At this moment of the year, with the inevitable big emotions flying around the house and peak stress, happiness may seem like a long way off. So we wanted to look again at what it means to be happy, especially when you are a mum. What does it take to be happy as a mum? How can one feel happiness more often in our parenting journey? Should happiness even be something we are searching for?
In this collaborative blog, we share our own answers to some important questions on happiness for mums!
Just writing and sharing this blog was a little mood booster for us, so we invite you to spend a few moments thinking about what happiness means to you and how you cultivate happiness as a mum. We’d love to hear from you. Share in the comments below or see what others are saying on our Instagram post.
What does happiness mean to you as a mum?
[DOT] Well it’s a funny word, happiness. The more you think about it the less obvious it seems. Happiness quickly transforms and merges with feelings of joy, love, relief, contentment, security, ease. It pops up and then fades away - for example, I'm happy that the school year has started off well BUT it’s a shame the holidays are over and now I have so much work to do! It’s maybe easier to appreciate in retrospect “I was happy in that home / that was a happy holiday”. It's like the more we look for it, the harder it is to find, even though it’s right under our noses.
[LUCY] Happiness to me is always a journey and a process - with ebbs and flows - rather than a final destination; I agree looking for it as a fixed and unmoving entity can be tricky and ultimately unhelpful as we set our sights too high.
[LUCY] We can partake in many happiness-invoking activities: by reminiscing over good times in the past, by connecting with people dear to us, by engaging in activities that are nourishing and meaningful. These all lead to upticks in our happiness and it’s important to regularly recognise the small things, celebrate our wins and remember what pieces go into a happy life and also reduce any perfectionism around happiness.
[LUCY] On the note of perfectionism and happiness, it’s also important to remember we do not need to feel zen or happy all the time - all our emotions and states are valid and give us useful information. I personally like to aim for an 80/20 split of positive feelings and emotions. This is only a rough guide of course, but positive psychology evidence suggests when we gauge ourselves as 8/10 in areas of our lives we feel incredibly content most of the time, but always with room for improvement, growth and positive reflection on what tweaks we can make to improve our situation.
[SARA] Yes I completely agree. As soon as happiness is a destination it can feel like we are failing to achieve it. It can be incredibly unhelpful to say to someone or be on the receiving end of 'be happy'. But that's not to say we can't work at it and do things to help ourselves find more positivity, joy and happiness. I also agree that the greatest happiness comes when we accept the wobbly days and shitty moments of life for what they are, 'moments' and let them go, tuning in and savouring the more joyful moments. Sometimes that is easier said than done when life is throwing storms at us, but even in those storms, if we search for and tune into the light within the darkness, we can ride that storm more smoothly. Again that's not always easy, but as Lucy says, proactively partaking in happiness-invoking activities, or as I like to call them 'happiness boosters', can make all the difference. It's so much easier to find those glimmers of light when we are nourishing our mind, body and soul.
How do you think your relationship with happiness has changed since you became a mum?
[DOT] I've always considered myself to be someone that has had to "work hard" at happiness, as I can easily slip into periods of low mood and anxiety if I don't take care of my general health and wellbeing. That hard work, for me, comes down to getting enough sleep, having a balanced diet, talking it through with someone and going for a run/swim/yoga session. Since becoming a mum, I have less time for some of those things - they are still important but less regular. The biggest thing that has helped me since becoming a mum are my yoga nidra practice, psychotherapy and coaching. The physical stuff gives me a quick boost, but the deeper work has lifted my baseline happiness level over the years. I heard that happiness is meant to decline between age 30 and 50 but I feel like I'm experiencing the opposite!
[LUCY] That’s great to hear that your baseline happiness level feels like it’s lifted Dot!
My relationship with happiness as a mum is that I feel all my emotions more deeply - happy events are more joyful and sad events, lamenting the passing of time and hearing about injustice hit me so much harder now I am a mother. I remember as a new mum feeling overwhelmingly happy - with joy and love that I’d never before experienced. I’m well aware that this isn’t the same experience for all new mums, and of course motherhood has also had many harder times too, but overall for me it has been the same as Dot says above, where I have felt noticeably happier and more fulfilled than during my previous life (which I was also very satisfied with).
[SARA] I am a dreamer and I like to plan things in my head. This is great because I normally have quite a positive and optimistic outlook, but it can also set me up for many falls. When I was a little girl and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say "I just want to be a mummy". You can imagine then I had quite a picture built up in my head about how motherhood would be. Add on 30 years of growing up in a world where I was told I could be and do anything and have an amazing career (which I am hugely grateful for of course), but also the birth of social media and societal pressures to be an amazing and present mum as well. In truth, I have really struggled with feelings of failure throughout my motherhood journey, set up by my own expectations of motherhood, and compounded by societal pressures to be a supermum and my perfectionist tendencies. Coaching, mindfulness practice and implementing nourishing and mood boosting activities on a daily basis has helped me foster more self-compassion, let go of perfection and tune into more moments of happiness, connection and joy in mum-life.
What are your go-to practices when you feel an absence of happiness?
[DOT] Feeling an absence of happiness tells me that either something needs to change or I need to change my perspective, so I do a mini introspective practice to figure out what I need then rummage around in my self-care toolkit for the right fix. Clearing my head by getting into my body (walk/yoga/breathe) often enables me to be instantly be more open to happiness, to see the happiness that is all around me on a daily basis. Tackling troubles face on, rather than digging my head in the sand, helps me a lot too!
[LUCY] When I feel out of sorts I revert to adding time into my existing self care routines (walking, connecting with loved ones, being outside as much as possible) and into reflecting on how well I’m doing, my small and large achievements and how far I’ve come in accomplishing meaningful goals both personal, familial and work-related.
[LUCY] Crucially I take a thermometer check of my inner voice and make sure I am championing myself, being kind and compassionate to myself and not allowing criticism or overthinking to take over. When I discovered this practice years ago as part of my training as a coach it was life-changing and I continue to commit to treating myself like a wonderful friend (and not a foe!) as much of the time as I possibly can!
[SARA] I am much better at noticing my thoughts and emotions these days and this allows me to get curious about what it is that is underlying those wobbles or flat feelings. Sometimes even just exploring and understanding the 'why', can help release pent up emotion within me. But I will typically also ensure I do something really nourishing for my mind. Often that is a walk in nature. I find water incredibly soothing for the soul and open spaces great for headspace and clarity. Walking along the river was literally my savour during the pandemic. But often it's not just one thing, I will typically also do some meditation - either mindfulness or yoga nidra- as well as connect with someone - maybe my mum, a friend or even just ask my husband for a hug (yes I have learnt I need to ask!). As I said, anything nourishing and lots of it. Implementing those happiness boosters really is essential!
About the authors
Lucy Orton is a positive psychology and anti-self sabotage coach who works with both individuals and organisations to empower women in terms of their confidence and self esteem and to shift their approach away from feeling like an imposter and into a space of radical self-compassion and kindness.
You can find Lucy at:
Booking link: bit.ly/bookinglucy
Sara Campin is a mum of two, a personal development coach and founder of the Nourish App. She is a passionate advocate of all things that nourish the mind. She believes we all have the potential to achieve our personal and professional ambitions and find greater harmony and balance in our busy lives.
You can find Sara at:
Dot Zacharias is a mother of two, Integrative Adult Sleep Coach, iRest Meditation teacher (a modern form of yoga nidra) and Co-Active Life Coach. She offers 1-2-1 sleep coaching and yoga nidra through Restfully and via The Nourish App.
Dot specialises in helping busy parents recover from sleep deprivation and to get their sleep back on track as soon as possible. Her approach is to combine sleep science, psychology, coaching and the restorative, healing benefits of iRest yoga nidra.