Many parents, when pushed, will identify happiness as the one thing that they truly want for their children. But parenting is hard work and moms tend to feel stressed more often than not. To reach that goal of raising happy kids, moms need to prioritize their own happiness, too.

There is a lot of talk about kids and over-scheduling these days. Some think that kids should do as many activities as they please, while others worry that all of the running around might cause excess stress and exhaustion. But in all of the talk about finding the perfect balance so that kids will be healthy and happy, people rarely talk about moms.

The truth is that when kids are over-scheduled, moms are too. Moms are running around from activity to activity multiple afternoons a week, often after having worked all day (either in the office or in the home — we all know how that goes). It leaves little room for things like errands, cooking and (gasp) me time. The result? Exhausted moms.

We need to start taking stress seriously
and making time for Mom.

Many parents identify happiness as one of their goals for their children. When all is said and done and the homework is finally complete, parents want to know that their kids are happy. But happiness starts at the top, and stress tends to have a trickle-down effect. If moms are under stress, that stress will affect the kids in the home. Bottom line: Happy moms raise happy kids. We need to start taking stress seriously and making time for Mom.

Set limits

hand signing stopIf you want to decrease the stress level and increase the overall happiness in your home, you have to start by setting some limits. Sometimes kids struggle to choose one after-school activity over another, and other times they simply want to do everything that their friends are doing. Running around every single day without a moment of downtime isn't good for you or your kids. Inadequate downtime leads to increased stress, and high stress levels are linked with high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and risk of anxiety and depression, to name a few.

It's time to rethink family stress and consider promoting single tasking. Set limits about the number of activities and play dates your children can participate in at any given time.

Learn to prioritize

Once upon a time, I was an obsessive list maker. I loved the challenge of getting through my tasks and the feeling of accomplishment that resulted from a list full of check marks. Then I had kids. I gave up my to-do list long ago, upon realizing that to-do lists don't account for things like teething, the stomach flu and traveling husbands. Instead, I set alerts for my must-complete tasks and prioritize my daily and weekly tasks.

It's not so much that you need to stop making lists, but you do need to learn to prioritize. We simply can't accomplish every little task every single week. Celebrate the tasks you do manage to check off, and let the others wait for another day. Guilt doesn't do anybody any good, and it doesn't help you complete your tasks. Let it go and be happy in the moment.

Find me time

Moms put a lot of emphasis on the elusive "me time" that promises to rejuvenate us and make us feel whole again. But that pressure to find me time sometimes complicates the process. The reality check here is that most moms report that they don't have enough time to engage in a relaxing me time activity.

cup of tea

Simplify the process. Me time doesn't have to be a moms' night out coordinated with eight other moms or that amazing yoga class that you keep hearing about that is 30 minutes from your house. Me time can be a steaming mug of your favorite tea and 20 minutes of uninterrupted reading time (and I'm not talking Green Eggs and Ham). Me time can be a quick coffee with a friend or a stolen moment of television in an empty house.

When you release the need to fill every moment with activities that need to be done, you find your happy place. You also teach your children that self-care is critical and meaningless tasks are meaningless.

Activity for mom

If your days require running around to different activities for your kids, then you need to factor in one activity just for you. Women benefit from the support of other women, and happiness is contagious. Find a group of positive moms who make you feel good and organize a book club, a movie night or a daily walk.

When moms spend time with friends who inspire positive emotion, they return to parenting feeling rejuvenated and happy. And those are feelings that you want to pass down to your kids.

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