Those blissful moments of coming home with a newborn baby are impossible to describe. The connection and a sense of purpose are intoxicating. Yet, as you make your way through the endless mountain of work required to nurture and care for a child, it’s easy to lose focus on your happiness.
Maybe it’s because we genuinely are that busy – every ounce of energy directed toward our newborn, toddler, growing child. I like to think of motherhood as a stage in a theater, with one main spotlight shining down. We may find ourselves shining our spotlight entirely onto our child, while we remain somewhere in the dark. A sage woman once told me: Remember to shift the spotlight back onto yourself and leave a sparkling flashlight shining on your child.
Shifting your mindset to embrace your happiness and fulfillment, and to tend to your heart and spirit, is well worth the effort.
I want to explore why our happiness as mothers is genuinely one of the most important gifts we can give our children. We aren’t just here to excel at the chores and duties of parenting. We are also here to illuminate our children’s lives with our inner radiance and happiness. Focusing on our happiness is an immeasurable gift to bestow on our little ones. Here’s why:
1. Children can bask in the happiness that we feel.
There is much talk about the energy that we bring into situations and its impact on those around us. According to research, emotions are contagious. The energy felt and exchanged between two people is real. “We automatically mimic each other’s facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Next, we feel the emotions we mimicked and begin to act on them,” says Sigal Barsade, Professor of Management at Wharton.
Our emotional state has a direct and immediate impact on those around us, particularly our children. When we access feelings of joy, hopefulness, and happiness, we affect our kids’ core emotional scale. We can ask ourselves what facial expressions and body language we wish for our children? Thinking of that alone might elevate us in our quest for a happier outlook in day-to-day life.
2. We aren’t fooling our kids when we try to pretend things are fine.
Children are tuned in. They know when we are going through the motions and when we are showing up for them. We communicate our inner state to them without realizing it.
In a recent study at Washington State University, researchers asked mothers and fathers to suppress their emotions around their children. The study found that children exhibited more signs of stress around mothers asked to suppress their feelings, both physiologically and externally.
We think we can fight through those difficult emotions and just put on a brave face, but research suggests otherwise. There is emotional transparency, particularly between mother and child. This is all the more reason to work on yourself and to acknowledge what you need in order to care for yourself in a kind, loving way. Your children will learn from you and can do the same when they’re grown. They will learn to value themselves and to prioritize self-care.
3. Sharing your happiness is part of sharing yourself.
It can be easy to fall into the “role” of motherhood. Playing into the role of being a mother is very different than being yourself as a mother. I know this all too well. There were many times when I felt that I needed to become something I thought I was supposed to be. There is a lot of pressure on moms always to keep it together.
The problem is that when we are playing a role, we are removing ourselves emotionally – we hold both positive and negative emotions at arm’s length. Sharing our happiness is a part of sharing ourselves. We are taking the risk to feel emotions openly in front of our kids. Allowing them to witness us work our way through some challenging feelings and toward happiness and self-compassion is a powerful gift that will serve them well as they grow and learn how to regulate their own emotions.
4. You are setting a tone – being a mother can equal deep fulfillment when you focus on your happiness.
We learn by example. I was talking to a friend recently who has three children in their 30s. To my surprise, she revealed that none of her children plan to have kids of their own. We discussed this, and she said, “Maybe it’s because they saw how challenging it was for me.” I’m sure that’s probably true. My friends, late 40s to early 50s, often discuss how the pendulum has swung far in this direction.
Think about it for a moment: How many women do you know that speak of deep fulfillment as moms? Or do they talk about how they are stressed, exhausted, and depleted? Yet, do we not think that our children aren’t watching our every move?
We want to set the tone – being a mother is an incredible blessing that leads to deep fulfillment. By choosing to become mothers, we get the opportunity to experience the heart-bursting feeling of raising a child while still caring for ourselves. We don’t have to abandon ourselves. You can continue to focus on your happiness. While parenting full-on, we can continue to level up our self-care and seek balance while emotionally basking in the joys of motherhood.
5. The memories children have of their childhood will be sprinkled with the joyful, happy moments shared with you.
Now that I’m in my late 40s, I remember the silliest and most fun-filled days when my mom was present when I look back at my childhood. There is a collection of memories in my mind, including traveling to Disney World, having pizza on hot summer nights, running through the sprinkler, talking and laughing about our pets.
The daily grind – although necessary – fades away from my memories. I can barely remember my mom cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and doing laundry. Maybe that’s because those memories don’t hold the same weight. We weren’t connecting during those times. It’s those moments of connection that matter.
By shifting our energy and focusing on our happiness, we give our children a beautiful present: a role model of a happy, thriving woman who also happens to be their mother.
Also, our girlfriends can really make a difference when we need that extra support. Look here to see what kinds of friends you already have in your life now. Enjoy meeting new people and sharing the experience of motherhood together.
We’re all in this together!
This post has been updated for thoroughness and clarity.