Modern moms have gone off the deep end and need to reclaim the joy in their lives, says Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and mom of four who visited TODAY to talk about her new book, "The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers."
From stressing about breast-feeding to stressing about college applications -- and everything in between -- Meeker says "getting it right" has become an obsession for many moms. And that's not healthy, or much fun. Click here to read an excerpt of her book. Among the habits she recommends:
-Understand your value as a mother.
-Maintain friendships with women.
-Make time for solitude.
-Stop competing with other moms.
-Find ways to live simply.
At TODAY.com, we asked for your thoughts: Are you a happy mom? What are your "habits" that make you happy? We got a ton of great answers. Here are a few:
Diane Hunter, San Francisco, CA
Before I started working with horses I was VERY unhappy. I was the mom of 2 boys (one non-verbal with an autism diagnosis) and I felt trapped, isolated, depressed, confused, lost, angry.
Now, I'm a horse whisper myself. I've learned to communicate with my non-verbal son and I've improved all my relationships. Best of all, I'm extremely happy.
Here are my tips for happier living:
1. Get present and notice how I have everything I need in this moment because that's all there really is.
2. Make a list of the things I'm grateful for. Where I focus my attention, that's what expands in my life. If I focus on what I don't have or the painful parts, that expands and does not serve me.
3. I find a way each day to take a minimum of 5 minutes for myself either to connect with a girlfriend on the phone, go for a quick run, take an extra long hot shower, sit and read a book after the boys have gone to bed or watch my favorite comedy on TV for my daily quota of laughter. I now schedule these times into my day.
4. I look for evidence that my son is improving even it very slight and that keeps me motivated to keep myself moving forward.
5. Three-breath trick. When I'm really in a state of stress or anxiety and panicking about something I stop and breath. I take 3 deep belly breaths to help calm myself down. This hits the pause button on the stress cycle opening up the space to seeing more possibilities and solutions.
Maria Blanchard, Norfolk, VA
I'm a single mother of a 5 year-old, a full-time college student at Old Dominion University, a Navy reservist and I work part-time for the City of Virginia Beach. I've been living this busy lifestyle since early 2008. It didn't take long for "Maria" to get lost and replaced with, "student," "mother," "Sailor,” and "employee." I found that while I was achieving my dream of going to school full-time to get my degree, I wasn't happy.
In September 2009 I deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a year. I returned in September, 2010 and made a commitment to find my happiness. While I'm still a full-time college student, part-time employee, Navy reserves and a single mother; I am happy. I found "Maria."
Living a life with so many obligations made it very difficult to find my happiness but with the help of great friends and sheer determination, I did it.
I'm friends with several mothers from my son's school. We often grab a cup of coffee together at a local coffee shop after dropping off our respective children. I'm a member of the local gym and I spend several hours each week there burning off the stress... and pounds (20+).
Becoming a mother doesn't mean giving up who we are as women. Being busy taking care of our families doesn't mean that we have to sacrifice ourselves. We don't have to be martyrs for the sake of our children. We just need to get creative and make sure that we keep ourselves as a priority on the every growing 'To Do' list. I know my son likes it when I'm happy and in a good mood. He's far more likely to talk me into giving him a cookie before bed.
Shelley Harvey, Grasonville, MD
I am a happy mother! I work full-time by choice and I think it makes me a better mother. Our life and routine is hectic but I wouldn't have it any other way. When I come home, I am always happy to see my husband and children and hear about their day. I think I value the time I have with them more because I am not with them all day.
When things are stressful in the morning or in the evening, I try to remind myself that the stress is short-lived and the children (15 mos and almost 5) are not this little forever. They are so sweet and innocent that it is hard to be upset with them for long! I want them to have a happy childhood and look back and know that they were so loved and cherished.
Debby Mata, Austin, TX
I am very happy as a mother, but it definitely requires some intentional efforts. I chose to leave my job and stay home with my newborn son after spending my entire maternity leave in mourning for what I was GOING to miss. I was so grateful when my husband and I made the decision, but I knew I would have to remind myself of that later when overwhelmed with all of the pressures of constantly caring for children. (We now have another son - they are 19 months apart.)
Keeping it simple is easier said than done, but that is truly the best habit recommended. Even relationships with other women can get complicated and lead to comparisons and competitions. It is so important to be constantly mindful of the kind of relationships I invest my time in, to know my own social weaknesses. I keep that one simple question in the back of my head, "Does this really matter?" It helps with everything in parenting, co-parenting with my husband, friendships, comparisons to "all the other moms," etc. It is drastically different when I have neglected to use that one simple question.
I often ask myself, "How did the pioneer women do this?" And I try to be thankful for modern conveniences --- especially running water! I know that much of today's technology is so helpful. I love sharing pictures of my kids' daily lives on Facebook so their aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins can enjoy them more often! But there is no doubt that technology is distracting and it can take away from opportunities to really engage in relationships and experiences.
It all goes by so quickly and it is definitely a unique process for each woman to develop in to her identity as a mother. But the old and simple ways really do keep us grounded, whether they manifest themselves in cloth diapers and structured play, or disposable diapers and tolerable chaos. It is such a huge responsibility and honor to be a mom. We all agree in theory, but it is so easy to forget as we are bombarded with constant information and opinions.
It takes constant effort to keep it simple. It's great for my kids to learn solitude as well as recognizing how important it is for myself. I vowed to myself that if I could stay at home with my kids I would put them in car seats as little as possible. My experience has been that the more they get to play and just be kids without going a whole lot of places, the better they nap. The better they nap, the better they cope with life and discipline. Most importantly, they LAUGH A LOT! Which in turn, makes it all come full circle for me and keeps the goal in mind. I probably say "this is what it's all about" to myself at least ten times a day or more!