Oh mamas…maybe I’ve got happy moms on the brain lately. I hear the gripes from friends—the resentment at being the parent overseeing homework. Or the one doing midnight loads of laundry. Or having to whip a meal together at 6:30 p.m. for a hungry preschooler when you’re already dead-exhausted from your 12-hour workday. Argh.
So I called on Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and author of The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers to find out more about those the issues moms struggle with—which include friendship; simplicity; love; value; faith; solitude; money; fear; hope; purpose—and get the scoop on how we can be happier mamas.
Q: Are mothers today unhappier than in the past?
A: I’ve been practicing for about 25 years and in listening to moms, what I’ve been seeing over the past 10-15 years is a generation of mothers who feel that no matter what they do, it’s never good enough. There’s a sense we need to perform better as mothers—we need to bake cookies, have the great meals, we need to be patient, kind, warm and gentle and the house needs to be great. And then we need to raise kids who get into great colleges and perform on the soccer field and then we need to perform very well at our job and then finally we need to always be on a diet or exercising. I believe this is driving millions of mothers, all driven with the same sense of inadequacy.
Q: Are we doing this to ourselves?
A: Many of us feel tremendous peer pressure—not that our friends are coming up saying you need to do this and that. But we’ve all jumped on the same train–we watch our friends do all of this so we do all of this and we’re all riding the same train and not getting anywhere. So we’re competitive with one another and a lot of it is subconscious. We’re parenting and living our lives propelled by fear and not a sense of peace and joy.
Q: What are some of the bad habits we’re practicing?
A: Competition is a terrible habit. Because we need women and friendship. At the core of what makes us happy is really pretty simple but we don’t pay any attention to it. And that is improving our relationships with our friends, our spouses and our children. That core group that keeps us standing throughout the day. And when we are competitive it cracks all of that. We can’t be good friends with women if we’re competitive with them, consciously or subconsciously. Fear is also a terrible habit we have.
Q: What can we do right now to start becoming a happier mom?
A: Really the most profound life-changing things we do are the simplest. Mothers need to refocus on things that are more important in life, that bring joy and get our focus off of things that are making us crazy. The most important thing to do is first identify the fundamental traps we fall into and decide what to let go and what to simplify. Working on simplifying things is a start to allow you to take a few more breaths during the day.
We also need to think about our relationships—are you loving the people in your life well and are they loving you well? Say if you start with a fight with your kids and they leave on the school bus—your day is horrible. If we focus on strengthening the love in that relationship and the stability, all the other things we do throughout the day are going to seem that much less important.