Is it possible that motherhood is not making you happy?
Not that motherhood is making you unhappy. But that it, and the effort and time it takes to dedicate to the kids, as well as everything else you have on your plate, has a direct contribution to a level of unhappiness? Because you’re bored by it.
I’ve been reading Tim Ferris‘ book The Four Hour Workweek, and in it he says the opposite of happiness is not sadness, but boredom and that happiness resides in excitement. He proposes that instead of asking yourself: “What will make me happy?”, ask instead: “What excites me?”
If he’s right – and I think there is plenty of traction in his theory – then working mums may be in a little bit of trouble because excitement isn’t something I think we see much of typically in our day-to-day lives.
We are surrounded by so much to ‘do’ – those commitments and responsibilities – that even the things we love, like our kids, become work. Become tiresome. Become … boring.
A bored mother still loves her kids
This is NOT the same thing as not loving your children, not being in love with them, and not being grateful for them. It doesn’t mean you find no joy in being a mother.
It’s about finding the tasks associated with motherhood – the time it takes to do all the extra work that comes with the gig – bloody boring, and how that may affect your happiness levels.
It’s still very much forbidden to admit to, but motherhood is loaded with mind-numbing activities. Some of them are associated with homemaking – washing and ironing has always been boring as far as I’m concerned, but there’s now way more of it and it takes up much more of my time.
For some women, being a mum and homemaker is all they wish for. And that is fine, fine, fine for them. This is not a criticism of anyone else’s choices. When my children were babies, I was more than satisfied being with them for that time. I still hated ironing though. And crafting.
However, for those of us who find in the long run it’s not enough to have our lives revolve solely around the kids, their lives and school life, it’s still pretty much forbidden to admit to.
Whisper it in secret to your bestie over your third chardy if you like, but don’t dare admit it out loud lest people think you’re a despicable woman and uncaring mother.
Ungrateful is the word the critics use.
Being bored by the relentless chores of motherhood and the daily grind is not being ungrateful. You can be deeply grateful for your children, as we all are. But that doesn’t mean you must be completely fulfilled by motherhood.
You are allowed to want more.
As pointed out in that second article, penned in 2006, “looking after children makes women depressed”. Ah, yes. It can. Especially when they have left a life and style that was once … exciting.
Adjusting to life as a mother can be an exercise fraught with unhappiness. Your world can start to feel limited and small. And then the guilt comes. Feeling guilty for not feeling complete by motherhood. Guilt for wanting a life of your own. Guilt for not being satisfied with motherhood alone. Guilt for spending less time with them so that you can feel more fulfilled elsewhere.
The antidote to boredom: excitement
So back to the excitement factor of happiness and how it relates to we women-folk who feel less than happy with life as a working mum.
We can see excitement in our kids all the time – they still feel excited over things, particularly that beautiful period around Christmas, but also in the small things that come and go in their lives.
But for a multitude of reasons, we lose touch with excitement ourselves, particularly when swamped with motherhood and chores and busyness and mortgages and jobs and more busyness.
Often we assume that excitement is only served up in big packages – the major events and moments that come around only occasionally or by surprise. Like: forever-after love and weddings and babies and anniversaries and a trip of a lifetime.
Those doses of excitement are like the popping of a champagne cork – the anticipation, the one-off experience of it and then it’s all over, before a long stretch between drinks. Champagne after-all, is for special occasions.
Perhaps though, we need to concentrate on what’s in the glass – the fizz of those bubbles that tickle our nose.
Excitement that can be incorporated on a daily basis – in between the major pops of life – is like thinking of those bubbles, the fizz that has smaller pops but more of them.
It can be as simple as stepping out of working motherhood for a while – to incorporate something into your timetable that breaks the monotony …
a massage / a night out with friends / some alone time
It could be choosing to follow more of your own dreams – to do work that inspires and excites you every day. To break free of restricting timetables, so that you have time to do more of what you love, including things with your kids and family.
So if motherhood isn’t enough for you, ask yourself what excites you, and go about adding some of that to your life.