I’ve learned many things about parenting and relationships since becoming a mother six years ago. I’ve also learned a good deal about myself; my strengths and capacities. The most important lesson, however, was also the hardest one to learn: the secret of a good day and for a happy family is…me.
German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe says it all,
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or deescalated, and a person is humanized or dehumanized.”
As the mama, the matriarch, the glue that holds it all together I’m now very aware that my mood, my tone, energy levels, and attitude impact every aspect of our family life. When I’m up, energized, dynamic, and positive, I shine, casting light on all those around me. When I’m low, exhausted, exasperated, and demotivated the day is a struggle for everyone. Knowing this, how do I ensure more good, ‘happy family’ days than bad? The answer is viewing self-care as an investment for our daily happiness, and trying to prioritize the little things during the course of each day/week/month because they impact how I cope, mediate, nurture, and inspire.
Being the tea-drinking, English mama that I am, I love the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Skipping breakfast to save time is actually counter-productive because I’m rushing around starving, feeding ravenous little people and preparing for the day. By ten, I’ll be hangry, and no one wants to suffer the wrath of a hangry mama. When I eat only toddler leftover crusts for lunch, my energy levels are zero by four, which is not ideal for the infamous dinner, bed, and bath routine on the horizon. And when I stay up till midnight on Instagram, I’ll be tired and grumpy when all the kids dive into bed with us at six the next morning!
But I can feel the difference on those days when I dig deep, forage for the kale and banana, and make myself an energy-packed smoothie or a tingly hot tonic, rather than staggering bleary-eyed to the coffee machine. My spirits are lifted and my coping skills improved when I choose a healthy nutritious lunch and take moments throughout the day to sit and breath. And I have a happy family, too.
It’s my energy and enthusiasm at story time which decides if they will be captivated by the book, and my interest and motivation which can animate an activity. My choice of words redirects certain behaviors, encourages teamwork, and offers counsel. As mothers we are responsible for everyone, yet we so often neglect to take responsibility for ourselves, or seek the support to allow ourselves to prioritize self-care. I’m not even talking gym memberships here; just simple, achievable goals we can set ourselves daily. We shouldn’t view the need for self-care as a weakness, a luxury, an unnecessary use of time, and resources.
Our bodies work extremely hard on our behalf battling sleep deprivation and producing milk for our babies. Our bodies need good fuel, emotional nurturing, and rest to stay strong and healthy. So mamas, if your good moods are dependent on good nutrition, skip the toddler leftovers. If exercise is your key to ensuring a healthy supply of endorphins, then make it happen even if it’s only seven minutes of yoga in your living room. If breathing deeply in the garden brings calm into your day, go visit with the vegetables. Identify what feeds you. It’s not selfish to give yourself what a happy family needs most, a happy healthy mama.
Let’s model self-care. Let’s make it a part of family life and our daily routines. The secret to a good day and a happy family can start with you mama, let today be a good one!