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Finding Happiness – 8 Ways to Escape the Motherhood Funk

Finding HappinessHappiness seems so fleeting nowadays.

Especially when exhaustion sets in. Sometimes I hate motherhood. I love my daughter. I really do – even when she’s throwing a temper tantrum, even when she spreads kinetic sand over every inch of the apartment and decides that she’s “just too tired to even think about cleaning right now,” (after I’ve had 2 hours of sleep and worked a 12-hour day). I may not always like her behavior, but I love her. However, I pretty much hate motherhood multiple times a week, and I struggle to find happiness in the day-to-day funk. I don’t care how selfish it sounds:

Sometimes I hate that I have to take care of anyone but myself.

Most days it’s a struggle to pull myself off the couch after a long day of work and put together some combination of food that resembles a meal. I don’t like that my body has become chubby and sore. I lock myself in the bathroom to get 10 minutes of phone game time. Happiness is an afterthought. Even though I always dreamed of playing Barbies and dollhouse with my mini-me, I often avoid playtime and try to get my daughter to do something that requires less effort on my part. At bedtime, when my daughter wants to snuggle and read a story, I put forth a minimal amount of effort and am ready to go to sleep alone, without another person stealing my blankets.

Before you think or comment below about what a horrible mother I am, do know that I put a smile on my face and do what most mamas do most of the time – I take my me-time when I can get it, and I go through the motions. I offer plenty of play time, love, and snuggles and I give as much of myself as I can. I’m no stranger to anxiety and depression, and I know how to work through it. I create happiness for my daughter, often at the expense of my own well-being.

And to make it easier, to find my own happiness in the chaos, I’ve been trying my hardest to do the following. And, really, it does help!

Here are 8 ways to find happiness and to escape the motherhood funk:

Positive Self Talk

Why do our brains find negative self-talk so easy? “You’re a horrible mom,” “You look miserable,” “You don’t give your child enough of your time,” etc. I could write a 500-page book of the ways I berate myself titled, “You Suck.” It would have sequels! I started to imagine that this internal heckler was a real person. What if I had a “friend” who followed me around my house and said all these awful things to me? I’d ask them to leave! So, I did. I actually told this part of me to leave, that they’re not allowed to take up valuable real estate in my brain anymore. When I feel a nasty comment coming on from my internal voice, I replace it with a positive. Every. Single. Time. Yes, it sounds like an episode of The View in my head, but I’m training my brain to be nice!

Take Time to Be Grateful

Anxiety and my mean brain tell me that a meteor is likely to hit my house at any moment, or that my entire family is about to die from a bacteria that became extinct in the 1400s but somehow has managed to rise from the dead in the depths of my sink, where horrible-housewife-me left an old milk-cup sit and rot since last week. My therapist says that, while all that may be true (but statistically unlikely), it’s important to take time to be grateful and enjoy the moments when we’re all healthy and alive and happy. Sometimes when my daughter gives me a hug, or says “Guess what? I love you!” I hug her a little tighter, take a deep breath, and allow myself to feel grateful for the acts of fate that brought us together.

Meditate

I’m horrible at meditating. I mean, “I’m working really hard to meditate more! Keep it positive, Gretch!” Just take some quiet time. No essential oils or monk-chatting soundtrack required (unless that’s your thing). Just try not to think about the dishes piling up in the sink. Meditation is about being in the moment and nowhere else – not feeling guilty or sad about the past, not worrying about the future. Pick something that’s stress-free and part of the “right now” and think about it. For just a few minutes even. I like to meditate in the shower and think about nothing else but the water running through my hands or hair. Just like a nice, relaxing shampoo commercial. Sometimes I imagine I’m in a waterfall or on a beach. I assess my stress level. When I’m stressed, I tend to tighten my stomach muscles or clench my teeth. I make sure my muscles are relaxed, I stretch, and I smile. It may be a forced smile some days, but I do it.

Find Your Happy Place

I have a place I always imagine I can go, to relax or unwind. It’s typically that beach scene as noted above or a cabin in the woods, and I sometimes go there as part of my meditation and quiet time. It helps. It trains my brain to focus on this visual when I need to relax. After awhile, your brain will interpret that visual as your cue to calm down. I also find something that I like to do – to celebrate me and my interests. I know there isn’t a lot of time between work and family obligations, so I’ve found some podcasts that I love to listen to on my short commute, while in the shower, and on my lunch break. It’s like watching TV or reading when I don’t have time to do those things. It lets me celebrate my own interests and enjoy some me-time on the go.

Use Your Intuition

When that mama-funk comes on, or with any problem that may be bothering you, it’s really important to take time to reflect about how you’re feeling and how you can help change it. A great way to do that is to journal daily. I take less than 5 minutes each day, most times at my work desk, to jot down any concerns/thoughts/ideas I have about what’s bothering me, what I want to work on for the week, etc. I only write a few sentences. Sometimes it’s a happy moment I want to hold onto. Sometimes I write, “I hate today.” Sometimes I write something like, “I need ideas about a new project.” Writing these things down is really powerful to your brain. It makes an imprint, and you may even find that your subconscious brain works on these issues while your conscious brain does other things – like makes dinner or works a full day of work. Return to your questions later and see if you have any solutions to the problems you wrote down. Jot down any notes.

A Messy House is a Happy House

Let the worry go about the house, the mess. Pick up when you can. Ask your family for help. Pick one to two small tasks that you can keep up with daily – like dishes and picking up the living room. Try your best to get through those simple tasks each day, but don’t let your brain tell you you’re a horrible person when you can’t, when you’re too tired, when you’d rather spend time with your family or journaling about your day. Get biodegradable paper plates for snacks and dry foods. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your mental health is far more important than a clean house, and your happiness will mean your family will be happier too.

Play What You Want to Play

I spent most of my early childhood playing with baby dolls. It was an obsession. We built fort houses, made beds for the dolls. My sister and I loved pretending that we were mommies. Our dolls were our “real” babies, and we took them everywhere. We spent hours preparing them for outings, feedings, and nap-time. When the babies slept, we had play tea parties while “our kids” napped. Maybe it’s the reality of motherhood. Maybe it’s the fact that, as a real mom now, I’m essentially playing that same “game” with half the energy. Maybe my mother should have woken me up at 2am and said, “Time to feed your baby doll!” a few thousand times, when I was a kid, to really drive home the message of real motherhood duties. For whatever reason, I do NOT like playing baby dolls now. It takes all the happiness I’ve built up for the week and squashes it. After dressing a real child and trying to get her out the door on time, doing the same for baby dolls Donna, Sunny, and Flower, seems like some kind of horrible joke that the universe is playing on me. I half-heartedly go through the motions, then I quickly direct my daughter to the games I want to play. That way, she gets attention from me, and I get to play Legos, Tenzi, and Barbies. Barbie seems to have it all. She’s a career woman (if you choose), has a great body, a nice shoe collection, and is a stellar mama too. She inspires me. You can also play with Barbies while sitting on the floor and sipping a latte. Win-win!

Schedule Family Time

And date night with your partner. This is another thing I’m not great at but working to be better. On the weekends, we try to schedule a family game night with snacks, board games, and music. It’s simple, and it helps me to let go of any guilt about missing time with my family midweek, when work days are particularly hectic. I can always say, “Well, we had family game night on the weekend and played Legos and Barbies this week.” My daughter is getting special time with me, and she’ll hopefully remember those moments more than the times I plopped down on the sofa to check my email and fell asleep after a long day at the office.

How about you, moms and dads? How do you unwind, focus on the now, refresh, reconnect, and find happiness?

3 Responses to Finding Happiness – 8 Ways to Escape the Motherhood Funk

  1. Marie May 14, 2016 at 8:17 am #

    You are an amazing mama! Thank you for writing about my own inner thoughts. Now I’m going to go and evict that nasty person in my mind who’s always shooting negative thoughts My way. Peace, love, and motherhood…

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