Dr. Meg Meeker casts her candid and observant eye on the obstacles all mothers face and more importantly, how to overcome them, in “The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers.” Here’s an excerpt.
As pediatrician of twenty-five years and a mother for twenty-six, I have listened to a whole lot of mothers. And I think that I have come to understand some fundamental truths about us. At least, some things which I think are true. First, we are a group that wants desperately to be good at what we do. We want to be good to our friends and husbands and we want to be great to our kids. We love intensely and we work hard. But we have a problem. In the past fifty years, we have been given an overwhelming number of opportunities. We can be whomever we want to be and our hard work will (usually) be rewarded. This is good. But in the midst of the onslaught of opportunity in our lives, we have become confused, and some of us have become a bit obsessed.
We stress over how well we are parenting and if we are taking full advantage of other opportunities. We wonder if we should work outside the home (of course, some of us don’t wonder, because we have to). Others wonder whether we are working too much or too little. And there is so much more. We worry about whether or not our kids are given enough opportunities, whether their friends like them or if they are being bullied at school or at day care. But mostly, we worry about what we can do for our kids in order to make their lives better. We do this because we really want to be good at mothering. We want to get it right, just as we want to get our jobs right.
This need — to get parenting right — has become an obsession for many of us. It consumes our thinking, our energy, and our time. Let me be clear: Striving to be a great mom is a noble goal, and as a pediatrician, I applaud those who choose it. But that’s not what I’m referring to. I am talking about a full-blown obsession with getting mothering right. And it is taking many of us down.
Over twenty-five years I have seen us move from worrying about which school to send a daughter to to which band to hire for her high school graduation party. I see mothers work two jobs in order to afford piano lessons for Susie and guitar lessons for Mike. I have watched mothers scream at teachers who give their kid a C on a paper when just a short time ago, we would have let that child rewrite his paper to get a better grade or told him to work harder on the next paper. We are tired. We never feel that we’re doing a good enough job at almost anything we do; not because we’re not good at things, but because we are trying to do too much, too well. We have become competitors. We have learned over the past twenty-five years to compete with other mothers and compete with ourselves. The problem is, none of us feels as though we’re winning. In short, we’ve gone off the deep end. Don’t take this personally; we’re all in the same boat. Employed, at-home, adoptive, biologic, wealthy, poor, young and older mothers — we’re all in this together. We have arrived at a similar place. So, we have a lot of company in one another. That’s the good news.
Here’s the rest of the good news. We can make some simple changes that will bring us back from the edge (or pull us back on top of the cliff if we’ve fallen off completely) and bring some fun and sanity into our lives. We can love being moms again. We can sit. We can laugh with our kids. We can stop running around, acting like crazy people. We can love life and enjoy our wonderful kids. In the following pages, you will find real mothers whose lives illustrate our collective plight, and you will find many mothers who have moved over to the positive side. They are getting this mothering thing right. No, they aren’t better mothers, but they are enjoying being mothers more. This is not a book about being a better mother, because there are plenty of books on that. This is a book for you, and only you, to help you become a happier mother.
Freeing ourselves from some of the craziness that we have adopted means changing some habits. This is hard, but we can do it because we are mothers and doing hard things is what we’re really good at. If we can endure the pushing an eight-pound watermelon through an eight-inch opening we can do just about anything that we put our minds to. Anything.
In the following pages, you’ll learn about ten new habits that work to bring joy, order, and calm back into our lives. Listed briefly, the are: understanding your value as a mother, maintaining key friendships, valuing and practicing faith, saying no to competition, creating a healthier relationship with money, making time for solitude, giving and getting love in healthier ways, finding ways to live simply, letting go of fear, and making the decision to have hope. Some may seem peculiar at first — letting go of fear, for instance. Others may seem too simple, but keep reading because usually the simplest changes are the most profound. Some of the habits you will be able to adopt right away, while others may need to wait until your kids are a bit older. But I can guarantee you that they work. I have seen other mothers adopt them and I have seen their facial expressions and their demeanor become calmer. I believe the reason that they work is that integrating these habits into our lives nurtures the core of who we are as mothers. And we have veered way off track when it comes to nurturing our inner selves. We have been lured into focusing on the external parts of our character and spent far too much time, money, and energy on things that don’t matter at all in comparison. We need solitude, not another diet. We need to figure out our spiritual lives more than we need another activity to run our kids to. We need hope instead of more stuff to do, which will only make us more anxious. We need to spend less so that we can loosen the grip that money has on us. There is much more we can get out of life.
I wrote this book with a grateful heart because I am thankful for you. I am so appreciative of the hard work that you do and of the love you have for your kids because taking care of kids has been my life’s passion for many years. When you succeed, kids get healthy and that makes me very happy. My hope is that the following pages will open doors for you to have greater joy and contentment in your lives. So let’s get started!
From "The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers" by Meg Meeker, M.D.. Copyright © 2011. Reprinted by permission of Ballantine Books.