10 Great Ways to Be an Unhappy Mom

Over the years, I have pinpointed a few behaviors that — though widely accepted and even promoted by popular culture — simply don’t serve me. Changing these behaviors is a process and one that requires both a willingness to take personal responsibility for our choices and a continuous countercultural commitment to creating our lives by a truer, though “less convenient” set of standards.

However inconvenient, these subtle shifts sure have made for better living in my experience — that is, once I sorted through the mainstream confusion surrounding what makes for good living. 

10 Great Ways to Be an Unhappy Mom

1. Believe that you must have it all now. This one is running rampant through our culture, creating discontent within every demographic. Because we are suddenly aware of the existence of millions of products, experiences and ways to “improve” upon our lives, because millions of dollars are spent annually to creatively convince us that we need that which we’re suddenly aware of AND because instant gratification is now assumed and expected, it’s easy to see how we’ve become totally caught up in this defeating mentality. It is equally present within the mainstay of motherhood. We are taught that we can have careers, babies, balance within our homes, bigger homes, more time with our spouses, more organized closets, physical fitness, money in savings and vacations to counter the chaos (to name a few) ALL AT ONCE. Then, in an attempt to manage impossible loads (or ease our guilt for having failed to do so), we consume — because according to the ones spending the millions, that will solve the problem. Guess who wins in this vicious cycle?

2. Compare yourself to other mothers (including your own). You are your own unique version of motherhood. No one right way exists to raise children. Just as comparing our bodies to the photoshopped depictions of the “perfect” woman distorts our sense of beauty and perception of what is desirable or even possible, comparing ourselves to other mothers — the lives of whom are either totally fictitious (instant bliss upon the uncapping of a bottle of laundry detergent), largely made up by our wild imaginations (“so and so” has it “all together”) or comparisons of apples to oranges (remembering your mother’s home when you were a teenager and comparing it to your current home full of babies) — leaves us senselessly unsatisfied and seeking contentment where it can never be found.

3. Base your contentment on the state of your house. I like a tidy house. I feel more on top of my game, at ease and productive once it is relatively “clean.” But I would have gone insane (and taken everyone with me) if I held onto the idea that I could only be content once everything was “in its place.” Kids exist to dispel this notion. Likewise, feeling the need to apologize for the state of things upon welcoming unannounced visitors is like saying, “I’m sorry you have to see that we live in this house.”  The notion that homes must look like display windows before they are presentable to guests is a crying shame in a culture so starved for community. 

4. Allow “them” to dictate your priorities. Every time we walk into a store, open a magazine, hop on the highway or turn on the tv, we are bombarded with images that shape our perspective on what’s important. Even seemingly harmless sites such as Pinterest can leave us wanting and wishing when we’d been hoping for inspiration. For more on this subject, head to my blog and check out my most popular post to-date, Let’s All Compare Our Perfect Lives and Then Try to Enjoy Our Day.

5. Build stories based upon unevaluated “truths.” So much of the misery we experience in life is based not upon actual occurrences, but the stories we create about things that might happen (which we can’t predict) or could have happened differently (which we can’t change). Byron Katie’s Loving What Is is a must-read if this is something you struggle with.

6. Play the martyr role. There are few more direct roads to resentment (both resenting and being resented) than behaving as if your own needs are of little importance compared to the never-ending demands of your family. Statements such as, “I can’t go to the party. have to stay home to nurse the baby,” are about worthless for encouraging the sense of empathy you are likely needing in that moment. Learning to be an effective communicator will benefit you as much as your relationships.

7. Make decisions based on guilt. We often say “yes” to commitments, not because we have a genuine interest in them, but because we have not yet learned to honor our own personal balance over other peoples’ perception of us (or what we think they think). Protecting ourselves from over-commitments is not selfish, it’s just plain smart.

8. Stay isolated for the sake of “independence.” Though just about everything in modern (US) culture tells us otherwise, I do not believe we are intended to go it alone as mothers. We are not stronger because we “don’t need help,” nor are we weaker when we ask. Women all over the world raise children together, and have been since the beginning of time. Creating community in our car-dependent, single-family-household society is no easy task, but one that I believe to be essential in any conversation regarding the support of motherhood and the betterment of this country.

9. Believe that you’ll be happier when_____. “I’ll be happier when my kids are out of diapers.” “I’ll be happier when we have more monthly income.” “I’ll be happier when the washing machine is replaced, when my husband comes home from work, or when my kitchen has been remodeled.” Really? Will you? How can you be so sure? We have no idea what tomorrow (or next hour) will bring. Deferring happiness until some hypothetical future experience only serves to rob you of the only happiness that truly exists — that which is available in this moment.

10. Allow “busy” to become your default answer to, “How are you?” Busy does not equal fulfilled. Busy does not equal valuable nor important. The quality of your experiences is more important than the quantity. Feel like no matter how busy, you never quite do enough? I’ve got a post for that, too. Reword your everyday accomplishments and realize just how productive you really are. 


About Beth Berry

Beth Berry is a writer, mother of four daughters and born idealist living the real life. When she’s not orchestrating the household, she can be found in one of several precarious yoga poses, wandering indigenous Mayan food markets, or holed up in a sunny southern Mexican cafe with her laptop, a shade grown dark roast and a contemplative look on her face. Having lived against the grain as a baby-slinging, toddler-nursing, secondhand-shopping, wanna-be farmer for 17 years, she and her family decided to ditch the rat race for a taste of life abroad. Now, in addition to challenging conventional wisdom, she writes about her life-changing experiences working among women in extreme poverty and oppression. Keep up with her musings and adventures in imperfection at www.revolutionfromhome.com.

33 thoughts on “10 Great Ways to Be an Unhappy Mom”

  1. This is about as spot on as spot on can be!!! Way to go Beth. That is just perfect. I will share far and wide.

  2. This is so necessary for mothers to read AND, maybe even more importantly, for women contemplating motherhood to consider. A very important list that I live by in my own life. We each are uniquely gifted with the ability to parent OUR children. More women need to feel empowered that they really are what their children need most.

  3. Awesome post, Beth. After 14+ years of mothering, I can attest to the truth of all of these. And I can’t really think of one I would add. Sadly, I’ve done all of these. Happily, not all at once. Glad that it’s a long game, leaving me lots of time to learn, grow, and get better at it.

  4. I’m guilty of tossing around the busy comment… not as the anwser ..but it always leads to it. I’m gonna try to stop doing that! : )

  5. I couldnt agree more! Thanks for this blog. It really helped me put a few things into perspective & reassured me on other things.

  6. Love this. You could probably easily reword this to address unhappiness not just in mothers but in society at large.

  7. Thank you!! I read this last night after having a looong day at the office, and feeling frustrated that I can’t be a mom that works out of the home and have as much time with my kids as I want and I feel they deserve. Your post puts in perspective that wanting — or worst, believing — that we are entitled and will/should have everything all at once is just a receipe for disaster. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! You articulated what I know in my head to be true, but need to hear from time to time.

  8. I (also mother of 4) really dislike when people say “Wow your busy” or “have your hands full”… no kidding – and we love it- but I think some of these people that live life based on your 10 above “rules” have their hands more full than I do!!! Forget the housework! I’m going outside to play on the swings in the sunshine with my kids!!

  9. This is a great post. I’ve struggled with some of these off and on. I’m a mother of 3 and can’t stand when people tell me I have my hands full, like having more than 1-2 kids is terrible.

  10. Everything about your article resonated with me. I am a homeschooling mom of 4 and definitely struggle with everything you described. Just shared this with my readers. I’m certain they will love it. Thank you for your excellent writing.

  11. Wonderful list!

    I believe that our loss of community is such a crucial point that influences so many other points on your list.

    Also mentioning how we compare ourselves to our mothers when we cannot remember them as mothers of small children is very important. With the holiday season round the corner, the pressure mounts to put on the perfect holiday meal/event, just like our moms….When yes, we remember those holiday moments from our teenage years not from when we were babies.

    Thank you!

  12. Love this, thank you! Related to your #4 and 5, I was much happier once I figured out that tv/ads/magazines/books/well-meaning-relatives/etc. often promote the wrong information about child behavior and development, and to listen to my instincts instead of “them.” For us it was mostly an issue with sleep – my daughter has never slept where and for how long she was “supposed to,” and ate quite a bit more frequently as a newborn as well … It’s amazing how liberating it is to realize your child is normal instead of abnormal.

  13. Guilty of numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10! Thanks for this and the other articles you’ve linked to it. I need to read them!

  14. This article is so true. I have been home with my kids since Number One was born in 2009. At first, I didn’t like it. I wanted us to have more money, I wanted to buy a house, have two really nice cars and so on. It took moving into a new home (that we are renting) for me to be content. Not because we had a big house, but because I finally just stopped caring about what my family and my friends think of me. I parent my kids my way, and spend the majority of my time playing with them or cleaning. I stopped wondering if what I do would make my parents proud because if they weren’t proud of me for being a good mom or fo being a good (almost) wife, then oh well. I’m so glad you wrote this. Thanks.

  15. I thought that I would be an extremely happy mom…but all the expectations of what a perfect mom might be are completely unrealistic. As a control freak and overachiever, this was one major reality check for me. It’s been a tough year so far, but as I get through each day, I get better and better and managing my expectations and just enjoying motherhood. My blogging at http://www.allmomsareperfect.com also helps me enjoy each experience too.

  16. I loved reading this post. It’s very insightful. I am always frustrated that my house isn’t clean “enough”. But my kids are fed, clothed and happy. I do have to remind them that we don’t need to buy more stuff all the time, but I think that’s fighting our culture so it will be a constant thing we have to remind each other as they grow.

  17. For me it comes down to balance. Sometimes I get tied up in knots because my in-laws are coming and my floor looks like you could knit a couple of jumpers from the dog hair wafting around on it and if I collected all the crumbs moooshed onto the tiles I would be able to feed an army with them. Then I get relative! My aim to attain that precious equilibrium is to have what I call “My Little Piece of Zen”. Sometimes this is as big as a bedroom and sometimes as petite as an inch square- I love these Little Pieces of Zen equally no matter how big or small :) Great article- thanks Beth.

  18. I wish the title of this story could be “…… Unhappy Parent” because all of what you said applys to us full time Dads too.

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