Being a mom is hard. Being a blissfully happy mom all the time is impossible. Although we haven’t completely cracked the code on how parents can have a smile on their face 24/7, we have learned — often the hard way — what doesn’t work. By process of elimination, we’ve deduced the 16 things you should stop doing right this minute if you want to be happy.
1. Refuse Help
Remember all the times people reached out to help when your baby first arrived? Well, the older kids get, the more infrequent those offers come. So when they do, jump at the opportunity, or better yet, ask for help yourself. Happy moms thrive by three simple words: “please” and “thank you.”
2. Take Work Home With Them . . . or Take Home to Work
It’s one thing to have the occasional deadline creep its way into family time, but happy moms set up boundaries, and that goes both ways: just as you don’t want to be answering emails at the dinner table, you shouldn’t be googling birthday party venues while on the clock. If you cut out the distractions, you’ll be surprised what you can get accomplished during business hours
3. Say Everything That’s on Their Mind
Sometimes you can get on a roll, and one gripe turns into 10. Chances of a fight greatly diminish when you don’t start one, so do your best to air only the necessary grievances and leave the smaller complaints unsaid. Try this: for every three frustrations you want to discuss with your partner, pick just one.
4. Forget There’s a Plan B
Life isn’t fair: it’s a lesson as hard for children to understand as their parents. But happy moms know that when one door closes, you can jimmy open a window. If her kid doesn’t get admitted to the top-tier preschool, she has a list of three other options. If her babysitter flakes, she’s got two backups on speed dial. If her husband gets the flu the day before the family trip to Disney World, she’s got a game plan already in motion.
5. Resist a Cuddle Session
The surest way to solve any problem is with a good hug. Whenever your little ones reach up with those pudgy arms, scoop them right up. Cherish those moments — even the most adorable of toddlers can transform into an angsty teenager.
6. Expect Perfection
Happy moms know it’s impossible for everything to go right all at the same time. When one kid is napping, the other is throwing a tantrum. When one room is tidy, the other is a war zone. When everyone is clean, fed, and dressed, you are already 20 minutes late for church. Be satisfied with good enough.
7. Think They Have It Figured Out
Happy moms are always adapting, tweaking, adjusting. They know that just because a particular sleep schedule works now, it won’t work forever, and it certainly might not work for the next kid. Be open to trying new things, especially when a supposedly proven method doesn’t go as expected.
8. Do All the Chores Themselves
You aren’t the only one living in your house, so why are you the only one cleaning it? Give your kids weekly chores and make sure your husband splits household tasks — from scrubbing toilets to emptying the dishwasher to paying bills — equitably.
It’s a hard habit to break, but looking down on other parents doesn’t do anyone any favors. And remember: if it’s so easy to judge, it’s just as easy for others to judge you.
10. Choose Their Kids Over Their Partner
Happy moms love their children unconditionally, sure, but they don’t necessarily put them and their needs above that of their partner. Be sure you are both paying attention to each other and not letting life revolve exclusively around your kids.
11. Act Like a Martyr
You might think you have it hardest, but consider if you’re subconsciously putting all the burden on yourself. Stop saying, “it’s easier if I just do it,” and show your kids what a clean room really looks like. Happy moms take more pride in being, well, happy than in being the only one who can properly change a dirty diaper or sort the laundry.
12. Clear the Table Too Quickly
In your attempt to get things done, you might be rushing the fun stuff. Happy moms know that if the dinner table conversation is good, there’s no need to start clearing away plates just yet.
13. Feel Guilty
Don’t regret decisions you’ve made, even if they’ve turned out to be the wrong ones. Happy moms know that for every parenting technique, there’s some study that says it’s the most important thing you can do for your child and another doctor saying it’s tantamount to child abuse.
14. Miss Moments Happening Right in Front of Them
Happy moms acknowledge that they will inevitably miss milestones. They might even miss a recital or two. But they make sure that when they are with their kids, they set aside their phones and are truly present.
15. Put Themselves Last
It’s not selfish to put some personal priorities over those of your family. An exhausted, stressed-out mom is far less effective than one who has gotten to go to her favorite yoga class, take a long shower, or read even just a chapter of her book. For many, one hour a day or just one night a week is all it takes.
16. Play Entirely by the Rules
When you’re the one making the rules, you can bend them a little here and there. An extra 20 minutes of TV time so you can paint your nails in peace or a predinner trip to the ice cream parlor on a particularly frustrating day can sometimes make all the difference.