Do you ever think back to your old, pre-kids self and wish you could whack a little bit of reality into her? That pre-kid self who found work stressful, who enjoyed uninterrupted sleep, who enjoyed cooking meals because they got eaten. She had no idea, she took it for granted, and the meaning of happiness was different to her back then.
But change is a good thing. Not only do we have our gorgeous little munchkins, but we also get to experience a new reality instead of plodding along on our merry way.
Reality check! Things are such an effort. Sheer exhaustion has been a thing since the first baby was born. Body changes, career changes, mental overload with everything from school photos and playdates to doctors appointments and grocery lists.
Each day is a wash, rinse, repeat, and it’s no wonder that figuring out how to be genuinely happy is genuinely hard when it feels like groundhog day.
How to be a happy mum
So, where does an overwhelmed mum start on the road to being happy? We all know it’s not as easy as clicking your fingers and tapping your heels. Sometimes you need a good kick in the backside, so let this blog post be that little nudge.
It also starts with not sweating the small stuff.
Who cares if you haven’t folded the washing, meal prepped, vacuumed or tidied the kitchen. Your children will not remember these things. Do you know what they will remember about you? They’ll remember the time they spent with you in the park, doing art and crafts, and playing with wooden toys in the living room. They’ll remember cuddles and mum being silly and happy while you danced around in the lounge room. They’ll remember you as the fun mum because when you were happy and stress-free, you were fun.
Stop being a perfectionist
When it comes to mental health for mums, being a perfectionist is mentally draining. Perfectionism can rule your world and remove opportunities for happiness, replacing them with high levels of stress, burnout and anxiety. Stop seeing perfectionism as a strength because it’s actually a weakness.
A decades-long study referenced by the Harvard Business Review found that although perfectionists are more motivated, tend to work longer hours and are more engaged, there is a downside. Perfectionism is responsible for higher levels of burnout, stress, workaholism, anxiety and depression.
For something that is so etched into our psyche, how can a perfectionist mother try to reduce the load, and be happy with ‘good enough’ instead? Here are a few points to consider.
- When you’re performing a task, learn to recognise the point where what you’re doing is, in fact, a waste of time and where you can agree that done is better than perfect.
- Keep tabs on your ability to recognise your perfectionist tendencies and identify any successes.
- It’s time to adjust your standards. Perhaps a five-star hotel is usually your standard for doing things where a four-star hotel would be sufficient.
- What are the underlying beliefs that are driving your perfectionism? Once you can identify these, you’re closer to being able to change them.
- Use checklists. For example, when it comes to cleaning your house or toy rotation
- Use a list, and once you’ve ticked everything off, you’re finished.
You’ve probably felt guilty about practising self-care, but don’t worry, you’re not alone in feeling this way. It’s important to remember though, self-care for mums is not all about going to day spas, and spending money on luxuries you can’t afford. Self-care can be going to bed on time and getting a full 8 hours sleep. It can be taking yourself for a walk with your dog; it could be catching up with a friend for coffee, taking yourself to the beach (with one of our Kollab beach bags in hand, of course). Or you could tend to your indoor pot plants or enjoy a hobby.
Self-care is far from being selfish; it is something you do to help you boost energy, restore health and reduce stress. Self-care is a buzzword that sometimes cops a bad wrap, but the truth is, there’s a scientific reason we need it, it’s a coping mechanism and helps us deal with overwhelm healthily.
Sure, you’ve got your hopes set on making a cake from the Women’s Weekly birthday cake book, just like your mum did for you. But be realistic. Amongst your work, kids, preparing for a birthday party, will you have enough time? Will trying to squeeze in a themed birthday cake put you over the edge when you should be happy and present for a party? Probably. Know your limits and consider outsourcing the cake instead. A grandmother would likely love to be responsible for the cake or, buy a birthday cake and tick one BIG thing off your list. And there’s the sigh of relief. You don’t have to do it all.
Stop comparing yourself to other mums
Thanks to social media, it’s hard to escape comparison making. It’s human nature to do it, but, we do have some control over it. Social Media is a giant mix of everyone’s highlight reels, the good stuff; the stuff people want you to see, the photoshopped, meticulously framed photos. How often do you see the lowlight reels? Not often. Remember, you do not know what’s happening behind closed doors.
Make time to laugh
Have you ever walked past one of those laughing circles? It’s a strange thing to see at first, a tad absurd seeing a group full of people in a park laughing their heads off. Well, it turns out they’re on to something. Just one of the benefits of laughter, as found during research, is that having a
good old laugh decreases levels of cortisol and epinephrine, stress hormones, and increases the activation of the part of the brain that dispenses dopamine. Is it time to throw on your favourite comedy?
Practice living in the moment
You’re not alone in feeling your mind is aloof, thinking of all of the things you have to do today, tomorrow, or by the end of the week, while you should be enjoying the moment. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness takes practise, but when you get the hang of it, it brings a sense of calm and shuts out the anxieties for just enough time to give you a break.
You don’t have to practice mindfulness by meditating every day; you can incorporate it into your daily life. For example, practice mindfulness while you’re hanging the washing. Instead of letting your mind wander off to all the things you have to do in the future, bring yourself back to the present and notice the sounds you can hear in your yard, birds, cars, aeroplanes. Feel the fabric, smell the air and feel the breeze.
Let it go; you’re doing too much.
Perhaps a sign of underlying perfectionism, taking on too much is the fast lane to burnout, and this makes being happy, hard. It’s a faulty belief system that brings us, hard working mothers, to doing WAY too much. What is a faulty belief? It’s pretty much our minds telling us lies, yet it’s up to us if we want to believe them or not. When we do, we self-sabotage.
Ditch the faulty beliefs, mama
Let’s look at an example of a very relatable faulty belief. You grew up in a traditional household, and ever since you were young, you have had the belief that a good wife and mum would keep the house immaculate all the time. This belief becomes an internal story you continue to tell yourself, and you burn yourself out trying to manifest it in addition to kids, work, marriage and looking after yourself. When you don’t live up to these beliefs, then you experience self-deprecating thoughts like, “I’m not a good mum.” Or “I’m not cut out to do this”. It’s time to change these faulty beliefs by rewriting yourself some new, more empowering stories.
If you feel like you’re only just coping with motherhood, feel calm in knowing that there are many mothers out there feeling the same way, even if it may not seem obvious. Remember that when working on how to be genuinely happy, it’s ok not to be happy sometimes, it’s all part of the human emotion. Permit yourself to take a step back out of the fast lane because you’re in control.
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