Hey mama, do you ever feel like you would be happier if you had more smooth mornings, more times to yourself, more help? You would love to feel more joy and less burden in your life. But you’ve got so many tasks and barriers. Not enough money, not enough alone time in the bathroom, and fewer free afternoons than ever.
If you know you could be happier if you could just get a leg up on the laundry and your life, read on, sister. I’ve got 4 tips of my 6 key Reclaim your Joy tips here.
First, let me tell you of the terrible year that changed everything.
A few years ago I was crushed. My husband and I had just moved back to my hometown that I had been missing for years. It would have been a glorious time, but a few months in, the news came. My mom had terminal cancer. My family didn’t want her to die. We all believed that she could be the miracle one to fight it off. She was given an estimated 9-12 months to live. And then 6 months later my dad got cancer.
I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Prior to this my parents were both healthy, nondrinkers, active people. And now they were both in chemo.
We tried to spend as much time with them as possible, but we had other big time commitments. My husband and I had bought a fixer-upper house- with broken windows, holes in the floor, no heating. Its a wonder that raccoons hadn’t taken up living there. We renovated the house in the evenings after work and in the evenings. Any free moment beyond I drove an hour to see my parents.
My marriage was struggling and you can understand. Renovating is tough; I have no idea how the smiling HGTV couples or DIY bloggers do DIY without DYING of frustration, information overload, and determining which screws to use. I just say screw it! The other strain to my marriage was because I gave everything I had to my students or my parents.
Exhausted every evening, I had nothing left to give to my husband or myself.
Additionally, we were trying to conceive and were racing against the clock to have a baby. We wanted my mom to meet her grandchild before she passed on.
It was a dark time where every day I felt I was treading water and trying to get by.
I got pregnant, but my mom was fading fast. I couldn’t make the pregnancy hurry up, nine months is nine months. She couldn’t beat the cancer- and the last round of chemo made her worse than before.
She passed on and I stumbled through the next 2 months. My baby was born after a long, hard labor at home. My husband went back to work 3 days later. There I was at home- fulfilling my dream of being a creative stay-at-home-mom and homesteader. Except I felt miserable. Lonely. I had postpartum depression & anxiety and was grieving my mom.
A few months into living out my ‘dream’ of home life, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t happy. My life was not working.
Bad To Worse…
I kept thinking life would just magically ‘get better’ and that I would be excited and happy about life again. Instead I counted down the minutes until my husband came home. As soon as he did, I growled hello, put the baby in his hands and stormed off to make dinner with a scowl.
If he was late, I was furious, because I needed a break. But no matter how many breaks I got or how much time away, it was never enough.
The day that my husband told me I wasn’t the same person he had enjoyed being around, I knew.
I couldn’t lose him too.
I had let things get to me too much. His comment didn’t make me angry at him, because he wasn’t saying out of meanness or criticism, but just sadness. That was the day that I decided I had to turn a corner.
I had never been the type to stay mired in misery and moaning about bad things had happened to me. Yes, I had lost my mom and had saw two parents with cancer. And after that I had gone through sadness and the strain of new motherhood without a support system, and yet lots to be thankful for.
My life had so many blessings: good health, a loving husband and a healthy baby. I didn’t have a support system of mom friends yet, but I was out there meeting people, trying to build one. I was not going to ignore everything wonderful in my life and give into the cloud of anger & depression. From then on, the malaise and lack of enthusiasm for life wasn’t going to steer my path any more.
What I started doing next not only improved my life, it opened me up to realizing that everything that I had hoped was true. I could be happy in the difficult moments. I could be the woman and the mom I wanted to be.
It was time for a change…
Thus I began a whole life re-imagine. I addressed my nonstop rage and sadness at the state of my world. I journalled, and used the tips in my Reclaim your life guide to determine what was holding back my joy and blocking my happiness. Follow to the end for my Reclaim your life guide.
Six months later one of the ladies at my bookclub pulled me aside,
“Rachel, you seem different, more radiant. Maybe even happier?”
She looked hesitant to propose that I was happier, perhaps she had felt the brunt of someone’s backlash at a similar suggestion in the past. I reassured her immediately.
“Yes, I am!” I said, grinning. “Thank you! Its because of my life overhaul project. I am so much happier!!”
These days I call it my Reclaim Your Life plan- the beginning of which you can get for free below. At the time I just felt like I was overhauling my whole life.
“What did you do?” She put her hand on my arm, pulling me close so she could soak up every word. As I began to talk, others turned and started coming over. Suddenly, everyone’s ears were perked up and leaning in to hear more.
I told them the tips below and one from my Reclaim Your Life guide. These tips are primarily mindset shifts which set the foundation for action. Ladies, believe me, if you can even adopt even one of these mindset changes, the results will be noticeable. If you can adopt multiples, well you are on your way to radiance and joy yourself.
Here are 4 Things that Happier Moms Do
#1- Those Obligations that suck your soul dry & bring you NO Joy? STOP DOING THEM!
Ladies, at this point in our lives, we have a lot of responsibilities. Kids, school and extracurricular schedules, birthdays, traveling plans, work. I don’t know the last time I haven’t waited until the last possible minute to get my car inspected or taxes filed. Who even knows the time I had a whole afternoon to myself, #momdreams.
Now a lot of these responsibilities need you to be there- work needs you to show up. Kids need to be picked up from school, bedtime stories need to be read, you have to call your best friend on her birthday. But what about the rest of it? Is there a chunk of stuff you’re doing out of obligation or because you always do it?
But what about the rest of it? Is there a chunk of stuff you’re doing out of obligation or because you always do it?
If you pick up your mom’s meds, of course we need to make sure that someone does it. But I wonder, does it have to be you?
Can we be a little more mindful and honest about whether or not we have to do the things we are doing? Or is there 10% here or there that we can stop doing and life will be fine?
I want you to get really focused on what actually brings you joy and what doesn’t. Be honest- if you don’t love grocery shopping, take a month and try out ordering groceries online. If you don’t love volunteering at church or being on the board of the nonprofit you help, take a break from it. We don’t have to be everything to everyone all the time. That’s a quick recipe for burnout and bitterness.
For me, I started seriously looking at my relationships. I examined them very critically in relation to my quality of life. There were a handful of people I was hanging out with and I realized it felt like obligation and not fun. We weren’t in the same stage of life or frame of mind anymore- and I asked myself, did I feel good hanging out with her or did I feel bad about myself afterwards?
I decided that I wasn’t going to continue to give lots of time to making plans with someone just because they were always game to hang out, but who really made me feel bummed about my life.
Then I made a list of the 3-5 women who hanging out with them just lights me up! I thought, why not make an effort to see them more. And I made a point to ask a new acquaintance who seemed like ‘light me up’ potential to hang out. It turns out that I saw these few women that I really loved seeing infrequently- probably because either I was hanging out with the humdrum friends OR I wasn’t making any regular effort to connect.
I decided to be more proactive about making plans to see them once a month- and immediately set a weekly alarm on my phone to remind me to make plans with them.
#2- Improve Your Relationships from Good to Great!
You may have heard the idea that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. What if you could improve your most frequent relationships to make them feel even better? This would make quite an impressive impact on your life.
If I could improve my generally ‘good’ marriage to ‘very good,’ that would increase my quality of life and my husband’s too. I suggested to my husband that we should take a honest look at what we fight about and what we LOVE to talk about. We set a resolution to cease talking about what always lead to a fight and to spend more time talking about things we loved talking about.
Now this didn’t mean that we denied issues that needed discussing, cause that wouldn’t solve anything. But it did mean that we didn’t discuss things that we were NEVER going to agree on and that we always argued about. This also lead to some new chores and tasks for each of us to take on that bugged each of us individually, but that the other didn’t care about.
We have very different favorite hobbies (gardening for me, sports for him). Rather than try to get our spouse to enjoy our respective hobbies, that we’d just focus on the topics were both found intriguing- for us that is- politics, music, and current events. I listed these three on an index card and posted it on the fridge.
What happened? On a random Tuesday night, instead of arguing again about how he could solve the managerial problems at work, we didn’t. We decided we didn’t want to talk about work in our free time- long after we were being paid to think about it. Instead we focused on discussing these topics that kept us learning about each other and hearing new perspectives.
Making this change boosted our marriage- which had been strained when my parents were suffering, our home repairs, his stressful job, and just the general trials of being a new parent. We realized we had fallen in the habit of talking about work, laundry, dinner, or our child- which frankly seemed fairly monotonous. Because of the challenge we set for ourselves, it meant that we each had to take some time daily to read or ponder about topics outside of our normal activities.
It started feeling like a fresh and new relationship, but with the perks of a long, committed one ;)
#3-Spend more Time on Hobbies & Pursuits that really Nourish You & Light You Up
This seems obvious, but I want you to pause and think about if you really spend any time during the average day on things that you actually enjoy- not what your kid, coworker, boss, husband, or dog enjoy doing, but you. If this is a bit of a struggle for you, or a big one, check out my Reclaim your life guide where I help you make your hobbies/pursuits happen every day.
As a stay-at-home mom, your mom job literally never ends, and I don’t get paid lunch breaks or solo bathroom breaks. But I made a commitment that I wasn’t going to let my life be swallowed up by storytime, snacktime, and playdates.
I valued being a stay-at-home mom, but the nonstop aspect of it was really wearing me thin.
Partway through my difficult year, I decided to hire a part-time nanny for 2 mornings a week, even though I wasn’t bringing in any money as a stay-at-home mom. Initially this was a big financial commitment, but I decided that my sanity was worth it. Every Tues and Thurs when the nanny was watching my daughter, I researched whatever interested me.
After two months, I started doing some part-time writing and social media management as a freelancer. I found that the problem-solving nature of the work allowed me to fulfill my need for intellectual pursuits and yet still gave me plenty of time with my daughter.
#4-Make a commitment to Honor and Acknowledge how Badass you already are
I started focusing on how I am amazing and perfect just as I am.
Because I wasn’t already in the habit of talking myself up, I had to teach myself how to have positive self-talk and how to feel better more of the time. Getting you on the road to positive self-talk is one of the things I help folks with- get on my email list or work with me if you’d like to make this change.
I scheduled time on a regular basis to work on myself. I found materials that would help me reinforce the belief that I had autonomy and power in my life. That I could do the things I dreamed of. I read uplifting books, listened to podcasts, journalled a LOT, drew, made a my vision board, and spent time with people who valued me. I also applied the two tiny tweaks I offer in my Reclaim Your Life guide to increase my feelings of confidence and joy.
Listen, I know I have aspects of myself that I could improve. I have things about me that I don’t like- don’t we all? But if I started to dwell on these things, then I would spiral into feeling like I’m a failure. But I’m not a failure. You’re not a failure. I realized that if I spent my attention and focus looking at those things- my flaws and lacks- that I wasn’t focusing on the wonderful things.
Who was going to focus on my fabulous traits, like my whimsical personality, warm heart, and ever curious mind?
So when it came to the biggest problems that I was struggling with at the time, I decided I needed to reframe my beliefs. I reframed my belief about how I was struggling with meeting new friends and stopped thinking that my trouble meant that there was something inherent in me that made me unworthy of finding new friends.
I had been acting as if I needed to improve to become ‘better friend material’ because I hadn’t been finding new friends and thought it was just a failing on my part. With the help of a counselor (because I think good support always helps!) I came up with a new phrase to replace the old tired phrase that was repeating in my head. Prior to this, whenever I was feeling like a failure at meeting friends, the same mantra would just play over and over in my head about how I was of low-worth.
Now, whenever that low-worth thought came up, I shook my head to mentally shake it off and told myself, “I will be more Rachel-y.”
Does the moth feel remorse that its not a dragonfly and try to change? No, nature’s wisdom lies in it being true to itself. Creatures are who they are. I am who I am.
So, I challenged myself to be more of what made me special and unique, not less. I vowed to shine brighter and bolder in my own way, not in the way that others showed up or shined.
I even wrote out some affirmation cards for myself that said “Be More Rachel-y” and put them up around the house.
The change started taking place and it felt amazing. And people were attracted to me as I am, not as I felt like I had to be. You and I are both amazing people, just as we are. We must remember that our exterior circumstances are not indicators of how much we are valued or worth.
What if you started doing a few of these actions to become more You and less everyone else? We all know that the world needs more of the unique, wonderful beings that we are. It can be hard with the daily grind. We just start going through the motions and acquiescing to what normal people do. To whatever is easy and what everyone else does.
But you aren’t everyone else. You weren’t born to be live like everyone else.
You can become more of who you really are. Bring your own special gifts into the being. Let’s come alive.
Do you want inspiration and support to help you stay motivated to be more You?
Do you want actionable tips for how to shed the old skins of your life and a guide to regaining your badass beauty? Click this link for the Reclaim Your Life guide- get more joy today!