The world is a bit upside down these days, and mothering looks different than it ever has before.
That’s why we need to think about how we can still find joy in our motherhood, and our kids’ lives, and help them find it an be happier too!
Motherhood is a bit different these days, no?
Instead of dropping the kids off at school and running errands in peace and quiet, we now have our kids at home full time and we have been quarantined to our homes without even using the excuse of “I just need to go to Target to pick up a few things” as our refuge. Many of us are trying to balance working from home and homeschooling, which we really know is not homeschooling but crisis schooling and that’s a whole different story.
We struggle with limiting screen time and emotions through the coronavirus pandemic.
Yes, Motherhood is extremely overwhelming right now as we all struggle to find our new normal in this completely unprecedented situation.
But let’s be real. Mothering is overwhelming even when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic locking us into our homes. Research has found that motherhood, especially the early years of a child’s life, can be utterly exhausting and lonely for many mothers. Add in a worldwide pandemic where you can’t visit your friends for coffee dates or playdates, or even have grandma over to give you a bit of a break, and motherhood can seem downright unbearable. Patricia Leahy-Warren, a senior lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at University College Cork in Ireland says that, “New mothers give up autonomy, sleep and relationships to tend to the relentless needs of a baby. On top of that, they are also expected to be in a constant state of bliss and fulfillment with their new role. There’s a lot of pressure to be the perfect mother, and women are afraid to say they’re not coping,” Leahy-Warren says.
So how do we, as mothers, try to become happier moms both in the face of a global pandemic and even after things start to return to normal? For some, the shelter-in-place orders have offered a bit of refuge for families, allowing them to truly take time and slow down from normal, every day life. Some of the stress of motherhood may have been alleviated simply by eliminating the need to go, go, go. One thing to truly consider is how to be a happier mom while you are stuck inside your home as well as after the stay-at-home orders have been lifted. The coping skills for these two situations may look very different depending on how the pandemic is affecting you and your family (for some this may be a welcome break while for others it is extremely difficult to balance it all) but some of the rules below for being a happier mom are the same no matter what is going in the outside world.
We went back to a really popular post from one of our mama authors with some rules we feel still apply, even if they may look a bit different today.
I’ve been a little stressed and a little sick lately, and the whole experience of being in over my head has left me wondering where I went wrong. I’m writing this guide to being a happier mom not because I have actually mastered any of these skills, but because as I ranted over the messy car (that my children all told me they had cleaned) this morning, I recognized just how off course I had gone.
So, here are my rules for being a happier mom. I don’t follow them, but I intend to because I’m pretty sure they are great ideas.
Remember how when you had a newborn and people told you to “sleep when baby sleeps,” and you thought they must be smoking peyote?
If you sleep when the baby sleeps then the laundry will never get done, you’ll never have private time with your spouse or read another book. You’ll just feel like a useless human being with floors that need mopping.
I ignored the sleep advice when I had newborns and I still ignore it.
Oh yes, the bad news: you think when your kids get older they will sleep and then you will sleep. It’s true – eventually the kids all sleep through the night (it’s awesome, by the way) but you will likely still continue to avoid sleep.
I have spent countless hours writing, hanging out with the hubby binge watching episodes of Psych (which is hilarious), working, exercising, reading, and more. Some of the time I spent awake was somewhat useless, but I also got a lot of things done.
I have spent many, many years getting 5-7 hours of sleep a night. You know what? I’m still tired even though all the kids will sleep now, and in their own beds to boot.
So, don’t do what I am doing – JUST SLEEP. Otherwise, you’ll get sick and your thyroid will freak out and your adrenals will malfunction.
And just because you’re not leaving your house during a global pandemic, you shouldn’t be staying up late to binge-watch Tiger King- keep your normal sleep schedule and get the appropriate amount of sleep each night.
This is possibly the hardest thing ever. But if you don’t learn to say no – you will freak out all the time.
Say no to the kids.
Say no to volunteering.
Say no to your job.
Say no to everyone!
Not to everyone all the time, but learn to say no when it needs to be said. Learn to recognize when you are at your limit and stop before you go hurtling over the cliff.
Otherwise you will never sleep, run yourself ragged, and end up hating everyone.
“But if I say no, I won’t be a good person!”
I know that’s what you are thinking, because I think it too! But setting limits doesn’t actually make you evil OR lazy, despite that voice in your head. The trick is to figure out when it is appropriate to say no and then to move on.
Don’t Freak Out!
It’s hilarious that I would write this, because I am actually really good at freaking out.
First, I don’t sleep. Then I say yes to everyone and everything in an effort to be “nice.”
Then I yell.
Following my first two rules might help with this one, although I can’t say I’ve tried it.
Freaking out, however, never leads to anything good. It just creates guilt and a lot of empty pints of ice cream in your garbage can. (However, freaking out does benefit manufacturers of ice cream and tranquilizers, so there are winners here.)
Take a breath, take a nap, say no, and remember that the freak out probably isn’t worth the guilt.
And if you do freak out, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make you a bad person – just a normal one. So just let it go and forgive yourself.
Exercise is one of the best things in life, and I say that as someone who has difficulty walking up stairs. Physical agility isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying exercise.
While it can be hard to fit it all into your day (especially if you are trying to do that whole sleep thing I mentioned earlier) exercise is worth making some room for.
Even if you’re not (at all) athletic, it’s a must-have. Oh, and it doesn’t have to be something you hate or be overly complicated, it can be as easy as taking a daily walk.
Whatever it is that you enjoy, and can accomplish, do it. It really does make you feel less crazy. (Refer to rule #3).
Turn off the computer
I recently took the Facebook app off my phone. Wow. I had no idea how much it was ruining my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I still check social media regularly but less is more in this department. More time, more focus on things that are actually happening in front of me and more real people: this equals more happiness.
Don’t get me wrong, I really love social media, and my computer in general, but it’s amazing how much better I experience life when I try to reign this in, even just a little.
You can even read a book made of paper.
Have Real Friends.
This goes along with the computer stuff. Having a real-life friend who you can call or visit with is pretty awesome.
I know it’s hard because we are all busy with work and kids but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, replaces a real person who you can safely be vulnerable with and talk to about your problems.
Knowing them in real life means two things:
- A) They are nicer than people behind a screen.
- B) You can see that they, too, are not perfect floating angel mothers about to get their wings.
Friends who have more life experience than you are even better because they help with perspective and they reassure you that life actually goes on.
Congratulations! You have now read the guide to being a happy mom.
I hope it has been as educational for you as it was for me – and I hope I can take my own advice, too.
In all seriousness, I think we all KNOW what we need to do to be happy, it can just be hard to see it and actually do it. Life, expectations, and the reality of our obligations just seem to get in the way. We have a unique opportunity right now to really take a step back and consider what makes us happy, what makes us unhappy, and how we can continue to keep the happy parts of our current situations and reintegrate them into our life when they finally “open up the gates.” But I don’t think we have to be selfish in order to be happy – we just need to set some boundaries for ourselves and those around us, and then follow through with them. It may be as simple as that.
Photo: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock