When Your Happy is Hiding
The day I had my MRI Cole and I went out for lunch afterwards before heading home. I remember telling him it felt weird to be laughing and having fun when tomorrow our life may look differently.
The next day Cole was working when I had my Telehealth visit with my neurosurgeon to receive my results. I called him right after I got off the phone and asked him to come home right away. We sat on the porch together and I cried for what felt like hours and I remember thinking, “How will I ever be the mom Slade needs me to be again?” The sadness I felt that day was insurmountable. I wanted to go back to the yesterday I had known I would want to revisit. I wanted to go back to when being happy felt easily attainable because being happy means you’re a good mom.
The guilt I carried because I felt like I couldn’t be happy was soul crushing. It exhausted me to the point I didn’t move from the couch for four days. What else did I have to offer my son if I couldn’t smile and laugh and be happy right now?
On the fourth day I forced myself to go for a walk with Slade and let the sunshine hit my skin. We walked the trail and found a bench with a plaque that read, “My Serenity Spot.” I sat for a while with Slade and looked out over the water.
The realization I grew to understand was this:
Your child doesn’t need you to be happy for them to feel loved. I started focusing on what I could bring to my son when I wasn’t feeling like happiness was an option and it started to make my world feel brighter again. I started to ask myself, “What can I teach him and offer him through my own struggles? Would my life look differently if I stopped factoring in the worry of showing up 100% happy 100% of the time? What if I just started showing up as who I am and what if it encouraged him to do the same?”
Then, the other day, Cole and I were laying on the couch watching Slade play and Cole asked me, “Am I a good dad?” I replied, “Do you think you’re a good dad?” To which he answered, “I don’t know. I know I’m a loving dad.”
Something I know for certain is the guilt that sneaks up on you as a parent is so ridiculous it’s funny. There have been days where I’m in the shower and I’m feeling guilty that I’m taking so long because so many other things need done. There are days I am grocery shopping and feel like I need to hurry up because it’s selfish that I’m not doing something more fun with Slade. When Slade asks for ice cream at 9:30 in the morning and I tell him no I spend the next fifteen minutes thinking how his little heart must be hurting and I’m an awful mom.
Why do we do this? Why do we let the world sit so heavy on our hearts when it doesn’t have to. I swear when you’re walking out of the hospital they slip an invisible booklet in your diaper bag about all the ways you need to wring yourself dry in order to keep your child happy.
Who’s benefiting from this? Me? Hell no. Slade? Well, if I give him that ice cream at 9:30 in the morning, yes, but otherwise he just has a mom who is stressed all of the time.
It’s a vicious cycle. Needing to take care of myself in order to better take care of my family but then feeling guilty about the time I take to care for myself.
You are still a good parent even if things are hard sometimes.
What if we stopped wringing ourselves dry thinking overdoing it is the secret to making happy kids?
Sometimes the things we need to do don’t produce happy feelings. Sometimes they are the very last thing we want to do but it is still important we make time to do them.
That day on the porch Slade sat with us and he asked Cole, “Mom ok?” And wouldn’t leave my side. My two year old shouldn’t be comforting his mother. Or so I thought. As time went on I realized how fortunate I am to be teaching him at such a young age to have an emotional intelligence and a big heart. He’s learning how to care for people and it is so amazing to watch.
I started to pay attention to other things I’ve been offering when my happiness is hiding.
Your child needs a parent who shows them what strength is. Someone who stands up for themselves and for others that may need it.
Your child needs a parent that is able to communicate their feelings and intentions properly.
Your child needs a parent that sets boundaries and sticks to them.
Your child needs a parent that is forgiving…of themselves and of others.
Your child needs a parent that embraces imperfections…of themselves and of others.
Your child needs a parent that shows up for them when they are doing great things and when they are having a tough time.
Your child needs a parent that teaches them healthy relationships and recognizes their own self-worth.
Your child needs a parent that listens to understand and not just to respond.
Your child doesn’t need you to show up everyday with the biggest smile on your face and endless amounts of energy. They just need you.
What if maybe, just maybe, we all decided to be a little easier on ourselves and then channeled that into our parenting and taught our kids to do the same?
I think if we can work on displaying these traits and strengthening them it’ll eventually make us happier anyway.
Just practice being kind to yourself. I know it’s hard when every fiber of your being is telling you, “Today you could’ve done more,” as you lay down to sleep at night. But chances are you’re already doing enough