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I have heard this phrase my whole life. I always took it at face value. Make sure mama is happy, no matter what, to ensure our own happiness. The idea being that if I- as the mama- am not happy, it is on my family. Somehow their fault. Their priority should be to serve me and make sure I am never upset, frustrated, stressed or disappointed.
Jesus has been turning this concept upside down in my heart for the last month or so. I don’t think this is the heart that He wants for us. It definitely is not the posture that I want to parent (or wife) from.
As a mama, we have to own our funk (with so much grace for ourselves, too!). We have the power to set the tone for our home and our family. A happy mom is one of the best gifts that we can give to our children. And here is why:
The kids are up a lot at night, and I am super tired. I don’t hear my alarm and oversleep, starting my day off late. I rush through my quiet time and start looking at the overwhelming “to do” list in front of me.
My husband wakes up and is a little bit short with me, in his own tiredness. I am empty, so I have no grace for him. Mood up. I send him off into his workday with tension between us.
By the time the kids get up, I am trying to be peaceful, but my heart is unsettled. Immediately after breakfast, my three year old starts asking for a snack, and throws a fit when I tell her she has to wait. The baby cries to be held when I try to set her down so that I can get things done. The house is a mess. Chaos.
My kids have a rough day. I see their behavior as inconvenient to my to do list. I do not respond to tantrums with grace. I spew my frustrations on my child. We carry on our day in tension.
I feel like I am coming from behind all day. The mess, and cleaning it up, stresses me out, and I place blame and allow resentment to creep in, rather than accepting that that is just what happens when humans live in houses.
We do the dinner time battle and then the bedtime battle. Once the kids are finally down for the night, I catch up on all of the things I feel like I didn’t get done and go to bed feeling just a little unsettled.
A whole day of life has passed. Tension. Frustration. Exhaustion. It can be so easy to look externally for the cause of this. And sometimes, mama, it really truly is beyond us. Despite our very best efforts. But so much of the time I can trace a rocky day back to the posture of my heart at the beginning, and then can see the thread of my attitude affecting us all throughout the day.
“If mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy.”
My alarm goes off in the morning. Despite being tired, I drag myself out of bed extra early. (Not a morning person over here). I leave plenty of margin in my day. I take my time with a fresh cup of coffee and a slow quiet time and really allow Jesus to fill my spirit.
I focus my heart and listen to a Godly podcast while I do a little work (I love The Living Easy Podcast best!). When my husband wakes up, we have a light conversation that allows him to go into his day calmly.
When the girls wake up, I feel refreshed. I have been with Jesus and I want their little souls to feel that. We do our breakfast routine with worship music playing on Alexa. My heart (and mood) is light and I am creating that space for my children as well.
The typical toddler tantrums happen. But because I have filled up on the grace so freely offered to me, I have more patience. I am able to deal with them more kindly and redirect. I am able to parent out of love, rather than fear. Morning saved!
Because I had a productive time before wake ups, I have more space to fill my kids’ cups with attention. We have a light morning and a happy afternoon.
My three year old helps me cook dinner while we all listen to some fun music. I clean up and we have some family time before bed. My stress levels are lower, so the little things don’t trigger me so badly. We deal with what we can and I have grace for what I can’t.
After bedtime, my husband and I settle in for some grown-up time, watch a favorite TV show and go to bed in peace.
Mama was happy, and everyone else was happy, too.
“Our hearts and attitudes can make a major difference in how the hearts and attitudes of our family handle their own tough days.”
Now hear me, ladies! I am by no means saying that we have to feel the burden and responsibility for everyone’s happiness all of the time. That is a toxic line of thinking. Our families are human and humans have bad days and bad emotions. Spiritual warfare is real, and it affects us even with the best of intentions.
I am simply pointing out the truth that I am being taught: our hearts and attitudes can make a major difference in how the hearts and attitudes of our family handle their own tough days. We have this beautiful power to either escalate or de-escalate. To bring Jesus into their mess.
When my husband reacts in a way that hurts my heart, I can either be snappy back (my default) or I can leave room for grace, knowing that hurting people hurt people. He is a good man with a good heart and there is likely some internal battle or funk that is causing him to act this way. I can see him through a lens of grace and adjust my attitude accordingly.
When my three year old loses her ever-loving mind because I would not allow her to raid her candy bin at 8pm, I have two choices. I can either yell over her and trigger a catastrophic power struggle that throws off the rest of our night, or I can see her through the lens of empathy. I can see her disappointment and the irrational place that her small mind is coming from and gracefully discipline if needed, redirect and show love.
The choice is ours. But we cannot do it on our own! By our own strength, we are not enough. We never will be. And the pursuit of trying to be “enough” all on your own will run you ragged, sweet mama. Isaiah 64:8 reminds us that we are the clay, but He (the Lord) is the potter. As Sarah Mae says in her book “Having Martha Home the Mary Way,” Clay cannot mold itself. And on our own, we cannot create scenario 2 consistently.
So here are a few practical steps:
1- Give God your first!
Whatever that may look like for your schedule, put your interaction with the Word before your interaction with the world. If you have the ability to get in a 45 minute quiet time, amazing! If you need to grab a quick devotional before work, that is far better than nothing, my friend. Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst is an awesome one! Listen to a good Podcast on your morning commute (another shout out to The Living Easy Podcast! So good!). Most importantly, check your heart and pray away any funk you are feeling before you get around your family.
2- Grace. Empathy. Repeat.
For yourself and for those around you. When something raises your defenses, take a breath. Try to see the intention behind the behavior rather than the action. More often than not, when I act in a way that I am not proud of, it is not my intention to have acted that way. My heart is in the right place, even if my action is not. We need to see that in others as well. Show reckless grace, in the same way that Jesus has shown it to you.
3- Pray, pray pray!
I can’t do it without prayer. On the hard days, I feel like I am constantly asking God for strength. Know that if we ask, He will answer. Sometimes that looks like a simple utterance to Him asking Him to close my mouth and help me to not lose my mama mind, and that is ok!
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” – 2 Peter 1:3
4- Take care of yourself!
As much as you can, get enough rest. Exercise regularly. Eat well. If you struggle with depression or anxiety (postpartum depression mama over here), seek help. See a Christian therapist if you need to. Take the pills if they help. Do what you need to do to set yourself up for success.
I want to honor Jesus in my home by displaying the fruits of the Spirit. I want my husband to feel joy in my presence, and not a constant tension. I want my children to look back at their childhood and have happy memories of good times with a mama that loved them. Not a mama that yelled and lost her mind all of the time. I want my home to be a breath of fresh air and a sigh of relief for all that enter it. So I am reminding myself day in and day out: