Ah, children. Those wide-eyed, dimpled leeches that can suck the last ounce of joy from every particle in our nervous system. On particularly long days, every argument over homework and sky’s-the-limit meltdown seem to reach straight into my chest and tear off a chunk from my happiness stash. The constant whining and begging for new toys and entertainment gobble up any remaining morsel of good cheer until I resemble the puddle of squeeze yogurt which is slowly hardening on the kitchen table. Some days we parents have to fight for our happiness.
When the dark clouds of motherhood roll in, it’s easy to get lost in the fog. But it is on these gloomiest of days when I am reminded of an important truth: this is my life too. I forget that sometimes. When I am refereeing sibling wars and signing permission slips and futilely worrying about what type of teen/adult/spouse/parent my children will one day become; the hard fact that I have control over my life seems to be an abstract idea, flickering off in the distance like a firefly. And it makes me laugh, because it is really that simple. This is my life. I can make choices that usher in happiness when it feels like happiness is being evicted.
As we moms travel through parenthood, we need to hold close the ways we find happiness.
These are the things I remember when motherhood’s joy start to slip from my grasp…
Choose to laugh. Life is rarely orderly and predictable, yet I can get my feathers ruffled when moments/days/plans fall off the beaten path. Laugh at the birthday present you forgot to bring to the party and the time your son took a bite of your deodorant. Laugh, because none of these things will be worth your lamenting in a week.
Believe you can handle it. Even when you truly believe you do no have the skills to deal with a situation, you always do. You peel your fevered body from your sheets and you get the kids to school. Stop saying you can’t handle it, can’t deal with it, don’t know what to do. You carry more answers and strength than allow yourself to believe.
Don’t posture for others. You don’t have to defend the way you run your family. If I had a dollar for every time I found myself explaining my parenting choices I would be holding a first class ticket to Bali. That is a useless habit – and presents the dangerous trap of second guessing your mama instincts. Others are free to do things their way, and you have the right to do things your way. As long as no one is in danger or distress or being victimized, carry on.
Stop trying to change the unattractive pieces of your child’s personality. We are all born with at least one gear that needs more greasing than the others. We tell our children how to be and what to say, in hopes that they won’t suffer or struggle. But lurking within those protective gestures is the small hope that if this child changes his/her ways, life will be easier for us. Easier because we won’t have to worry for them, but also because we won’t have to deal with those traits – we won’t have to endure the things our kids do that make life frustrating. As much as you can, let them bear that cross on their own. And while they are working those kinks out, don’t apologize to others for your child’s idiosyncrasies.
Find your tribe. Choose some good grown-ups you can be honest with and let them be your happy place. When you are struggling, tell them all the details and allow them to help if they offer. They are in your corner, cheering you on! Accept their love, then return the favor.
It’s what makes any life worth the trip.
Allow motherhood to add to your joy, and follow the path that leads to a happy mom.
May your journey be one that makes you smile