October 4, 2011

being a happy mom

Being a mom in today’s world is a tough gig. I’m not simply talking about the sleepless nights, or all-night feedings, or not sleeping, or the lack of sleep, but rather the intense and sometimes debilitating pressure we put on ourselves to simply be “good enough.” As women, we already feel this pressure from all sides – the pressure to be a good wife, a good cook, pretty enough, smart enough, holy enough, someone who has their house together, and on and on. But then you throw kids into the mix and a woman’s natural ambition to feel worthy gets kicked into overdrive.

On one hand, this ambition is a good thing. It keeps up focused. But on the other hand, it can morph into a beast that drives to tear us moms, us women, apart. In our pure motivation of wanting to be the best mom to our kids and wife to our husband and person to ourselves that we can be, we turn outwards and begin to compare. We compare homes, kids, activities, bodies, meals, and anything else that we can visually see in order to grasp whether or not we measure up. And, oh, how this becomes dangerous.

A couple months back I was feeling very restless. I felt like I couldn’t get control of my life and I constantly felt like I was one step behind. I tried to attribute it to our constant remodeling, having busy kids, or my morning sickness, but once those things passed (well, the kids are still busy…) I was still fighting to stay above water. I just couldn’t seem to get my act together. Once I conquered one task, 10 other things waiting to be tackled would stare me in the face. But even if I got all 11 things done, I still wasn’t happy.

What in the world is going on? I thought to myself. I have an amazingly supportive husband, great kids, and more blessings than I could count. I frequent the sacraments and I have a relationship with the Lord. But why did I feel like something was missing?

Around this same time I stumbled across a book by an author I love, Dr. Meg Meeker. I read two of her other books Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters and Boys Should be Boys and they were both fabulous. She is a mom, a pediatrician, and a strong Christian. She offers straightforward and sound advice that is meant for everyone from working parents to stay-at-home parents, and everyone in between. The book of hers I found is called 10 Habits of Happy Mothers.

Notice it reads “happy” mothers. Not “good” mothers or “respected” mothers or even “virtuous” mothers. Nope, just happy. And that’s what I was looking for.

Dr. Meeker opens by laying out the struggle that all moms face: to be good moms. But, she says, in order to be good moms, we need to be happy moms. That means letting go of the comparisons, the jealousies, the drive to have/be/do more, and the faulty notion that we aren't good enough. It means embracing the fact that we all have different talents and gifts to share with the world. And it means understanding that true happiness as a mother lies in our faith, in simplicity, in healthy friendships, and in enjoying being a mom.

This brings me back to my own struggle. Despite having made the strong commitment never to compare myself to or be jealous of others (especially of all my mom friends) I found these things creeping into my life. And frustrated that I couldn't do it all (like deep clean my house every week AND coupon AND make things from scratch AND run a ministry AND school my children AND be a loving wife AND cook amazing meals AND work out 6 times a week AND keep up my gardens AND........) I started taking it out on myself, my kids, and my husband. In trying to be what I thought was a good mom, I lost what being a happy mom is all about. To make matters worse, because of my own insecurities, I didn't want to bring any of this up to my close friends because I realized that my faults would be exposed - and for whatever reason I didn't like that vulnerability.

So, did I need more me time? Did I need to find extra help? No. I needed to simply let go. And this is where I rest today. I embrace my gifts and my faults. It's OK that I can't do it all, because I'm not supposed to. There are sacrifices to be made in living simply - sometimes the toilets get sacrificed for the floors, the gardens get sacrificed for time with my kids, couponing gets sacrificed for the laundry, time with my husband gets sacrificed so I can go work out, dinner gets sacrificed for my sanity, and the blog gets sacrificed for playing "dogs" with Max (be right back). I always knew I couldn't do it all, but the turning point was when I finally told myself that this was OK.

And in the end, this is what my husband and children need: a happy mom.

A couple months after reading this book I can truly say I am more at peace, I yell less, I ask for help more, and I don't get as overwhelmed. I am not afraid of looking vulnerable or like I don't have it all together. And it feels great.

My prayer is that all moms can find this peace. Whether it be through reading Dr. Meeker's book or by embracing simplicity, I pray that we realize we are all good enough - that we can let go of our fears, embrace this beautiful call of motherhood however it looks for each of us, and be happy in the meantime.

To all my sisters in Christ, I love you!

For an excerpt of Dr. Meeker's book, click here.


Joe, Anna and baby Gus said...

I listened to that book on CD a few months ago and felt so good after! She is such a great author (and person) and it was so refreshing to hear all of her points and just be okay with how things are ... and of course, to want to be better, too.

Great post! Everyone (mothers) should get their hand on this book!

Mountain Mama said...

Great post (as always!!!) I have that book sitting waiting to be listened to on CD too - maybe I had better get on it! :)

The Herring family said...

I love you,Kris. Great post -- a must read for all us other moms who find ourselves in the same predicament. It's so easy to compare, isn't it? Another book I read a while back was "Stay Home, Stay Happy" by Rachel Duffy. It's a good (and quick) read that sounds like it's along the same lines.