon the absolute key to happiness as a mom. And, here it is:
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS .
That’s it! That right there will make you happier! Lower your expectations every day, every meal, every bath time, every minute and your life as a mom will be so much happier.
You know that image you have in your mind of how your kids should behave, of how your house should look, of all the vegetables your kids should be eating. That image (that lie) is what is making you miserable. On the other side of that toxic expectation is your happiness.
Allow me to illustrate. At the moment I would characterize myself as a very happy mother (for the most part), but this wasn’t always the case.
I didn’t become a mother until I was 29 and in those 29 years I had formed some pretty strong ideas about the type of mom I wanted to be, and even more so, the type of kids I was going to raise. We would be the family that took advantage of every culture experience, that only played with classic wooden toys, that sat reverently still in mass, and that wouldn’t dream of eating processed food or watching mind-rotting television. Beyond that, as a stay-at-home mom I would keep an immaculate home, make amazing meals each night and present children that were well groom and darling, even on quick trips to the grocery store. I’d also be the mom that had kid after kid and people marveled at my grace and charm through it all.
And that is exactly the life I have created for myself. What, wait, no. Not even close…
So, when that first baby entered the world in my 29th year, and I suddenly was a mom (with no real training) I really struggled.
In those first months I would get up in the morning and be struck, almost instantly, by a debilitating desire to get things done–to make today count! So, I’d grab a notepad and make a list. Sure, I had to care for the baby, but what else could I accomplish to make today feel fully lived?
And so I’d make the list adding all sorts of things from errands to chores to playdates to home improvement goals (if you know me feel free to laugh at the “home improvement goals”). And even though I pushed myself, probably too hard, I never got to all of the things on my list done, and this made me so frustrated. And my frustration was sometimes aimed at my sweet little boy.
How dare the baby poop up his back 3 ties today! I had to spend half of my day getting him in and out of the tub!
How the baby refuse to eat at the playdate, forcing me to leave way sooner than I had planned!
How dare the baby make me hold him from 4pm-7pm, forcing me to make only a merger meal for us with my one free hand!
I was beginning to feel like motherhood was terribly inconvenient.
Even as that sweet boy grew my expectations of how things should be going stole me happiness. He should be eating more vegetables. He should be napping now. He should be awake now. He should be quiet now….
Should can poison just about anything.
It’s a terrible way to live–always feeling that the moment you are in is an utter disappointment.
This is how I felt back then. But time went on and gradually God was stepping in and teaching me how to mother. My little boy grew and soon he had a little sister, and then a little brother. There was lots of hard moments, but I was starting to see that they were just moments. The weather got warmer, we found some great parks by our home, we made some terrific friends. And gradually my life got bigger and brighter, and the should’s stopped whispering in my ear.
And gradually I was making fewer and fewer lists.
Some days I don’t make a list at all. I still like to get things done at nap-time, but on the days when I don’t check my phone until after lunch, when I don’t wake up with a list of to-do, those are the days I am a happy mom.
Those days I play as much as my kids. And I love playing.
On those days there’s no need to turn on the television so I can “get some things done”. We are all already consumed in a game of hide and seek.
On those days there is no need to beg my kids to eat. They have good food in front of them, and I know that’s all I can do. I’m just going to enjoy my salad and teach them a new song.
On those days there is no need to threaten or bribe the kids into bed for a nap so I can “get some things done”. We’ve been running and laughing all morning in the backyard and everyone is a asleep before they hit their pillow.
On those days there is no need to fret about the things I’m letting slip because I know the work I’m doing is the most important work there is.
On those days there is no need to become depressed that my kids aren’t living up to my expectations because as we play and laugh and paint and sing, they are exceeding them.
I love being home with my kids and I don’t mind getting messy or staying an extra hour at the park or eating food with a little bit of sand in it. When I wake up with the singular expectation that today I will have fun with my kids–they never disappoint me. And I know, at least on those days, I’m not disappointing them.
All the best, and carry on with your good work mommies!