Happy Mama Toolbox

Hey HotMama’s – since this site is all about helping you design your perfect life for you and your family, we’re always looking for tools and strategies to help us be great moms – both for ourselves and our families.  So we turned to Erika Oliver, author and coach for some tips.  She’s a former pessimist turned optimist and has a unique approach to staying happy, sane, and raising a positive family – so go – get your happy on:

By Erika Oliver – author of: Unleash Happy Crap: Unleash the Power of Positive Assumptions

5 Strategies to Stay Sane, Be a Happy Mom and Raise a Positive Family

Positive Coach

I didn’t plan to be a mom. I planned to be a career woman that took a city by storm. That was the plan until I met my husband and blah, blah, blah we fell in love. My man came with a caveat, “must have children, non negotiable”. Well how hard could that be? I have a couple of college degrees, planned to rule the world, and even though I didn’t have parent role models to pattern after I’m smart and can figure things out.

Our kids are now 17 and 20 and somewhere there should have been a warning label that read, “Parenting is the most strenuous, scary and unappreciated job on the planet. Prepare to give your soul, sanity and wallet.” It’s true the parenting label would go on to say that parenting also offers more rewards than you can imagine and tons of fun to be had between the moments of utter shock and being pressed to your limits.

For women who didn’t expect to be parents, those who thought it would be easier than it is, and for those who are working to break the negative family patterns they grew up with here are my words of survival – and in many cases triumph – to keep yourself intact and – at the same time – raise a wonderful, loving, and gloriously positive family.

1. Draw your happy line. Going into unchartered family waters without a happiness plan is just plain asking for a trouble. The tragedy will be losing you in the storm of the family unit. You must know what makes you happy at each period in your life and insist that no one (including you) crosses that line. The good news is that happiness is usually from small things, events, and words. Make a list of your basic happiness needs. And, then make sure it happens (threatening is commendable in this case).

Need an example? My children are now teenagers with big bodies and minds that have regressed to elementary age. I must have 2 yoga classes a week, quiet time in the morning, and low fat flavored yogurt in the refrigerator at all times. There is more on my list but this is my basic happiness survival formula for this period in our family

2. Make up good crap about your children and your spouse.

It is not a matter of when they don’t hear you or if they don’t follow through on what you ask but a matter of how many time each day you must repeat yourself, follow up like a parole officer, or take a deep breath to let out steam to keep your head from blowing off. At these times – and times when things are flowing beautifully – create positive reasons that your husband didn’t hear you or the children did not do their chores. This exercise is not for them – it’s strictly for you and your happiness. Making up good crap invokes your parasympathetic nervous system and calms you down so your head doesn’t blow off and unnecessary arguments – that you just have to fix later – don’t ensue. In a calm state, you are also better able to think up punishments that are negative for them but positive for you such as cleaning out the plastic dinnerware cupboard!

Need an example? If you asked four (or 400) times that the dishes be put away before you got home and left a note just in case they didn’t listen, only to arrive home to find the dishes not done make up an outrageously positive story about why the culprit – kid or spouse – didn’t do it. Maybe they were busy making you a homemade card for no other reason than to express their love. Maybe they were preplanning the huge holiday dinner that will take place at your house. Maybe your child was helping a friend and getting the Good Samaritan award at which you will be recognized as the best mommy ever. Don’t take on other people’s crap – you have enough of your own.

They all come to you with their problems. He touched me. Where are the car keys? What happened to my favorite shirt? Why can’t I go out with my friends? I had the worst day at work. Can you tie my tie? Before you can even put your hand over the phone receiver – because they interrupted your phone call – their problem has become your problem!

3. Mind your own business – Don’t take on other people’s crap! How can you not? Try this. When someone comes to you with a problem (this works at work, too), the first thing you say is, “I am so sorry that happened to you!” and then, you don’t say anything at all. Just look at them. It doesn’t mean you don’t help anyone or offer advice, but you first keep the problem in the lap of the real owner and give them a chance to solve it or specifically ask for what they want from you.

Need an example? “Mom, what happened to my favorite shirt?” “I am so sorry to hear that you lost it.” Pause. Don’t say anything, let them respond. “Mom, can you help me find it?” “Sure, you start looking and I’ll join you when I am done with my phone call.” Without keeping the problem with its owner, the mom often ends her phone call early and searches the house while the offspring enjoys their favorite television show or posts some new pictures on Face book!

4. Pull out your pom poms – or buy some – and be your own best cheerleader. Remember how I said I was going to have a job where I received tons of praise and attention for my greatness? Mother is not that job. You will get praise but not as often as you would like or when you most need it. Your family does think you are the greatest but waiting for them to share or guilting them into appreciation will not make you happy. You must do this one yourself and the key is to overdo it. This is one area where people should be rewarded for going too far.

Need an example? In the morning, I greet myself by saying out loud, “I am so glad you are here today! Today is the best day ever.” Throughout the day I point out the things I am really good at and positive qualities I appreciate about myself. For example, I tell myself that I am a good driver, I recognize my great idea for dinner, and I linger on my quality as a good friend. I notice and compliment myself for saying something clever, for making a good decision, and for being a curious learner. Several times a day I tell myself I am pretty and sometimes even go so far as to tell myself I am the hottest mom in the school district. Is this too much praise? I think all of us are in an appreciation deficit and need to make up for the negative balance! What’s really interesting is when you no longer need outside approval, you will probably receive it. Don’t be surprised if your family members and others heap more compliments on top of your own. But, remember to keep your pom poms moving – it’s the compliments you give yourself – and to continue to give yourself – that are the base of a truly happy mom and positive family.

5. Play harder than anyone else in the family. Have you ever found yourself thinking “I wish I could play” while watching your kids cavort? Or have you ever grudgingly said, “ok” when your spouse calls to say he is biking, running, golfing with friends after work? Why does everyone else get to play and you don’t? Because you don’t do it! Take yourself out to play. I extend a double-dog-dare for you to play harder than anyone else in the family. Start with your list of things that make you happy. Many of these are times of play or could be turned into a play time.

Don’t think you have time? This is the only time and weirdly – just like the compliments – you end up being more efficient and effective because you are happy. And, people are drawn to happy people so you will get unsolicited requests to be around you – even if it means helping with chores!

Need an example? I like to window shop for nick knacks, ride my bike, run, stomp through the mud (yes really), cut random stuff out of magazines and glue it on construction paper, have coffee and gossip and swing. Put a jar of bubbles in your car and blow them at stop lights. Sign up for a class you read about in the newspaper. Play dress up at the store trying on clothes you have no intention of buying but are curious about.  I hit rotten fruit – apples, oranges, pears – with a baseball bat. The kids pitch the fruit and I whack it. If they are not around, I throw fruit at trees and cheer when the splatter sprays on a direct hit.

Being a happy mom takes effort. I didn’t put energy into being a happy mom until our family hit some crises and I realized how unhappy I was feeling. Choose to be happy mom no matter what the family, personal or environmental circumstances. Be in charge of you and use the happy mom tools for your benefit, to create a positive family, and to help tip an unbalanced world to happiness. So, the most important question – can you come out and play?

More about:  Erika Oliver, MPA, is a communication coach, business consultant, and author of the award-winning Three Good Things: Happiness Every Day, No Matter What!, Three Good Things: A Coloring Book for Everyone! and Unleash – “Happy Crap: Unleash the Power of Positive Assumptions available at her site and www.amazon.com.

A recovering pessimist, Oliver is now a Positive Approach Coach who helps people, teams, and organizations find their “happy.” She uses the principles detailed in her books to help people and organizations choose a positive approach. Learn more at www.erikaoliver.com.