Despite what my URL might suggest, I’m not the only happy mom on the Internet. In fact, I’m inspired daily by mom bloggers and authors who work hard to be happier mothers. This is the first in a new series here at The Happiest Mom: regular interviews with other mothers who inspire me, make me laugh, and make me think.
I’m delighted to welcome Kristen Chase as my first Happy Mom Interviewee. I’ve long admired Kristen for a few reasons: she’s smart, entrepreneurial (she’s one of the founders of Cool Mom Picks); and despite having had three babies and one currently gestating, she’s smokin’ hot (just check out her book trailer at the site for her hilarious, instructional, and no-holds-barred guide to sex after parenthood, The Mominatrix Guide To Sex. She’s a great, insightful writer, too, and lays it all out there on her personal blog, Motherhood Uncensored. I love how Kristen is always working toward being a better mom, having a stronger marriage and in general just being a better person. In fact, she’s wrapping up a month-long ‘be a better parent’ challenge right now, so this seemed like a great time to get her thoughts on being a happier, more effective mom.
Meagan: Have you always been a happy mom? Tell me a little bit about your journey.
Kristen: The first year of motherhood was a scary, messy time for me, and while I think I definitely loved my daughter (and still do), I did not love being a mother. It was a combination of challenging circumstances. I initially planned on leaving my job as a college professor to stay home with her but then after they couldn’t find a replacement for me, I decided to return part-time when she was a month old. Except she wouldn’t take a bottle and she basically cried non-stop for anyone but me so I’d bring her to work, nurse her to sleep, and run to teach a class while a student would watch her in my office. I was also planning a wedding (big huge gigantic mistake), dealing with major breastfeeding issues that I was determined to work out even when it involved me doing a total elimination diet where I was eating only four foods every single day for almost a year, and attempting to get sleep with a child who surprise! hated that too. Add in some post partum depression and the general overwhelm of first time motherhood and I was the perfect example of an unhappy mother. Unfortunately, like many moms, I didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone, but rather, would spend hours at night crying while I would rock and nurse my daughter to sleep.
Over time and with more children (now three with another due in October), I figured many of those issues out. The breastfeeding problem was easily solved, actually, had I only caught it sooner. My subsequent kids slept better (or maybe I was just more willing to let them cry a little longer so I could get some sleep). And most of all, I knew what to expect, which was something I never grasped with my first child. Even though my other children brought with them challenges, as all children do, I was just better equipped to handle them.
I’d most definitely define myself as a “happy mom” these days. Now I just need to work on being a happy wife.
Meagan: It seems to me there are two kinds of people in the world: those who think marriage is harder than motherhood, and those who think motherhood is harder than marriage. I’m definitely a “marriage is harder” person myself. I take it you agree? Why do you think that is for you?
Kristen: Oh goodness, yes, I’m most definitely a marriage is harder type person. I have found that after a day of working and caring for the kids, all my “nice” is used up (as I’ve told my husband). It’s like I just don’t have the ability to juggle one more thing that requires me to “be at my best.” I could go on and on about this one, but suffice it to say, I’m working on it.
Meagan: When you first had kids, did you have an image in your head of the “kind of mom” you’d be, or what motherhood would be like? Did it match your reality?
Kristen: I got pregnant by complete surprise and quite frankly, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I was so focused on having a natural birth that I didn’t even really think about what would happen later on. I just knew that I didn’t want to be like my mom, who while wasn’t a terrible mother, was definitely not happy.
After the first few months, I was astonished at how difficult it was and I remember often saying to myself, why do people actually choose and plan to do this? It sounds harsh, but as someone who was fairly successful in most aspects of her life, to enter an existence where every single day I felt like a complete failure, it was how I was feeling at the time.
Meagan: When you look around, is there something you consistently see other moms doing that gets in the way of their happiness?
Kristen: I see (and hear) an overwhelming number of moms apologize for the choices that they make, that somehow they’re being held to a higher standard that they aren’t able to achieve but then feel obligated to make that known. Like I care that they have Ritz crackers in their pantry, or that they decided to put their 2-year-old in a preschool program so they could get a break.
I think when you can finally not give a crap about what other people think and know that what you’re doing is the best you can do at this very moment in time (for both you and your children), then happiness is much easier to achieve.
Meagan: Wait, Ritz crackers are bad? Heh. I know what you mean about judging ourselves against some imaginary standard (that none of us live up to anyway). Do you think there’s a way to get to the “don’t give a crap” stage faster or does every mom kind of have to plod through that early on guilt/explaining herself/too-high standards phase?
Kristen: I wish we could give every mom that “aha” moment as a shower gift or even as a welcome baby gift because it’s like having a burden lifted from your shoulders. At least it was for me. But I think there has to be some level of experience before moms can lose all that crap. I do think that it helps to be surrounded by guilt-free moms, especially ones with a sense of humor.
Meagan: What do you think is/are the biggest factors to your happiness as a mom?
Kristen: I keep two things in my mind:
1. A happy mom makes a better mom. End of story. If you personally are happy there’s no way that it won’t translate into your parenting.
2. I’m setting the example for what my kids think of motherhood. So not only do I want them to remember that I was happy, which is super important for me, but I want them to know that moms are happy people. Also cool, and stylish (ha!) – but happy too.
Meagan: Who do you look to–or have you looked to in the past–as your happy mother role models?
Kristen: Aside from my internet “family” – which is basically a group of bloggers I now call friends that I’m surrounded by via their daily writings on motherhood – I’m fortunate to have a fabulous group of very happy moms in my neighborhood. Truth be told, I don’t hang out with them very often, mostly due to schedule conflicts and my personal decision to sort of stay out of neighborhood politics. However, we’ll often see each other at the pool or around the neighborhood, and I always love seeing how they interact with their kids. WAHMs, SAHMs, and WOHMs – all from different walks of life – but all definitely happy moms.
Thank you, Kristen!
Please check back next Wednesday for my next Happy Mom Interview. I’ll be featuring Jen Singer, author of the Stop Second-Guessing Yourself book series and the fouder of MommaSaid.net, where, by the way, I’m the newest columnist.