I didn’t plan to be a mom. I planned to be a career woman that took a city by storm. Well how hard could that be? I have a couple of college degrees and even though I didn’t have parent role models to pattern after, I’m smart and can figure things out.
Yeah right. Where was the warning label? “Parenting is the most strenuous, scary and unappreciated job on the planet. Prepare to give your soul, sanity and wallet.” It’s true that parenting also offers unimaginable rewards and fun but it’s the moments of utter shock and being pressed to your limits that I wasn’t prepared to navigate.
If you didn’t expect to be a parent (especially a single parent), thought parenting would be easier, or are breaking negative family patterns here are my words of survival – and in many cases triumph – to keep yourself intact and raise a wonderful, loving, and gloriously positive family. Draw your happy line. Going into unchartered family waters without a happiness plan is just plain asking for a trouble. You must know what makes you happy at each period in your life. The good news is happiness is usually from small things, events, and words. Make a list of your basic happiness needs. Then, make sure it happens (threatening is commendable in this case) and that no one crosses your happy line! Need an example? My children are now teenagers with big bodies and minds that have regressed to elementary age. I must have 2 yoga classes a week, quiet time in the morning, and low fat flavored yogurt in the refrigerator at all times. There is more but this is my basic happiness survival formula for this period in our family.
Make up good crap about your children. How many times each day must you repeat yourself, follow up like a parole officer, and shout like a drill sergeant? At these times – and when things are flowing beautifully – create positive reasons that your children did not do their chores or follow instructions. This is strictly for you and your happiness. Making up good crap invokes your parasympathetic nervous system and calms you down so your head doesn’t blow off and unnecessary arguments – that you just have to fix later – don’t ensue. In a calm state, you are also better able to think up punishments that are negative for them but positive for you, such as cleaning out the plastic dinnerware cupboard! Need an example? If you asked four (or 400) times that the dishes be put away before you got home and left a note as a reminder and they aren’t done, make up an outrageously positive story about why the culprit – your kid – didn’t do it. Maybe your child was busy making you a homemade card to express their love. Maybe your child was helping a friend and getting the Good Samaritan award at which you will be recognized as the best mommy ever.
Mind your own business. Don’t take on other people’s crap! How can you not? Try this. When someone comes to you with a problem (this works at work, too), the first thing you say is, “I am so sorry that happened to you!” and then, you don’t say anything at all. Just look at them. This doesn’t mean you don’t help or offer advice. It means you keep the problem in the lap of the real owner and give them a chance to solve it or specifically ask for what they want from you. Need an example? “Mom, what happened to my favorite shirt?” “I am so sorry to hear that you lost it.” Pause. Don’t say anything, let them respond. “Mom, can you help me find it?” “Sure, you start looking and I’ll join you when I am done with my phone call.” Without keeping the problem with its owner, the mom often ends her phone call early and searches the house while the offspring enjoys their favorite television show or posts some new pictures on Face book!
Pull out your pom poms—or buy some—and be your own best cheerleader. Mother is not a job with endless amounts of praise. Your child (or children) does think you are the greatest but waiting for him/her to share or guilting them into appreciation will not make you happy. You must cheer for yourself and the key is to overdo it. This is one area where people should be rewarded for going too far. Need an example? In the morning, I greet myself by saying out loud, “I am so glad you are here today! Today is the best day ever.” Throughout the day I point out the things I am really good at and positive qualities I appreciate about myself. For example, I tell myself that I am a good driver, I recognize my great idea for dinner, and I linger on my quality as a good friend. I notice and compliment myself for saying something clever, for making a good decision, and for being a curious learner. Several times a day I tell myself I am pretty and sometimes even go so far as to tell myself I am the hottest mom in the school district. Is this too much praise? I think all of us are in an appreciation deficit and need to make up for the negative balance! Don’t be surprised if your family members, friends and others heap more compliments on top of your own. But, remember to keep your pom poms moving – it’s the compliments you continue to give yourself that are the base of a truly happy mom and positive family.
Play harder than anyone else. Have you ever found yourself thinking “I wish I could play” while watching your kids cavort or when your friend calls to say she’s meeting friends for dinner after work? Why does everyone else get to play and you don’t? Because you don’t take yourself out to play! I double-dog-dare you to play harder than anyone else in the family. Don’t think you have time? You are more efficient and effective when you are happy. And, people are drawn to happy people so others will want to be around you – even if it means helping with chores! Need an example? I play by window shopping for knick knacks, riding my bike, running, stomping through the mud (yes really), cutting random stuff out of magazines and gluing it on construction paper, and swinging on swings. I have a jar of bubbles in my car and blow them at stop lights. I hit rotten fruit – apples, oranges, pears – with a baseball bat. The kids pitch the fruit and I whack it. If they are not around, I throw fruit at trees and cheer when the splatter sprays on a direct hit. Being a happy mom takes effort but it’s the only way to raise an optimistic family. Choose to be happy no matter what your past, current or future relationship status – use these 5 tips – and you’ll not only raise a positive family but you’ll help tip an unhappy world to happiness.
Erika Oliver, MPA, is a communication coach, business consultant, and author of the award-winning Three Good Things: Happiness Every Day, No Matter What!, Three Good Things: A Coloring Book for Everyone! and Happy Crap: The Power of Positive Assumptions. A recovering pessimist, Oliver is now a Positive Approach Coach who helps people, teams, and organizations find their “happy.” She uses the principles detailed in her books to help people and organizations choose a positive approach. Learn more at www.erikaoliver.com.