Like a lot of moms, I want to be happy. I want to live a purposeful, fun and satisfying life. But I’m learning that happiness is not going to come from what I do, get or accomplish from being a mom, but rather, from how I approach this crazy life.
With Mother’s Day upon us, I want to address what gets in way of moms’ finding peace and happiness. I believe these roadblocks are driven by myths that are so deep rooted they often go unnoticed.
Myth #1: If I Could Only Be Like That Mom: We all see “that mom,” don’t we? She’s the one that seems to have it all together. She is organized and on top of everything and never seems ruffled. She seems born for the job and somehow, her presence brings about feelings of insecurity to how you are doing as a mom. So we strive to be like “that mom” and fall short, and end up feeling bad about our own parenting skills.
The truth is “that mom” has challenges too, they are just different than your challenges. Maybe her superior organizational skills also mean she has a hard time letting go of control? Or maybe she can’t cook or doesn’t sleep well (too much to do!)? Let’s face it — we fixate on the qualities in others we wish we had ourselves. Odds are other moms look at you, and end up feeling bad about some part of their parenting. The key is to remember that every mom has challenges and we can learn a lot from each other.
Myth 2: If I Could Just Lose Those Last Pounds: Striving to lose weight is a constant in many moms’ lives. It might be 5 to 10 pounds or more weight that has accumulated since motherhood or before. This weight is like a barrier that stands between moms and living — many don’t feel right until it is removed — which may be never.
The truth is losing this weight will not bring the happiness women seek. This is a lie — even women at low weights may not feel good about themselves. What happens is we women waste so much energy on thinking about our weight, disliking our body and agonizing over what to eat, that there’s not much left over for the important stuff. If we stop this obsession, just think how much energy we would have to take care of ourselves, move our body more and engage with family and friends.
3. If I Just Had X, Things Would Be Better: No matter where in motherhood you are, odds are there’s something you want that you can’t have at this time. It may be a bigger house or a different job or a different childhood stage. We all know we shouldn’t long for what we don’t have, but we do it anyway.
In the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer writes about how our resistance to life events is what brings suffering, not the events themselves. I myself get tired of letting circumstances decide whether this day will be good or bad. So I’ve been striving to turn things around and be grateful for what I do have, accepting life “as is” and choosing to be happy despite the messiness. Goals are great (needed even), but when we count on the outcome for happiness, we never quite get there.
Myth #4: If I Don’t Beat Myself Up I Will Slack Off: Have you ever noticed how you talk to yourself? When you make a mistake or say the wrong thing, do you beat yourself up? The negative tape in mom’s head goes off so easily saying words like bad mom, not good enough, how could I? Moms are harder on themselves than they would ever be with a friend or family member because they are afraid if they don’t, they’ll slack off.
But the truth is all the putting down zaps moms’ already depleted energy, making them weaker. Research shows self-compassion is a key ingredient for happiness. It also helps to realize that other moms make mistakes too. Try talking to yourself like you would a good friend, and watch how much better and proactive you’ll be solving the daily problems you face.
Myth #5: I Need to Be Fixed to Be Happy: We live in a “fix it” society. Pick up any women’s magazine and you will be told what you need to change in order to be happy (weight, wardrobe, skills). The belief is if we can fix ourselves and conquer some weakness, or escape aging, we will then be happy.
When I worked in the corporate world I read this wonderful book called Now, Discover Your Strengths. The authors argue that it’s a waste of time to focus on our weaknesses, and people are better off honing in on their special talents. When someone mixes their talents with hard work, it turns into a strength, and this is how people excel and get satisfaction. It’s nice for moms to carve out time to explore their special talents, whether it stays a hobby or becomes a career, it just feels good.
Over six years into this motherhood gig, I’ve come to believe that happiness is possible when moms embrace motherhood in a way that honors who they truly are. This means saying bye-bye to the myth of the supermom. I, for one, won’t miss her.
Have an extra-happy Mother’s Day!