-- (Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Babble.com. It has been reprinted here with permission. Disney is the parent company of both ABC News and Babble.)
“Let’s let mom sleep in today, so she isn’t so grumpy,” my 5-year-old boy whispered to my husband one morning. I am the grumpy mom, naturally.
My son’s word choice was actually quite generous. Lately my mood has been more like chronic exasperation. Heavy sighs. Snappy tones. Even if I’m upset at something he’s done (or didn’t do) the roots of my emotions are way deeper and tangled than anything happening in that moment. It’s not his fault. But hearing that sentence made me realize that no matter how hard I push anger and sadness into my gut, it inevitably seeps out as frustration and annoyance. My attitude hasn’t escaped him.
(Side note: No one tells us that the hardest part of parenting is often having to parent through everything else life throws us. Sometimes having a kid is the easiest and best part of our lives, and it’s everything else that sends us up our proverbial walls.)
Truth be told, I’m in one of those colder, denser seasons of life — living amongst uncertainty, growth, pain, change, resistance. The only way I even know about the “grumpy” comment is because my husband said it to me in the middle of an apology.
“I felt so bad when he said that,” my husband confessed on our couch. “I know the reason you’ve been grumpy and angry is because of me, and I don’t want him to see you like that. You’re a good person, and our issues are keeping him from seeing that.”
He was right — I’ve been letting a slew of problems affect my mood, and my son isn’t getting my best self. And you know the kicker? This temporary life stage will pass, as they all do, and I’ll eventually make my way to contentment and stability, if only for another season. But this is the only childhood my kid gets. If I’m in a funk for a large portion of his development, then that’s what it is. He will have had a grumpy mom. Is that the kind of mom I want to be? Is that the example I want to set?
My life suddenly came into focus: I want to be a happier mom.
I want him to remember a mom who spontaneously breaks out in dance, smiling and twirling to music, with outstretched hands inviting him to join.
I want him to remember a mom who throws up her hands and laughs when she gets lost, not someone whose tension spreads throughout the car.
I want him to remember a warm smile more often than a scowl or obvious annoyance.
I want him to see me take situations for what they are, and to make the best out of each moment.
I want to live a joyful life.
Of course this doesn’t mean slapping on a phony smile and acting happy — that shtick obviously isn’t working. For me it meant calling my therapist to start up our sessions again. It meant asking myself, “What makes me happy?” and finding ways to incorporate MORE of those things, and LESS of the things that bring me down. What can I change or eliminate in my life? What toxic people and situations need to go?
For me, it means saying YES to my potential for happiness, and seeking true well-being in my life, from all angles.
For me, it means recognizing that bubbling feeling in my chest before it consumes me — before my brain suffocates me with thoughts and worries, and I lose sight of the kind of mother I want to be. It means consciously, deliberately choosing to be happier, and less attached to whatever was fanning my internal fires.
For me, it’s a constant effort with inevitable stumbles. Some days are still really hard.
And yet committing to being a happy, joyful person just might be the nicest thing I can do for my son — for my entire family.
It’s also the kindest thing I can do for myself.
MORE ON BABBLE: