Finding the Joy (and Intelligence) in Motherhood — Being a Happy Mother

Happy Mother


I was talking to a mom today who is preparing for the birth of her second child.  She mentioned something that took me back to that same time in my own life.  She said that she wasn’t sure how many more children she would have because she felt like her brain was going unused and she wasn’t sure how many more years of that she could handle.


I remember feeling the same way when I had one or two children.  A thought that was constantly on my mind was how being the person who had gone to college and now cleaned the poop just didn’t feel fulfilling every second of every day.  In fact, sometimes I felt like I was kind of wasting myself.  It certainly felt like my mind might waste away in a flood of non-verbal kid communication, dishes, and urine.


Somehow though, over the years, I have managed to find a lot of joy AND intellectual stimulation while being a mother.  Here are a few things that have helped me be not just happier, but more at peace, as a mother.


Find other women


It is so very easy to disappear behind the doors of your home when you have little children and interact very little with the outside world.  Honestly, who ENJOYS breakdowns in public, packing the car for an hour so that you can go on a short errand, or making sure everybody has a change of clothes, a snack, and a special toy every time you leave the house?  Having little kids can make it HARD to get out.


Guess what — you still need to do it!  I really believe that women need other women.  In fact, I am going to sound sexist and say that for most women, the need to TALK to other adults each day, is just that — a NEED.  We need each other.  Our shared wisdom, our conversations, our advice, our compassion.  Women need each other and we can’t often find each other if we stay at home all day.  Even with the advent of the Internet, we still need this — and not virtually.  We need each other IN PERSON if we want to be happy as mothers.


The modern playgroup is a scattered, suburban answer to the need for female companionship.  La Leche League, church groups, attachment parenting groups, walking clubs, gyms, WHATEVER — getting out and being with real people is a very important part of staying intellectually active and finding happiness as a mother.  Despite our big cities and our fancy minivans, we can become very isolated very quickly and the results can be devastating.


You know what else?  If you don’t have groups like this in your community, you have a fabulous opportunity to become an activist.  There may not be organized groups but there are almost undoubtedly other MOTHERS who feel the same way you do.


Find them.  Join them.  Start your own group.  You can make a joyful difference in your life and the lives of other mothers.


Do SOMETHING you love


I think one thing that is different for me now than when I had one child is that I have passions outside of my home.  For some women, this comes in the form of paid work, for others it is community or church service, and for others it is expressing talents physically.  Whatever it is, do something that you ENJOY.  When Betty Friedan was doing research for “The Feminine Mystique” she said she couldn’t find a single happy housewife.  But one thing about those women she was talking to was that they ONLY focused on their home and family and on NOTHING else.


I hope my focus is primarily on my family.  But I find that when my focus is ONLY on my family, and never on my needs, loves, and passions … well, I start to go a little nuts.


There is nothing selfish about admitting that you can be a better mother and person if you occasionally do things that you enjoy that don’t directly involve your two year old.  So don’t feel guilty about it!




This may not be true for everybody, but for me, I just HAVE to read.  It can be hard to find time to read when you have a seeming hoard of screaming, needy, little ones.  But we still need to work our brains, even when we are mothers.  Being a mother doesn’t mean you have to stop all learning and just clean toilets.  I promise!


Mothers can keep learning and growing and becoming better people even as they raise the next generation.  In fact, staying intellectually active can make us better mothers, more confident women, and happier with ourselves and our place in the world.  There is much to learn as a mother and even as a homemaker.  There are skills to be learned and there is knowledge to be had.  We don’t have to be paying top dollar for a university education in order to grow and learn.  We can often do that from our own home or library.


I really believe that motherhood is gift, a challenge, and a pleasure.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the chance I have had at motherhood.  Yes, at first it seemed … well … mind numbing!  But it doesn’t feel that way anymore.  There is so much joy, and yes, INTELLIGENCE, involved in being a mother.  This is the world’s greatest profession.




About Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark is a mother of four children 7 and under.  She writes about motherhood and natural birth at her blogMama Birth.  She is also a natural birth teacher and is on the board of directors for Birth Boot Camp, a natural birth education company.



4 thoughts on “Finding the Joy (and Intelligence) in Motherhood — Being a Happy Mother”

  1. Great article… I have found that an understanding of child development is pretty important for raising well-adjusted children, and it’s a great way to get some of that intellectual stimulation that some moms seem to be missing in their lives!

    Pick up a book about child development (it doesn’t matter what theories you ascribe to, just read!). Then observe your child to try to understand the connections between his behaviors and his development.

    We have a veritable social research lab in our homes and playgroups, and this (at least for me) makes motherhood fascinating and worthwhile.

  2. Hi Sarah, I’m happy for you that domestic work is your passion and you find satisfaction in your work at home. We should all seek to find gratitude and balance in our work. And I agree having a strong support network, whether PTP or digitally is essential.

    It is problematic, though, when women discourage other women from working in order to validate their own experience. Being a mom is hard, no matter whether you work at home or at a job. Betty Friedan’s research led to the conclusion that women should have more opportunity to work outside of the house because home-work does not meet every woman’s needs or interests. By perpetuating the division of mothers who work and mothers who don’t work I fear that you are invalidating the other woman’s experience. This is how the glass ceiling has perpetuated in our generation. As leaders we should encourage women to pursue their goals, and support them by creating safe and healthy places for their children while they are separated. We must not judge women for the difficult decision they make on how to they can best support their families, and we must be confident, as you are, in your commitment to our work.

  3. Hmm- I totally didn’t see this article as promoting domestic work as the best way to find “fulfillment” as a mother, even mentioned that for some they find it in paid work. In fact, for myself, the things that help most are the things that I am paid for. Sorry you got that from the article, it wasn’t meant that way and I don’t see it that way.

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