There are days when I find very little joy in being a homeschooling mother. The monotony of the days, the frustration of repeating myself, and the drudgery of the work itself, all pull me down to a grumpy, sour mess. But as Christians, we believe that cheerfulness is a virtue, and as moms, we know that we often set the tone for our families. What can we do to set aside our grumblings and put a smile on our faces?
What Do We Need to Be Happy?
A popular quote about happiness declares we need three things to be happy. What I did not know about this thought is its context. It was originally written by an American unitarian clergyman specifically about women:
She is fitted to find happiness in that relation by the affections of her heart. The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. We all must have something to love. Especially is this the case with woman, whose capacity for affection is much greater than that of man. ~ George Washington Burnap
I have to agree with Rev. Burnap that as woman, our mother’s hearts are particularly guided by our affections, much more than men’s hearts are.
Now I think we can all agree that we definitely have “something to do.” In fact, we have more than enough to do in any given day. Our work is endless. As mothers, we definitely have “something to love,” and that naturally is our families. When we marry and have children, we are blessed with a passion for these people, and that is key to our happiness.
But do we all have something to hope for? As Christians, we certainly hope for the rewards of heaven, but as stay-at-home mothers, I think we need something more tangible. We need something every day or every week, at least, to look forward to. Here’s why:
The happiest part of your vacation actually happens way before you ever step foot in your destination. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it. (Herreria, Carla. “The Happiest Part of Your Vacation Isn't What You Think” Huff Post, Verizon Media, 6 June 2016.)
It’s not practical for most of us living on a single income to plan lavish vacations every few months or even every year, but we can build in things that provide the same sort of happy anticipation. And, these mini-vacations can even include our children! Just putting it on our calendars or adding it to our schedules can bring joy!
Make a Joy List
What do you enjoy doing? Make a list! Perhaps it’s going for coffee with a friend. Maybe it’s listening to an audio book. You might really like playing board games with your children or watching movies with your husband. It’s okay for the list to include fanciful things, too, like traveling and spa days.
Once you have a list, try to incorporate at least one of these things at least once a week and put them into your schedule and on your calendar. Note: I did not say to add these things to your to-do list. We need to actually plan a date and time for it to happen. Try this for a month and see if your joy increases. According to research, it will!
In my experience, finding things to look forward to doing makes it much easier for me to be cheerful. I host a moms’ group every other week, and the other day I was thanking my children for helping me tidy the house and prepare to have that special time with my friends. I reminded them how much joy it brings me to chat with those ladies and how that makes me a happier mom.
I also love reading good books to my children. So when I promise them a story at a certain time of day, we all benefit from the anticipation of that time together. I enjoy reading detective novels and putting together puzzles, too, so I try to squeeze in a few pages before I fall asleep and pull out my jigsaw puzzle on the weekends. All of these little things make an impact on my day to day happiness.
Of course, the most important thing we can look forward to is ultimately the hope of Heaven. There is no denying that is what makes life worthwhile. But God created us with earthly needs, too, and ordering our affections towards these positive, enjoyable activities can and should make a difference in becoming the happy moms our kids deserve.
What is on your schedule right now that you are looking forward to doing?