For the month of September, we’re talking about TIME here at The Happiest Mom. But I don’t want to just talk about how to manage it. I’m reprinting this interview with author Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, (I originally published it in May) because it’s a perfect illustration of the other side of the “time” issue: how to appreciate each moment, how to slow down and just take it all in. Enjoy!
Before you read any further, I want you to go watch this lovely ad Gretchen Rubin, made for her book, to illustrate what she refers to as one of her “Splendid Truths”: The days are long. The years are short.
Go. Watch it now. I’ll wait here for you.
Isn’t that lovely? It so sums up what motherhood is about, doesn’t it? This is it..this is life, all of it, even the mess and the milk–spilled or leaked or drooled–and the squabbles. Sometimes it seems like an eternity just getting through the day. But I look back sometimes and think, my God, I’ve been a mother for going on thirteen years? Where did the time go?
I asked Gretchen a few questions about happiness and motherhood:
M: One of the reasons I created The Happiest Mom is that I felt most literature on happiness overlooked the specific needs of women and especially mothers–so I loved that you dedicated a whole chapter to parenting in your book. Has being a mom made you more aware of your happiness levels and the effect they have on other people in your family—or vice versa?
G: Absolutely. There’s a saying, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” The happiness of every member of the family affects all the others, and I felt that as a mother, I wanted to take more steps to create the kind of happy, loving atmosphere at home that I wanted. By being happier myself – by doing things like getting more sleep, tackling clutter, and having fun – I’m better able to be the cheery, lighthearted mom I want to be.
At the same time, I strive to be emotionally self-sufficient. Another old saying is, “You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” There’s a lot of truth to that, but I try to foster my own happiness, that remains strong even when another member of my family is unhappy. I can be more helpful if I don’t get sucked in. This can be tough!
M: Your Third Splendid Truth “The days are long, the years are short” (illustrated so well in your lovely commercial) may be the best summation I’ve ever heard of life as a mother. Do you have any advice for other moms who are experiencing lots of “long days” and need help being conscious of the “short years” part?
G: It’s hard to remember this; you just have to take that moment to remind yourself as you’re managing the chaos. A friend of mine with four kids said, “I always tell myself, ‘These are the good old days.’” It helps to remember how quickly other stages vanished – like waking up several times in the middle of the night with a newborn. It seemed interminable – but it also flashed by.
I keep a one-sentence journal, too, so I can hang on to the little memories that would otherwise get forgotten. That helps me remember to appreciate these days.
M: In your chapter on parenting, you talk about creating happy memories for your family. Do you have happy memories from when you were growing up? If so, did those memories come into play when creating traditions for your own family?
G: In my family, Christmas is a big deal, with lots of traditional activities, decorations, food, and rituals. I love it! It really made me appreciate how much that kind of effort adds to the joyfulness of life. I’ve tried to create lots of traditions in my own family, and to continue the ones I had in childhood.
M: We all know that motherhood has its joyful moments as well as its challenges. Have you ever been able to take a parenting challenge and turn it into a joy?
G: I walk both my daughters to school in the morning, and the difference in their school start times means that I have an hour to spend with my now-five-year-old before she goes into her classroom. Beforehand, I was very annoyed at the prospect of having this in-between hour every day – I thought this time would be “wasted” and hang heavy on my hands, but it has been a tremendous boon. For an hour, she has my undivided attention, and we have tons of time to do whatever we want. Read, look around the drug store, color, whatever. It has been really lovely.
M: Besides “happy”, what is one word you most hope your daughters would, one day, use to describe you?
G: What a fascinating question – and easy to answer! “Loving.” Love covers a lot of mistakes.
I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Gretchen’s book, The Happiness Project. In the book, she dedicates an entire chapter to parenthood and it, along with all her other strategies for living a happier life, are practical, smart, never sappy, and a joy to read.
Have you had a “The Days Are Long, The Years Are Short” realization in your life? Tell us about it!