I know those days.
The ones where you just want to throw in the towel.
The house is so messy that you’re pretty sure anybody peeking in the windows would think this was a home for really naughty, unsupervised orphans.
Who am I kidding? They wouldn’t have to peek in the windows, because there are toys all over the yard.
Even your husband wonders what you do all day.
You’d like to grab a book and curl up in bed, but you can’t, because everyone is hungry. And dirty.
You’re drowning, and you wonder how much longer you can hold on. You feel like an an inadequate mom and not cut out for this.
It sounds cliche, but if you’re a mom you’ve been there.
Mothers are the first to get up and the last to go to bed in most homes.
Driven by an innate need to nurture and love, moms live their lives for others, often sacrificing their own hopes and dreams.
And yet, even during those darkest and most difficult days, it is critical to find joy in motherhood. Dr. Phil is right that moms usually sets the emotional tone of the home.
After all, most of us women have been trained to think with our hearts first and our heads second. It seems to rest on mom to radiate the warmth and compassion that makes a home happy.
Here are 6 simple habits and confidence boosters that will help you to take joy in and love being a new mom, even when ‘momming’ is hard.
1. Find Meaning in the Role of Mom
The first step to being a happier mom is to find meaning in the role. Motherhood isn’t fulfilling when undertaken for personal fulfillment.
Our kids aren’t pets or cute accessories for whom we purchase matching outfits. They aren’t fun gadgets to play with. Rather, they are human beings with tremendous needs.
It is a joy-filled (not necessarily fun-filled) privilege to raise them, but we won’t recognize the joy until we think of motherhood as a selfless way to serve others and to progress in our own development.
What are your goals as a mother? Try to think of motherhood a profession rather than a hobby, and take a minute to write a business plan as if your livelihood depended on it. Because it does.
Your family is the one thing you will have for eternity – the only thing you will have after death. No success can compensate for failure in the home.
2. Learn Homemaking and Parenting Skills
Have you ever loved a job you were terrible at? Did you look forward to attending classes you were failing? Of course not, and the same is true of motherhood.
Nobody is born a great cook, seamstress, budgeter or housekeeper, but each can be learned.
As you learn these skills and become proficient at them, you will better enjoy them. And as you become passionate about creating a loving and joy-filled home, you will learn to take more joy in the process.
The hobbies I find the most enjoyable and fulfilling are the ones in which I invest the most time and effort. And as I progress in my abilities, my enjoyment grows, causing me to want to invest even more time and effort. It’s a wonderful cycle!
I find excellent parenting and homemaking articles online. I find that my favorites are usually blog posts written by experienced moms who are not blown about by child-raising trends.
3. Pursue Gratitude and Choose a Joyful Mindset
A mom who enjoys homemaking is a far more effective mom. Have you noticed that ‘when mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’? Changes inside homes begin with us moms.
And change for us begins in our heads.
All humans are naturally prone to a negativity bias. Our brains notice possible problems and remember negative emotions more easily, so it is natural to get stuck there.
We have to choose to turn toward the sunshine moments and to remember them gratefully. We can learn to be grateful for small things, like a gentle breeze, or blossoms on a tree, that we would ordinarily not even notice. We also have to choose to be present and participate in those moments.
Kids are great at living in the moment, investigating each bug and rock and enjoying it all. But we moms have taught ourselves, of necessity, how to multi-task. We survive by keeping mental lists and checking off tasks.
It’s difficult to turn that off and just be, but it is critical to our joy.
Feeling grateful is a mood booster. It can be as simple as praying daily, thanking our Heavenly Father for all of our blessings, however simple and small.
4. Cultivate Realistic Expectations
You don’t have to love motherhood every second of every day.
I give you permission to even absolutely hate certain aspects or moments, and further I encourage you to give an honest voice to your feelings.
We moms need to stick together and be real with each other. It’s exhausting to pretend things are hunky dory when they aren’t.
Nobody warned me about motherhood before I gave birth to my first.
I was blindsided by hemorrhoids, bleeding nipples, bodily fluids and exhaustion. Not to mention diapers, vomit and the never-ending dishes, laundry and feeding.
I was positive that no other mother had ever hated motherhood like I did and certain that I was evil for hating what everyone else said should be sacred and wonderful.
The stigma of admitting that you don’t really love being a mom is enormous. Perhaps if we didn’t expect that mothering would be the most joyous time of our lives, we wouldn’t feel so guilt-ridden for feeling otherwise.
Acknowledging our ambivalence – the fact that not every moment, nor even every stage, of motherhood is fun – allows mothers to accept themselves and legitimize their feelings, making motherhood more authentically enjoyable.
Parenthood is not automatically accompanied by an endless stream of rampant enthusiasm for all aspects of the job.
Realistic expectations about your responsibilities are just as critical as realistic expectations about your role.
Mothers are so bombarded with images of perfect homes, perfect meals, perfect children in perfect designer outfits, and even perfect outings for our perfect families.
And of course the mother looks like a 20-yr-old perfectly coiffed supermodel and is a corporate attorney.
Aspiring to what the world seems to project as the perfect life is a recipe for heartache. Yes, our homes should be clean and our families fed. But do we have unrealistic expectation?
Are we cleaning for atmosphere instead of function?
5. Develop an Eternal Perspective
Learning to see difficult situations from an eternal perspective helps us to remember that trials are temporary.
Your newborn baby will learn to sleep through the night, your toddler will eventually potty-train, and someday your house will even be quiet and clean.
What will matter then is that you took the time to sit and read stories, kiss skinned knees, and stay up late listening to the excited teenager after that big first date.
During our first year of marriage, I worked as a CNA (nurse assistant) at a nursing home.
One very wealthy elderly lady was the loneliest and saddest person I have ever met. She had not wanted children as a younger woman, and had instead poured her energies into her career.
I was expecting my first child at the time, and the one thing that this woman always told me was how lucky I was and how I should cherish my children and have lots.
When you have choices to make, such as cleaning your house or cuddling a sick child, try to imagine what you would wish you had chosen 100 years down the road.
“It [Eternal perspective] gives you more patience, and it certainly awakens you to the preciousness of the moment, which is fleeting,” says M.J. Ryan, author of The Happiness Makeover.
6. Take Time to Be YOU
You are a mom, but that is not all you are.
You are still all of the amazing attributes and talents that you were before motherhood.
In fact, those things make you an even better mom, and as your kids grow, they will appreciate and admire those things. So take time to continue to polish them.
Paint your masterpiece, write your classic novel or compose your magnum opus. Enjoy your friends, spend time at the gym, take time to be you. Where motherhood is concerned, a brief absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
And Then There is Grace
Of course, even if you do all of these things, you’ll still have days where you want to pull your hair out.
You might think back on your day and realize that you never once hugged one of your kids. Few things hurt more than wondering if we are inadequate as a mom at one of the most important jobs in our lives.
So you sneak in and kiss that sweet, sleeping child’s forehead and as love for that child floods through you, you remember that you, too, are a child of your Heavenly Father, who loves you every bit as much as you love your children.
He forgives you your weaknesses and helps you to overcome them.
While you are not perfect, you have a Savior who is.
He will sanctify and magnify your efforts. And hopefully you’ll be less likely to think there’s something wrong with you.
Maybe you’ll even be able to find a tiny sliver of sunshine and the gratitude you feel for it will tip the scales in favor of joy.