This is so true! The other version goes, “A happy wife is a happy life.” (That’s the motto of my husband). But let’s focus more on “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” because it’s Mother’s Day.
You can take it in two ways. You may feel, “Hey, you all have to try hard to make me happy; otherwise, no one will be happy in this home.” Or you may take it as your responsibility to be happy for the sake of your family.
Whatever perspective you take, the goal is to be happy for everyone’s happiness.
Mothers are always pictured as the martyr in the house, the one who sacrifices for everyone in the family, the ilaw ng tahanan (light of the home) in the Filipino culture. We’re always trying to be a better mother. Dr. Honey Carandang said in one workshop that mothers have this guilt complex. We always find something to be guilty about and it’s usually the thought of not being good enough, not being able to do the best for our child.
Instead of being too obsessed to become a better mother, let’s try to become happier mothers. You know in anything that we do, we do it better when we are happy.
Here are some tips to become a happier mom, enumerated in no particular order:
1. Be aware if you’re in a bad mood and warn your kids (& spouse as well). When I used to tutor my sons, I had very challenging moments of keeping my cool. (Every mom who tutors her child knows what I’m talking about). Then I realized that the biggest cause of my impatience was really the mood I was in. So whenever I was not in a happy mood before the start of study time, I would warn them, “Mama is not in the best of moods, I might be impatient, so please cooperate, okay?” It worked and I ended up being happy with their cooperation. Of course, you should never over-use this; otherwise, it loses its potency.
2. Ask for help. Don’t overdo your sacrifices. Do you really have to do everything and be a Supermom? The answer is NO, unless you find happiness in doing everything, which is not the case for mere mortals like me. We’re lucky to have yayas in our country and I am really grateful about this. In making sacrifices for your children, we have to watch out that we don’t end up resenting them. During the early years of my full-time mom days, I tried to fetch my sons from school as I really wanted to catch their stories fresh. However, because of the traffic, the heat, and the occasional prolonged waiting if they decided to play a bit longer before going to the fetching area, I found myself being a grumpy mom. So instead me hearing their stories fresh, they were listening their my reprimands about going to the fetching area on time because I left really early to pick them up on time yadah…yadah… Then I decided to just wait for them at home. We took merienda together while I happily listened to their stories.
3. Go with the flow. This is my waterloo. It’s a good thing that my husband is more “chill” about unmet expectations when we travel with the kids. It’s best to have a Plan B, or C or whatever letter fate brings you to. That’s why when it comes to family vacations, I’m just a passenger. These days, my oldest son already helps my husband do the planning.
4. Consciously look for a fun activity together. Is it watching a movie? Eating out? Shopping? Playing a sport? Playing computer games? Whatever it is, make a promise not to talk about homework, grades, fixing their rooms, etc., unless these are fun topics for your child. I know we enjoy watching movies together but one time after my youngest mentioned that he really enjoys going to the arcade with Papa, I got a little insecure and asked, “Is there anything that you enjoy doing with me for fun?” He paused for a while and said, “I like talking to you about many topics.” With a sigh of relief, I smiled and realized that yes, all three of them like telling me their stories and bouncing off their ideas with me. Oftentimes, I find myself talking to one or all of them till late hours, long after my husband has dozed off to sleep. Even if I’m the one who always reminds them to sleep early I really enjoy these conversations that I find it hard to end the conversation so they could sleep.
5. Have something else going on in your life aside from raising your kids. If you’re a working mom, this is usually not a problem. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the challenge is to still have something else, even just small projects that you can do. You have to make use of your talent, skills, your previous profession if you used to work. This way you’re not breathing on their necks and you don’t lose touch of your other talents and skills.
6. Savor the moment. Whatever activity you’re doing, try to be “in the moment.” Laugh out loud with your kids and husband. Take photos or videos of whatever fun times you’re having. My personal favorites are the ones we took when they were very young and performed before bedtime using our baywindow seat as their stage. When you’re visiting new places, take photos but don’t be too obsessed that you make them impatient with all the poses you ask them to do. But do fix your photos so you can go back to them again and relieve the memories.
Another way to savor the moment is write about it. My mommy journals turned into a book!
7. Get to know their friends. This is a fun and effective way to know what happens in the lives of your kids from another perspective. Have parties and hang-out time in your home to meet their friends and listen to their stories. Just be “chill” about your presence. There should be a time for you to exit; otherwise, the kids might not want to hang out in your house if you’re around.
8. Maximize the potential of your dinnertime. My most fond memories are dinners shared with my boys. During dinner we talk about anything and everything (well unpleasant kadiri topics excluded). We share our day’s highs and lows, corny jokes, dreams, accomplishments and frustrations. We always share a good laugh during dinnertime. This is where we make substantial deposits to our family memory bank.
9. Hang out with other parents, especially your girl-friends. My husband always notices that I’m very cheerful after a lunch or party with my mom-friends. After going out with them I go home appreciating my children and husband more.
10. Stop competing with other moms. When you hang out with your friends and share stories about your kids, be conscious where this brings you. In our quest to be the best mom, we sometimes unconsciously try to compete with other moms. Beware of this syndrome. Your children are different from theirs and you are different from them. Just listen, enjoy the stories and they will make your parenting richer.
11. Don’t neglect your husband. He is still the most important person in your life. He is your partner so involve him in your parenting and make him happy so he will also make you happy. In the end, when the kids are out of the house, it will just be the two of you again.
12. Exercise and always look your best. Exercise makes you secrete endorphins and endorphins make you happy even if you struggle to finish the 20 minute jog, or the 200 sit ups. Remember that all these sweat will make you happy in the end. Dress up well and maximize your beauty potential. I love looking at moms who are still looking gorgeous and happy at whatever age and I wish there’s a sweet and kind way of saying to someone what Helena Rubenstein said, “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.” Don’t you notice how people are a lot nicer to you if you’re dressed up and looking (and feeling) beautiful? That’s a sure way to make yourself happy!
13. Manage expectations. It’s good to tell your husband and children what you expect from them, and vice versa. While my sons were growing up, I told them that I love receiving letters from them and it thrills me when they articulate their appreciation for Mama. However, in the book entitled The Happiness Project the writer, who’s a mom, suggests that we should not always wait for those gestures of gratitude and appreciation (which she calls “gold stars”) from our children and husband. Instead, let’s just do those nice things because we like to do them and know that they’re for the best. This may not be so easy because those “gold stars” are our form of feedback to know whether we’re doing our mommy job right. We can’t expect any merit increase, bonus or promotion in this job, right? But not waiting for those “gold stars” will make us better and happy givers. If we still need the feedback, the “product” or our children should be our indicator whether we’re doing a good job or not.
14. Be good with money. Stress usually comes from the lack of money. Since you are your husband’s partner you should know what’s going on the financial aspect of your family life. It may sound weird but one of my sources of spurts of happiness is being able to balance our checkbook in one go! And of course, I really get a kick out of investing our funds and seeing them grow.
15. Find your strength and apply it in your parenting. Each mother is unique. If you’re good in the kitchen, whip up your to-die-for dishes that bring you happiness when you serve them to your loved ones. However, we cannot all be Martha Stewarts at home. But there must be something you’re good at that can be used in making your home a happy place. If you’re an advertising person, use your short and catchy taglines to dish out your reminders to your children. If you’re an events organizer, have the best family outings and parties. If you’re a finance person teach your kids the laws of money early on.
16. Have alone time without feeling guilty. Go to the spa, parlor and indulge yourself without the guilt. When you come home, you will be a happier mom.
17. Have a happy spiritual life. Whatever belief system you subscribe to there is really something out there greater than us that can put things in order, that can make awful things become wonderful, that can make us do the impossible. It’s a source available to everyone so why not use it? Embrace it, and tap it as the fountain of happiness, of true joy.
We owe it to ourselves to be happy because If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
Happy Mother’s Day!
From a happy mom,
(Image Attribution: Momma.com.
This article was published in RaisingPinoyBoys.com on May 11, 2012.)