THE BLOG

How to Be a Happy Mum (Most of the Time)

19/11/2015 16:18 GMT | Updated 19/11/2016 10:12 GMT

To start with, I'd like to make it clear that I am not a happiness expert - or any kind of expert, for that matter.

I'm not going to tell you that you need to get some fresh air, spend time with friends, have some 'me time', catch up on sleep or do some exercise (although these things would probably benefit any mum).

I'm talking about finding long-term, sustained happiness.

Redefine Your Idea of Happiness

What does happiness mean to you? Is it similar to the end of a film, when the characters find love, money or success and are 'happy-ever-after'? Does happiness mean you will never cry or experience sadness again?

When I had my first daughter, I was a single mum. Every day I would go out for a walk with my new baby in her pram, pacing up and down a long road near my home. I used to imagine the wonderful partner I would meet, who would be my best friend and a dad to my daughter. I told myself that when I met him, I would be happy.

Six months later, I did meet him. He's even more wonderful than I had imagined. From that moment onward I would never be unhappy again, right?

A couple of years later, I was driving in my car somewhere, my mind consumed with worries. Mostly they were financial worries. If only we had more money then we would be happy, I told myself.

Suddenly, I realised where I was. I driving along the same road I used to walk up and down with my daughter in her pram. Two years had passed. I now had exactly what was supposed to make me forever happy. So why wasn't I happy?

That was the moment. Right there and then I realised that I could spend my life needing 'stuff' to make me happy. Or I could stop chasing happiness and just get on with being happy in the present moment.

It wasn't possible to burden one person with the responsibility of my happiness. Doing so was very unfair on him. He's not responsible for my happiness. Money, success, a family or a great job will never be able to uphold my happiness. It's all down to me.

Happiness isn't about walking off into the sunset and never feeling sad again. There are ups and downs. Peaks and troughs. Somehow it all evens out.

Forget Balance

I really dislike the word balance. It signifies the unrealistic burden we place on ourselves to be the perfect parent, partner, daughter or friend. And to be all happy and zen-like while we're doing it.

If I had a penny for every time someone asked me how I achieve balance... The truth is I don't. Every single day I drop at least one of the balls I'm trying to juggle.

Some days the house is a mess, some days my kids don't get a home cooked meal, some days I get no work done, some days I yell too much...need I go on? There is never a single day when I get it all right.

The closest I've come to attaining balance is accepting that I'm never going to be balanced. So, over time, my lack of daily balance evens out and is (kind of) balanced. Are you with me?

Gratitude

My gratitude journey started years ago when someone gave me a book on the topic. To say it changed my life is a huge understatement.

I can't even begin to explain how much happier I am since I started to appreciate all the previously unnoticed blessings in my life (think electricity, drainage, heating, my kids' health, food, liberty etc.)

I now notice and am grateful for things that I had always taken for granted. The resulting happiness from daily practise of gratitude is not a fluke. Many studies have shown that people who are continually grateful are happier, healthier and less stressed.

Have selective hearing when it comes to parenting advice (or any advice)

When was the last time you read a parenting article telling you what you should always do or never do? How did it make you feel?

An article called 'Things You Should Never Say to Your Kids' flashed up on my newsfeed the other day. I didn't read it. Chances are, I have said every single thing that I'm never supposed to say. So reading the article would have just provoked an internal guilt fest.

And, seriously, I don't need any more of that.

Don't get me wrong, I like reading 'how to' and 'top tips' type articles (I bet you were sucked in to reading this by the 'how to' title. Sorry about that).

Suggestions can be very helpful. Suggestions are welcome. But, I am selective about the advice I heed. I'd rather revert back to the real expert of my children - me.

So this is what I know about happiness. It can be fleeting. Like a fair-weathered friend, it disappears during dark periods. But you can always depend on it to pop up again.

Happiness is emotional intelligence - the understanding that nothing is permanent. I've learned to just stand back and observe negative thoughts and feelings, in the knowledge that they will pass. So too will the positive ones. Sadness about certain losses in my life does linger, but I know I can carry it with me alongside happiness. The two can co-exist.

Most importantly, happiness happens when you learn to find it within yourself. Events, people, things - anything external - may bring happiness for a while, but I've found it to be short lived. There's no quick fix to finding happiness. Like anything worth having it takes practise, dedication and devotion. It's a mind-set, an attitude.

Is it possible? Yes, most of the time.

Aimee Foster is the co-founder of mum friendship website, Mum Amie, where she also blogs about parenting, well being and baby loss. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter