It took quite some time for me to get pregnant with my eldest; every month became an emotional rollercoaster. I was convinced that having a child would end this turmoil, the formula for life was simple… a child would make me happy and not having one would make me unhappy.
I was blessed though and after nearly a year I caught. The moment she was born and passed into my arms was an intensely joyful experience. My daughter had brought me happiness.
This was my happy ever after.
Time has a habit of moving forward though and the post birth high doesn’t last till they turn 18. Quite frankly your lucky if it lasts more than a couple of days; I remember one night, when she was crying constantly I paced up and down the landing for what felt like hours, I can’t say she made me happy then.
On another occasion my adorable spawn threw the food I had lovingly prepared all over the wall. I had spent ages cooking, blending, freezing little ice cube dinners for her and it felt as if she had thrown my attempts at perfect motherhood all over the wall too. I can’t say she made me happy then either.
When she was 2 and she told me she wanted to wear a hat, 30 seconds later she didn’t want to wear the hat, another 30 seconds and she changed her mind again. I ended up on the floor with tears in my eyes because I had no idea what to do with this stupid damn hat. She definitely didn’t make me happy that day.
Over the last 6 years there have been many moments like this, in fact the older she’s got and the more children I’ve had the more they seemed to happen. Life as a parent is quite frankly exhausting and the happy ever after didn’t always seem… happy.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
Yes our children do bring us joy but ultimately we can’t make our offspring responsible for our happiness. Relying on anyone else to do this for us will never work as they will ultimately disappoint us. Not because they are doing something wrong but because they are dancing to their own tune or at least they should be (and if they are dancing to yours then you better start saving for therapy).
It’s the same for everyone; parents, friends, spouses but especially children. It is unfair on them to live with the burden of their parent’s mental well-being. In my case with small children it’s the little things that get me. Refusal to put their shoes on without me telling them 6 times, putting all their toys in the middle of the floor after I spent an hour cleaning, breaking a new and expensive toy… I could write a whole blog post just listing these things. The question is though, not how to stop this stuff happening, if you want to do that you need to find a different parenting blog (and then tell me which one it is) but work out how to let it go. After all why should their decision to listen or in most cases, not listen determine my happiness?
There are many different techniques to separate your own happiness from other peoples actions; from deep breathing to cognitive behaviour therapy but the main thing I have learnt on this Contented Family journey is just to work every day on your own well-being; consciously make positive choices, don’t pressurise yourself with unattainable expectations and focus on gratitude. By taking care of yourself then these moments won’t knock you down as much; you will be in a better place to deal with them. In my case when I am on form then by some miracle they happen less (either that or I just don’t notice them as much)!
I always think about the example I want to set for my kids. I want to teach them that they are the only ones responsible for their own happiness. I want them to understand that they control their own world by controlling their emotions. I could sit down and try to teach them this lesson military style but as we all know children don’t listen so it’s pointless. Children learn more by copying what we do and so the best way I can teach them this life changing skill is to model the self-reliant behaviour myself. I will show my children that they can have happy ever after but that they have to find it in themselves.