Before I begin, I should probably note that I’m pretty honest about the fact that I'm not a blissfully happy mother all of the time...
Often, I’m tired and rather frazzled. You should have seen me trying to navigate collapsing a pram for the first time after my firstborn arrived. Or how about trying to get a toddler strapped into their car seat? Talk about challenging. No degree prepares you for motherhood. The good thing is, like all things in life, motherhood has its ups and downs and I look back and laugh at some of the more challenging times we’ve had. I also know – and you’re sure to be told this repeatedly by older, far wiser mothers – time flies. Life is short so spend it well. Focus on what matters most in life. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Laugh often. Cry – it feels good to let it all out from time to time. And don’t expect to feel happy every day. It’s just not realistic. My mother always taught me that you can’t be happy all the time. It’s normal to feel down from time to time. Now, when it comes to happiness and motherhood, there are a few things I’ve learnt over the last few years about how to be a happy mother. They’re simple things, but sometimes we all need a reminder of why it’s the little things in life that matter the most. It could be as simple as a Sunday morning spent in your PJs in bed with your kids that makes you happy (not always as relaxing as it sounds!). Or making sure you all eat breakfast together at the table once a week. Just remind yourself from time to time that these years are precious, so spend them well.
SHOP: Georgie wears M&S COLLECTION Pure Cotton Floral Print Revere Collar Pyjamas, $62. Arabella and Lottie wear Marks & Spencer Floral Print Pyjamas (3-16 years), from $26. Marks & Spencer Dovecote Side Plate, $12. Marks & Spencer Antique Floral Print Mug, $16. Marks & Spencer Rosalie Cereal Bowl, $12. Marks & Spencer Dovecote Melamine Cereal Bowl, $7. Marks & Spencer Dovecote Melamine Dinner Plate, $8.
1. Don’t overschedule
You can’t do everything. When you have kids, you can’t see all your friends as much as you’d like or make it to every single kids party. I remind myself of this regularly. Usually when the anxiety builds, it’s because I’ve overscheduled. Take a step back at the beginning of each week and look at your diary. Can you really fit in three kids’ parties, sport activities and dinner with friends on a Saturday? Probably not. There’s also research that suggests overscheduling kids leads to the same stress-related health and psychological problems that overscheduled adults experience. I know I can’t do it all, so I try to keep our weekends as quiet as possible. I actually prefer when things are more spontaneous – a casual pizza with friends or a walk to the park. Leave some time for life to just happen – you don’t need to plan everything.
2. Spend time with the people that really matter most to you
Think about this – do you really value everyone in your life? If the answer is no, it’s time to cull. Get rid of toxic friendships and put your energy into the friendships that really matter to you most. Prioritise those friendships. We’re all time-poor and would love to see our friends more, but in my book, less is more. I recently spent three nights with my oldest childhood friend. We hadn’t spent quality time together (kid-free) for five years. We had three full days together! It was the most special three days and reaffirmed to me that the ‘lifers’ – those really special friends – will always be there so it’s not about how many times you see them a month (I have best friends who live abroad!). I have girlfriends who I could go for months without seeing and nothing would change. I’d recommend reading The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k : How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do with People You Don’t Like by Sarah Knight. The bestselling book reveals the art of caring less and getting more, explaining how to rid yourself of unwanted obligations, shame, and guilt – and give your f**ks instead to people and things that make you happy.
SHOP: Georgie wears M&S COLLECTION Pure Cotton Printed Short Sleeve Pyjama Set, $22. Marks & Spencer Dipped Mug, $16. M&S COLLECTION Pom Pom Cushions, $57 (each). Marks & Spencer Wide Striped Throw, $68.
3. Embrace minimalism
My girlfriend Canna Campbell – a financial planner and founder of Sugar Mamma TV – takes a minimalist approach to life and is a huge inspiration to me. I’m still working on becoming more of a minimalist – I’m getting there slowly. I try to keep our home as clutter-free as possible. I regularly donate toys to charity, clean out the girls’ closets (they grow at a rapid rate) and don’t like too many objects around the home. Nearly every single object in our home (be it a vase, a lamp, a photo frame), I love and it brings me joy. Clutter is a huge stress trigger for me. I’d recommend reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising by Marie Kondo. Her philosophy? “Discard everything that does not spark joy”. Her approach is ruthless but as the book suggests, it’s also life-changing.
SHOP: Lottie wears Marks & Spencer Floral Print Pyjamas (3-16 years), $22. Marks & Spencer Floral Print Matelassé Bedspread, $114. Georgie wears M&S COLLECTION Pure Cotton Printed Short Sleeve Pyjama Set, $22.
4. Be grateful
What exactly is gratitude? It’s basically a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation. For me, focusing on being grateful for what I have is so important. It’s easy to fall into the habit of focusing on the negatives in life, but try and train your mind to focus on the positive things in your life. You could even start a gratitude journal. In Arianna Huffington’s fantastic book Thrive (another brilliant read), she writes: “According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day — and why the events made them happy — lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.” It’s a simple thing to do at the end of the day. Look up at the sunshine (or even the rain – I’m grateful when I’m tucked up in bed and it’s raining outside). Go for a swim in the sea. Tickle your child until they erupt in that wonderful laugh which comes from deep inside their belly. We are so lucky to be mothers and while it is tiring at times (actually it’s tiring all of the time), take a step back and soak it all in. Even if it’s after the kids are in bed and you’re on the couch with a glass of wine – I’m always grateful for that moment of the day!
SHOP: Georgie wears M&S COLLECTION Pure Cotton Embroidered Dressing Gown, $53. Marks & Spencer Dipped Mug, $16
5. Meditation will change your life
If you read about the daily habits of highly successful people, you’ll often find they meditate. The benefits are myriad: lower stress levels, improved cognitive functioning, creative thinking and productivity and more. I’m guilty of not meditating lately so I recently did a one-on-one session to help start the habit again. I was reminded that you usually resist the things you need the most in life. I know that when I meditate, I’m a happier, calmer mother. I was taught Vedic meditation by Jacqui Lewis from The Broadplace in Sydney. According to Lewis, a 20-minute practice is equivalent to a two-hour body rest. “So you need less sleep, and when you do sleep it’s better quality,” she says. “I teach a lot of mums, new mums especially who say within that 20 minutes they feel they should be doing the washing, or this or that, but what they find is they’re so much more productive and happier and calmer if they do spend the time meditating. While 20 minutes uninterrupted is not always realistic, Lewis encourages snatching precious minutes while little ones are asleep, or watching TV, or even during a breastfeed. It’s incredibly effective in a short space of time. Try it – it really, really works wonders. Photography: Grace Alyssa Kyo | In collaboration with Marks & Spencer/Shopping Links | To shop children’s pyjamas, go to www.marksandspencerlondon.com. To shop, nightwear for women, go to www.marksandspencerlondon.com. To shop homewares, go to www.marksandspencerlondon.com | To shop womenswear, go to www.marksandspencerlondon.com