16 Steps to Being a Happier Mom
We all want to be happy – it’s a universal urge. And as Moms we want to be happy and make our families happy too. But as Moms we sometimes focus on our family’s happiness at the expense of our own. We may even pat ourselves on the back for how self-sacrificing we are. But our kids and partners can’t be happy if we aren’t happy. We need to model healthy behaviours for our children in order for them to grow into competent adults with satisfying lives.
Our lifestyles and situations may vary considerably. Some of us are at home full-time – some of us may be making financial sacrifices to do this. Others are working, part-time or full-time, in satisfying careers or just in jobs that pay the rent. No matter our circumstances there are things we can do – and things we can choose not to do – that will improve the quality of our lives, and thereby the quality of our family’s lives.
However you live your life, you may be feeling unhappy with your life. You may be desperately unhappy or just feeling vaguely unsatisfied. Either way you need to take a long look at your life and make some changes, big ones, small ones, in between. An investment in time and thought now will pay off in dividends of happiness. Happiness is not just a state of mind; it’s a skill. It’s a skill that can be learned.
We’ll start with some practical, nuts-and-bolts kinds of tips that can improve daily life. Then we’ll move on to some more philosophical ideas that may make you stop and think about your attitudes and beliefs. It’s my hope that both these approaches will help you re-think what it means to be a happy mom, and to see the possibilities that are open to you. You can improve your happiness, and be more at peace with who you are. You – and your family – are worth it.
A word about partners: even when I don’t explicitly mention it, your partner – husband, common-law husband, co-parent, same-sex partner – should be part of many of these strategies. It’s best if you agree on them, especially on the ones that directly affect the kids. Lots of communication and co-operation will go a long way to bringing happiness to your family and you.
- Begin with the body
We’re talking about emotions here, but the best place to start is with your body. It’s hard to feel happy in your heart when your body doesn’t feel right. You may not have control over all aspects of your health but there are things you can do to feel your best. This is crucial when you’re taking care of kids. You want to have the energy to keep up with them and do the family activities you want to do. Top of the list is to get enough sleep – make this a priority. Most people need eight hours a night. If think you need less you may be fooling yourself. Many of us are coping with a sleep deficit; we get enough to get by and think we’re doing okay. Do yourself a favour and try getting eight hours regularly for a few weeks and see if it doesn’t make a difference. Eat a healthy diet – not only will you feel better, you’ll be setting a good example for your kids. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, but don’t rule out the occasional treat. Don’t stress about weight, focus on your health instead. If you are overweight make a plan to deal with it without crash dieting. Make it a long term plan. Get some exercise – this is something you can do with the kids. Get out and run around with them, ride bikes, go on a hike, go for a swim. Once again you’re modelling healthy behaviours for the kids, spending some quality time together and getting some much needed exercise at the same time. Build exercise into your schedule. Find some activities you like to do and do them. All these strategies together will keep you feeling your best in the only body you’ll get. Take care of it so you can focus on what really matters to you.
- Look to nature
Spend as much time as possible outdoors. Plan family activities at the beach, at the park, in the woods, wherever you can connect with nature. Find out what local conservations areas or nature parks are in your community and what programs they run. Involve your kids in nature activities and teach them about how to respect the environment. Kids know a lot about that these days – maybe they can teach you! Spend some time in your own yard, growing a garden, checking out the birds and insects. We feel better when we spend time breathing outdoor air and have the sunlight on our skin (in moderation, of course).
Animals keep us connected with nature. Pets are a wonderful door to happiness and health; they lower our blood pressure and help us live longer, they reduce depression and can be marvellous companions. If you love animals, pets may be for you, but they’re not for everyone, and they are a commitment and a responsibility. Think about whether a dog or cat, gerbil or parakeet, might be a welcome addition to your family.
- Keep things simple
One of the sources of dissatisfaction in many women’s lives is how complicated everything seems to be. We rush around trying to do too much with too little, in too little time. Think about how you can simplify your life. Take inventory of every activity and obligation that you and your family have. Remember that the organization and transportation of much of this falls on you. Even your partner’s Saturday golf game fits in the picture if that means he can’t take your son to soccer. This is an exercise that ideally you should undertake with your partner. Or you may want to put together this inventory yourself, along with some suggestions for change, and use that to start a conversation. Ask yourselves – do we really need to be doing all of this? If your day to day schedule is packed with lessons, practices, and meetings, where are you and your family going to find the time to relax? Hard choices may have to be made, but there is the possibility that your children will do better at school, and at one or two activities, if they aren’t doing everything under the sun. We as a culture seem to think we’re obligated to have our kids in multiple activities – team sports, dance, music, Cubs or Brownies, swimming, martial arts, gymnastics, academic tutoring, the list goes on. All these are wonderful by themselves, but trying to do it all defeats the purpose. You are trying to add value to your kid’s lives; there is little value in a stressed out routine of rushing from one activity to another. Look at everything and prioritize; what is the most important for you, for them. The other aspect to these activities is the cost. Are you stretching yourselves too thin financially to expose your kids to every advantage? Is this the best use of your money? Your kids may be better served by one or two activities per season, alternating with the seasons to give them some variety. If any of the choices are high demand ones – rep. hockey and competitive figure-skating are two that come to mind – they should be the only one the child does for that season.
This all applies to your activities and your partner’s as well, of course. You both need to get out and away to do your own thing on a regular basis, (more on that later) but this needs to be balanced against the needs of the family. Learn to say no to requests for your time and help, unless they meet some desire of yours, or you feel they are necessary. This is not to disparage the need for help in the community, but it’s easy to get over-committed, or to become the one everyone turns to when something needs to be done. Set priorities, do what you can and want to do, and say no, without guilt to every other request.
Are there ways to simplify home life as well? Decluttering may free up some literal and mental space in your home. Chores can be evenly distributed to teach responsibility and keep you from feeling like the maid. Take a look at the amount of time you all spend on technology – do you need to rethink the time spent on TV and video games? Would some of that time be better spent on other things? Creative or active things, family things? Get creative about ways to simplify your life and see if that doesn’t improve your happiness.
- Let them do it
Speaking of chores, every child can and should be taught to be responsible for themselves, in age-appropriate ways, starting from when they can walk. A toddler can be taught to pick up toys – put on some music and make it fun. A preschooler can learn to make their own bed, imperfectly of course, but we’re not looking for perfection here. School-agers can do a lot – set the table, empty the dishwasher, take out the garbage and recyclables, run the vacuum. How does this affect my happiness, you ask? Yelling at a nine year old twenty times to take the garbage out doesn’t contribute to my happiness. Well neither does doing everything yourself and feeling resentful and put-upon. Start young, and make chores a natural part of family life. Use positive reinforcement from the beginning; tell your kids how proud you are and grateful for their contribution to the family. Kids love to be told how grown up they are and to be praised for a job well done. Let them have the satisfaction of being needed and appreciated. You’ll all feel good about it.
Don’t do too much for your kids either. Teaching them self-reliance and independence will help them immensely in life. When your little one is learning to tie his shoes, wait patiently while he does it, instead of swooping in to say, “Here, let me do it for you.” Send the message that they are competent young beings, learning to make their way in the world. Allow your kids the sense of accomplishment that comes with mastering a skill. Even let them learn to fail and know that the world won’t end and you can always try again.
There’s a lot of talk about children and self- esteem. The culture tells us to bombard our kids with positive messages – you’re wonderful, you’re special. Everybody gets a trophy, just for showing up. Life doesn’t work that way and we are doing our kids a disservice if we let them think it does. Of course they are wonderful and special, to us. At some level the kids know this. They know the trophies and ribbons don’t really mean anything if everyone gets one. We don’t teach our kids self-esteem by coddling them, and lying to them. We do it by letting them know every day in countless small ways that we value them; they are valuable people. And we do it by letting them learn through their own actions that they are good, valuable people. A hard-earned B+ on a subject he finds hard, volunteering at the food bank and seeing that she can make a difference by helping others, playing their hardest to the very end of a losing game, doing the right thing when the wrong thing would be easier – these are the lessons that teach self-esteem. The feeling of pride that comes from accomplishment is better than any trophy.
- Stay in charge
I’m all in favour of co-operative parenting approaches, and as I’ve stated above I’m a big fan of positive reinforcement. But don’t make the mistake of trying to be your kid’s friend. You’re not. You’re Mom, and that’s a big role. It can be a daunting one, but embrace it. Part of that role is to be an authority figure in your kid’s lives. No, that doesn’t mean you have to be big bad Mom the meany. It means your kids know who’s in charge. There is tremendous security in that for children. Children do best with firm boundaries and consistent behaviour. Don’t be afraid of invoking your kid’s disapproval, or even anger. That’s normal; they still love you. If your kids feel secure enough in your love to yell “I hate you!” after being told no for something, you’re doing a good job.
The alternative to staying in charge, being overly permissive, will bring headaches and will not contribute to anyone’s happiness. Every request for them to do something will be met with an argument or worse a refusal. The simplest activity will require exhaustive arguing and begging, and will take five times longer to get done. They’ll wear you out on many occasions and “win” the argument, but this is a lose/lose for everyone. Children in these situations are anxious and insecure; they know that Mom’s not in charge. No one can be truly happy in this situation.
If you’ve been a bit of push-over up to now, don’t give up. You can change things. Announce that things will change and be specific about what you will and won’t do. Be prepared for them not to believe you, and be prepared to be tested. There will be a period of rebellion; after all you are changing the rules in the middle of the game. Stand firm, don’t lose your cool and persevere. After a few weeks (or maybe even a few days, depending on their age), they’ll start to understand that you mean it and they’ll begin to get used to the new normal. Don’t give in to temptation to let something slide just this once – you’re tired, their tired, you’re all hungry, they’re upset because of some disappointment – do not use these excuses to fall back into permissive mode. It will just make it harder for everyone to adjust. The pay off will come when everyone is used to Mom being in charge and life is calmer.
This is not to say become a dictator in your own home. Offer your kids lots of chances for autonomy and responsibility. Offer choices whenever appropriate. Have a group discussion to build consensus about some issue or activity. Making choices is part of growing up. But they can make their choices knowing that the bottom line is that Mom (and Dad) are holding the line on what really matters.
- Push – but not too hard
This is related to being in charge. Have high, but realistic, expectations for your kids – they will rise to the level of these expectations. Expect them to do their best and communicate that expectation clearly. Let them know that failure is alright, that trying is more important. Don’t push them beyond their abilities, or desires, or to support your own ego. The key here is to separate your own wants and desires from your children’s lives. Don’t expect your children to achieve accomplishments to make you feel better about yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of basing your self-worth on the glories of your children. We all want to be proud of our kids, to cheer them on when they win. Be clear that this is their accomplishment. If you always wanted to be a ballerina, but didn’t get to take lessons, don’t push your daughter to fulfil your frustrated dreams if she’d rather take Karate. Instead push her to do her best in her chosen field. Then find a new dream for yourself and put your energy into fulfilling that. We find much of our happiness in our children. This is the blessing of having kids. But we need to keep our egos separate from theirs and find our own fulfilment.
- Stop, Look and Listen
In the day to day routine it’s easy to miss out on the little things that can bring joy into our lives. Begin a practice now of noticing and appreciating the world around you. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. This can be hard to do if things aren’t going well. How to find the beauty in the world around you on a cold grey February day? How to appreciate the beauty in your children when they’re cranky and misbehaving? One idea is to keep a gratitude journal, in which you take just a few minutes at the end of each day to list a few things you found to be grateful for. This will keep you focused on the positive, and may allow you to notice small things that you might have missed. A funny thing your four year old said, the salesclerk who smiled and said “Have a nice day” like she really meant it, the first crocuses you spotted poking up out of the snow, a picture you saw that brought back a pleasant memory, the taste of a good cup of coffee – it can be anything. Be grateful on a daily basis for the big things as well – you have a roof over your head, food on the table, a family, friends, community.
Take the time to stop, look and listen to your kids, as well. We see them so much every day, we know them so well, that it’s easy to take them for granted. Get down on their level and see the world through their eyes. Spend some time doing what they want; join in their games. Listen to their problems, really listen, without offering an instant grown up solution. Take the time to notice something they’ve done and praise them. You’ll be amazed at how good this makes you feel. Ask them questions – not “How was school today?” but maybe “What do you think about …?” and listen to the answers. Don’t make this into an opportunity for a lecture. Let them know you value their thoughts and opinions. You’re building on a relationship that will change and grow in the coming years, years that go all too fast. At some point in the not so distant future your kids will be teens, then even adults. The time you spend now listening and noticing will pay off in the relationship you will have with the wonderful young people they will be.
- Count to Ten
Do you find yourself losing your temper with your kids or others? It’s hard to be happy when you’re yelling and even harder when the guilt hits later. Patience is a virtue, we’re told; but how do you get it? You cultivate it with practice. Counting to ten may be a cliché but if you can get in the habit of using this technique it can save you some guilt later. A similar trick is to train yourself to recognize when your temper is rising then say “Stop”. You may have to literally say this out loud. The word stop is your reminder to take a breath and think before you react. Don’t expect instant success, and give yourself credit for progress. Remind yourself that you’re dealing with children. Review your expectations of your kids – are they age-appropriate? If there’s an issue that regularly has you tearing your hair out, you need to brainstorm some strategies to have in place for the next time. Don’t wait until you’re in the thick of it. Ask yourself why you’re losing your temper; what’s really going on? Patience is harder to have when you’re already feeling frazzled, so if you’re implementing some of these other ideas you may find you are less likely to blow your stack. When you do slip up and say something you regret, stop and apologize. Apologizing to your kids when you’ve been wrong is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength and a powerful lesson for them. You’re showing them that you are strong enough in yourself to admit mistakes without shame, and that accepting responsibility for our errors is the right thing to do.
- You’re human – accept mistakes
Like your expectations for your kids, there’s nothing wrong with having high expectations for yourself. Just don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. This applies to guilt, as well as to unnecessary worry. Time spent on guilt, worry and self-recrimination is time wasted. You can’t go back in time and change your actions or reactions. You can look back, analyse what went wrong, and strategize about what you could do differently another time. You wouldn’t berate your kids endlessly for mistakes; you explain what they did wrong, reinforce the correct behaviour, administer appropriate discipline (e.g. a time-out), then give them a hug and a kiss and move on. The idea is for them to learn something from the experience, not to shame them. Then don’t shame yourself. You are doing the best you can, and you will continue to do better. No one can do more than that.
Worry is just as pointless and corrosive toward happiness as guilt. Don’t take the worries of the world on your shoulders. If there’s something you have no control over take it off your agenda. You may find it helpful to limit or even eliminate your exposure to the news. Wallowing in the endless parade of bad news on TV, radio and internet exposes you to overwhelming negativity that you are powerless to affect. Focus your attention on the positive, and on things you have the power to change. If you feel you need to keep up with the news of the world, keep it to a minimum. If you feel you need to do something to make the world a better place, research small do-able actions you can take – maybe something you can do as a family, like sponsoring a child in a developing country. There is a balance between connecting with the world and not allowing the sadness of the world to overwhelm you. If it’s your own personal circumstances that have you worried you need to talk about them to someone you trust, your partner, best friend, clergyperson, maybe a therapist. Get the worries out of your head and on to the table where you can look at them and judge them in the cold light of day. Are your worries reasonable? Or are they exaggerated? Can you do anything about them? If so, make a list of actions you can take. Worried about money? Sit down with your partner and face the numbers; make a new plan and a new budget to get control. Tough choices may need to be made, but action is always better than fruitless worry. If your worries are about things you cannot change, you need to find a way to come to accept that. Look for guidance about how to cultivate an attitude of acceptance. If you cannot change the circumstances (or if they are “what ifs” and “maybes” about the future) then worrying about them is pointless and robs you of joy in the now.
Listen to the voices in your head. We have all internalized the criticisms of the world around us, and those voices can be a litany of negativity. If those voices are say things like “You’ll never be able to do that, people will laugh at you for trying”, or “You’re so fat, you should stop stuffing your face”, you need to change the soundtrack. You would never talk to someone else like that; don’t do it to yourself. Of course those voices are in reality all yours. You can choose to change what they’re saying. It takes some effort but you can catch yourself in negative thoughts and substitute a kinder, gentler, more forgiving thought instead.
- Take time for yourself
This has become a bit of a cliché in our culture, but it bears repeating. It’s easy to get caught up in raising a family, especially when the kids are young. Don’t sacrifice yourself for your kids; they don’t need it and they won’t thank you for it. Instead they’ll take it for granted. And again you won’t be modelling healthy behaviour for them to emulate as adults. It’s important to maintain your own interest, hobbies, etc. for two reasons. One is the simple need to separate occasionally from your domestic life. Get out and see other people, you know, the tall ones who don’t ask you for juice every ten minutes. Even if all you do is go for coffee and a movie with a friend, you will come back refreshed and ready to re-engage with your family. An indulgence that many women appreciate is pampering time; the trip to get your hair or nails done, a massage, can leave you feeling care for, you who spend so much of your time caring for others.
The second reason you need to take time for yourself is that who you are inside can get lost in the hard work that is raising children. You need to stay connected with who you are other than a wife and mother. This is especially important for stay at home Moms. Those of you who work outside the home have a different role you can slip into on a regular basis, where you are recognized (hopefully!) for the skills and knowledge you bring to the job. You also may have the camaraderie of working with other people. And your contributions are recognized in a concrete way by the money you earn. Even so, there are other parts of you that neither the job nor home life addresses – try to carve out time for these. For those at home, who don’t get the benefits of working outside the home, setting aside time for the things that feed who you are, is even more crucial.
What these things are, only you can say. Often they are things you used to do before children, maybe even before marriage. Did you used to play a sport? Go hiking in the mountains? Sing in a choir? Write, paint, play an instrument? Create beautiful handmade things? Bake elaborate cakes or cook gourmet meals? Is there something you haven’t done but have always dreamed of trying? Learn another language? Run a marathon? Maybe it’s something smaller in scale. Maybe you want to read more? Work your way through the classics? Become a connoisseur of jazz?
What it is doesn’t matter to anyone but you. This is for you. Think about it, find what moves you and speaks to your heart. Then make some time, some small space in your life to begin to explore your new, or old, dream.
- Motherhood is not a competitive sport
Don’t compare yourself to other moms– this way madness lies. There will always be someone who is thinner, prettier, richer, smarter, better at things than you. Do not make the mistake of looking at the super moms you know, the ones who seem to have it all together, who always look well-groomed, whose homes are always clean, and who always show up with gorgeous home-made cupcakes for the school bake sale, and berating yourself for not being like them. Even if their lives are completely perfect (and you don’t really know what their lives are like behind the perfect facade) it doesn’t matter. You are not them. They are not you. You are a unique creation of the universe and you are doing the best you can. Getting into competitive mind games with other moms is unhealthy and will not make you happy. Chances are someone who is compulsive about appearing perfect has issues of her own. Wish her well, and focus on your own issues. Do you enjoy baking theme cupcakes, or is that your idea of hell? Prioritize, do the things you need to and the things you enjoy, and don’t worry about what anybody else is doing. Easier said than done of course, but it’s another attitude you can cultivate. It’s a choice.
Don’t compare children either, not yours to other families’, or yours to each other. Other people’s seemingly perfect children can make you crazy, but they’re not yours. Yours are unique, and special and imperfect, as are everyone’s. Focus on their strengths and gifts, work on their weaknesses and accept them for who they are. It can be hard, but don’t compare your kids to each other; don’t make one “the smart one”, another “the athletic one”, and so on. Emphasize to them that everyone has things they’re better at and things they struggle with. Also emphasize that these things can change over time; the klutz can become an athlete, the brainiac may end up focusing on his creative side – leave all possibilities open to them for as long as possible.
- Goofiness and giggle
Life is a serious business; don’t let it get too serious. Make time for joy and laughter. Be silly sometimes; kids love it when Mom and Dad act silly. Watch funny movies together. Run through the sprinkler. Do a somersault, or a handstand if you can! Read funny poems to your kids – Shel Silverstein and Dennis Lee are great for this. Play dress up with your kids, even when it’s not Hallowe’en, but especially when it’s Hallowe’en! Play hide and seek. Collect knock-knock jokes. Try to forget what it is to be a grown-up for a few minutes at a time. Let your kids help you enter into the joy of childhood for a few precious minutes. Let your children see the funny and joyous side of you.
- Don’t look to things to make you happy
In our materialistic culture it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting more, and thinking that more will make you happier. It’s true that lack of worry about having enough to eat and a home to live in will make you happier; it’s hard to be happy when you’re worried about losing your home, or you have to go to the food bank to feed your family. Beyond having the basics taken care of, though, money and material goods will not ensure happiness. We get fooled by this because of our experiences with acquiring things. We enjoy acquiring things and they make us happy for a while. The problem comes when we base our identity and our status on our material goods, and we expect them to provide most of the satisfactions of our lives. The culture supports us in this because it wants us to keep buying. Someone who believes her identity comes from her house and her car and her furnishings and her vacations doesn’t really know who she is. The happiness she experiences will be hollow if she doesn’t have something deeper behind it. There’s a saying: it’s not about having what you want that makes you happy, it’s about being happy with what you have. Gratitude again. True happiness comes from intangibles, like our relationships with the people around us. Connection with others helps us know who we are, keeps us grounded, brings us joy, and allows us to look beyond ourselves, to know the other. Painful as they may sometimes be, relationships with others are the source of real happiness. Happiness can also come from our accomplishments and the things we create ourselves. Enjoy your things, know that they are transient, and make people the priority in your life.
- Make friends and keep them
Relationships outside the family can be a great source of strength and joy. Nurture and develop those friendships. Relationships with other women can bring you laughter, joy and wisdom, and support when trouble comes. Connections with other moms can be particularly satisfying, and provide support as you face the challenges of raising a family. As you make time for yourself, spend some of that time with people who share your interests. If you already have women, in your life make staying in contact with them a priority. There can be great satisfaction in friendships that have lasted over many years, through different stages of life. Our own mothers, and our sisters if we have them, may be wonderful connections that go back all through our lives, and who know us in ways no one else does.
In a broader sense cultivate a sense of community. Connect your family with others in your community. If you are a family of faith, a great place to do that is in your place of worship. Encourage socializing with other families in your neighbourhood. Suggest a street party. Everyone will have fun and get to know the whole neighbourhood. This will build a strong community and provide networks and connections for children and adults.
Cultivate friendships as a couple. While it’s important for you and your spouse to have your own friendships and time out separately, get out and socialize with other couples too. Invite the parents of your kid’s friends over for a barbeque. Ask your husband’s old buddy and his new wife to go to the movies with the two of you. Have a few couples over for dessert and coffee on a Friday night.
Life is too short for toxic relationships. If there are friendships that bring you down, consider walking away. This is not to say abandon a friend in need who is going through a hard time; far from it. But there may be people in your life who spend their days in bitterness, anger and resentment, and refuse all offers to change. Others may present a smiling face, but manipulate and hurt those around them. Recognize these people for who they are. They will show you. Once you see what their values truly are (not what they say they are) you need to decide if you want to have that in your life. You should surround yourself with those who spend most of their time in a positive frame of mind, those you can have a reciprocal relationship with: when one of you is down, the other is there to help. If there is a circle of women, as sometimes happens, where the dynamic has become one of gossip, taking sides, ostracizing and hurtful comments, you have two choices: you can try to enlist the members of the group to change the dynamic and minimize the negativity. This may be hard; there are those who thrive on the drama of this kind of situation. If the situation isn’t salvageable – walk away. There are other women, other groups. Seek out those like yourself who are looking for nurturing relationships. You will find them.
There may be situations, such as extended family, where you can’t just leave. In those cases, all you can do is minimize the contact as much as possible, and refuse to be drawn into confrontations and drama. No good can come of it. There is no happiness to be found there.
- Have faith
If you have a belief in a higher power or creator, whatever label you put on that, you already know that it can be a source of joy and comfort in your life. If you were raised in a faith community and haven’t felt the need to separate yourself from it as you reached adulthood, you have the basis for a spiritual practice. If you weren’t raised in a particular faith, or if the faith you were raised in has let you down, you may have no current way of expressing your spirituality. It’s worth spending some time exploring what faith might mean to you and how it might increase the happiness in your life. You may want to consider joining a local congregation of a faith that suits your beliefs. Or you may want to explore alternative religions. You may want to look at meditation, which can be done in the context of a religious practice, or just as a method of relaxation and centring. Unless you are a committed atheist there is a place for some form of faith in your life. Even atheists can have faith in humanity and look to explore how to best celebrate that humanity.
You may be a mom but you’re a partner first. Make your marriage or partnership a priority. It is the basis of the family, and it is hopefully the relationship that remains when the children have left to create families of their own. Divorce is a sad reality in our society. Of course it’s not always appropriate to stay together. In some cases it’s healthier for everyone if the marriage ends. It’s beyond the scope of this article to deal with all the issues raised by divorce and raising kids on your own. Most of the ideas here apply to families of all types. If you’re already raising kids on your own, or co-parenting with an ex, you have already faced many of the struggles of searching for happiness outside the fantasy of the two parent family. If you’re just facing the prospect of the end of a marriage, look outside yourself for all the help and support you can find, and know that you and your kids can be happy again.
If you can avoid that family tragedy, you will be saving yourself and your kids a lot of heartache. Make the effort, work on communication, anticipate the other’s needs, take time together. Invest time in this, your primary relationship. Cherish and value the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with. He (or she) too is an imperfect person, doing the best he can. Focus on his happiness as well as your own. But remember that no one controls your happiness except you. No one other person is responsible for making you happy.
A few final words
Happiness is a choice, and a skill. It can be learned. No matter what the circumstances of your life you can make changes that can improve the level of happiness you experience. This effect will inevitably transfer itself to your family – everybody wins. It is not selfish to reach for happiness, on the contrary, it can spread to others and be a positive force in your family and even in your community. Make the effort, spend the time, invest a little of yourself in exploring what you can do to bring joy into your life, and you will reap the benefits. No one can be happy all the time but it is possible to have a fulfilling life with joy and gladness.