I sat in a café literally created just for moms. There was a colorful playground inside, an exercise room for mommy and me classes, and small round coffee tables for moms to chat. I struck up a conversation with another mom while my kids went down the slide. They were probably one and three at the time, and I was craving adult conversation.
I asked her about her hobbies, and she immediately lit up. Her passion was playing in a volleyball league. “When do you play now?” I asked. “Oh, I haven’t, ever since I became a mom.”
This sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? When we become mothers many of our own interests are put aside for a season . . . or much longer. Instead of focusing on personal growth, we focus on our growing children. Although that’s completely necessary for the first few years of life, today’s average mom isn’t making the switch back from being child centered to parent centered. As your children grow older, you’re still catering, serving, obliging, begging, orbiting, bribing, and promising. No wonder so many of us aren’t experiencing job satisfaction as mothers! We aren’t leaders in our homes; we’re stressed-out servants. The family isn’t meant to work this way.
“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do,” Ephesians 6:1 says. It’s not the other way around. Parents aren’t supposed to obey their children, yet if you observe children in grocery stores or restaurants, often times they’re the ones clearly in control.
Put on Your Own Socks
My oldest child, Ethan, and I had this bedtime ritual. I would bring him a clean pair of white socks and put them on his feet every night. I was literally waiting on him hand and foot. One evening—when he was in the fifth grade—I realized, Ethan is way too old for this. What am I doing? I told him my discovery, and he laughed, “But I like it when you do it; you’re my servant!” He’s been putting on his own socks ever since.
You know, many times it’s not our children who have a hard time assuming new roles and responsibilities around the house—the problem lies with us. We don’t want to let go of the feeling of being needed and important. We complain about being stressed out and pulled and tugged to do every single little thing that revolves around our children, yet we’re the ones who engineer the dependence.
If you want to be a happier mom, it’s time to make some changes. Here are five ways to find your mom joy again:
1. Become Healthy
I love these words by Erma Bombeck: “In general my children refuse to eat anything that hasn’t danced in television.” As your child’s diet goes, so goes yours. I know I’m not the only one to scrape up all the leftovers from my kids plates. I have one mom-friend who has this go-to phrase, “I am not a garbage can.” Make the commitment, for yourself and your children, to eat healthy food. You will feel better, have more energy, and sleep more soundly. As you combine eating nutritious foods with regular exercise and a good night’s rest, you will be much, much happier (and nicer).
2. Become Action Oriented
You’ve stared in disbelief as your child did the same wrong thing for the hundredth time. You’ve lectured about forgotten homework, messy rooms, and undone chores. Take heart—the war is won by the smart mom who doesn’t respond with endless explanations but with action. Establish yourself as the leader in the way you speak, even with your posture. Stand up straight and give instructions once. Be clear and unapologetic when consequences must be given.
The mindset here is “Bring it on,” not “I hope he doesn’t call my bluff.” Proverbs 15:32 says, “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” If you are wishy-washy in your discipline, your child will reject your authority. This pattern could be a detriment to his or her relationship with God, a teacher, a future boss, or even family members.
3. Become Prayerful
When faced with a problem, where do you turn first? If we’re honest, many times the answer is Google. Yet the Bible doesn’t say, “I lift up my eyes to my phone—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Internet, the holder of all information.” If you need wisdom as a mom (and who doesn’t?), first turn to God in prayer. You don’t need a PhD to be an effective praying mom. You can shoot quick prayers up to heaven, participate in a Moms in Prayer group, or pray using Bible verses to align your prayers with God’s will. For example, you can pray: “Lord, I pray that (insert your child’s name) would seek wisdom, for that is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing my child desires can compare with it” (Proverbs 8:11).
4. Become Perseverant
Motherhood isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. We can be tempted to give up too easily when something doesn’t work the first couple of times. Remember you are in it for the long haul. Take time away from your kids, such as going on a women’s retreat over the weekend, planning a getaway with your husband once a year, or attending a mom’s group or a Bible study without your children. After time away, you’ll return a more energized, focused mom who can outlast that toddler or teen.
5. Become Yes-Filled
Look for the yeses in motherhood. Realize that these ideas may seem a little counterintuitive, like saying yes to ignoring the Joneses, yes to being a family that serves, and yes to being the fun house. You can also say yes to your hobbies. (I hope that mom I met in that mommy café is playing volleyball again by now.) Instead of thinking I can’t do that because I’m a mom, think of the many great things you still can do as a mom.
When my youngest child, Lucy, was four, she watched a blackbird sitting on our fence. Moments later, it flew away. She said as wistfully as a preschooler could, “Usually when they get on the fence, they are getting ready to fly away.” A lump formed in my throat, and I hurried to write down those words so I wouldn’t forget them.
Someday my three children will leave the nest. They’ll sit on the fence and fly away. When that day comes, I want to look back and say, “Wow, I really enjoyed being a mom while they were home.” I want my kids to have memories of a happy mom rather than a stressed-out driver or order taker. I think that’s what you want too. As you focus on these five ways to bring back your mom joy, your smile will be brighter—and so will your children’s.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom (August 2015) and Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman). She lives in Southern California with her husband James and their three children. Visit ArlenePellicane.com for free resources including her monthly Happy Home podcast.