When I was a young mom with a houseful of young children, including several with disabilities, my mom gave me a plaque. It read “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
Well, this mama was NOT happy. I was offended. That little plaque never hung in my home but went straight to the thrift store. (Sorry, mom.)
You see, I did not want everyone’s happiness riding on my shoulders. That felt too heavy. They could choose their own happiness, doggone it.
But guess what I’ve learned in the couple of decades since. My mom was right. Every mom can and does set the tone of her home.
I’m not saying that kids and spouses aren’t responsible for their own happiness too – they are. But kids don’t come with the emotional maturity to ignore a grumpy, yelling mother and choose to be happy anyway. We know now that brain maturity does not come until age 25 (or later, let’s be honest) and kids learn what we model.
So do we model snark and sarcasm? Biting remarks and back-handed compliments? Or do we model a kinder way to handle disappointment? Do we show grace for ourselves when we have a bad day? A bad week? Do our kids see us modeling courage? Forgiveness? Empathy?
One thing I learned about managing my own emotions and emotional responses was that I needed to take care of me. When my mom gave me that little plaque, I was running on fumes. Not enough sleep, not enough healthy food, no exercise and definitely no quiet time to be with my own thoughts for five minutes. If you’ve had small kids around, I’m sure you know that moms can’t even go to the bathroom by themselves without little hands coming under the door – or banging on it.
I was burned out then and didn’t want to recognize or admit it. When I finally did admit it, I knew something had to change. Not being a mom wasn’t an option, so I had to figure out what worked. When I was able to work on my emotional well-being, the emotional well-being of my family increased. When my resilience was strengthened, so was theirs.
I learned through trial and error – and some academic research – deep self-care practices that help me have a deep well from which to draw. Daily expressions of gratitude, journaling, mindfulness and meditation have all become staples in my life. Pedicures are nice too, although there’s no academic research to back up their impact on well-being.
I’ve learned that as I become more resilient, more present and more calm, my kids become more resilient, more present and more calm.
Turns out that plaque was right – but I think I might rephrase it: “When mama is happy, everybody’s happy.”
What are you doing today, this week, this month, to increase your happiness?? Will you share it here? We can all be happy for you!