I have long been a fan of Meagan Francis and her blog, The Happiest Mom, where she dishes on juggling life as a working mom of five (!) and dispenses advice on staying sane while doing it. So I was thrilled when Meagan teamed up with the editorial team at Parenting magazine to bring her wisdom to book form in The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood. (I was also delighted that Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness, the first pick of the Motherese Book Club, penned the introduction to Meagan’s book: what a beautiful, big, small bloggy world!)
Meagan’s book is chock full of practical tips on becoming happier through motherhood. Her writing is breezy and fun and the book feels much more like a coffee date with a mom friend than a heavy-handed parenting manual. I especially enjoyed Meagan’s clever quizzes that helped me quickly realize certain tendencies – some good, some, eh, not-so-good – I have when taking care of my kids.
But even though The Happiest Mom is certainly a book about being a mom, the biggest lesson I learned from it was about being a partner to my husband.
Each chapter of the book – with upbeat titles like “Aim Low, and Go Slow” and “Find Your Tribe” – could stand on its own and Meagan advises early on to head first to the chapter that addresses your biggest concern as a mom.
My choice? Chapter 10, “Love Your Love Life.”
I read The Happiest Mom when Baby Sister was a newborn, sneaking in chapters during those quiet moments after I laid her in her crib and wondered if she would really stay asleep or would wake up again the moment I tiptoed out of the room.
All things considered, I was a happy mom. I was out of the hospital after a nearly month-long stay that had capped off a challenging pregnancy. I felt like Husband and I were doing a good job of making the boys feel loved in spite of this new creature who was taking so much of our time and energy. I was tired, but I was okay, still feeling the benefits of my then latent Happiness Project.
But, it occurred to me, one part of my life that felt a little out of whack was my relationship with Husband who, with the demands of my pregnancy, my hospitalization, and life with a newborn, toddler, and preschooler, felt most days more like a co-worker (fellow soldier in the trenches?) than the love of my life.
I wasn’t spending much time thinking about all of the ways in which I’m lucky to have a husband who is really a partner in this parenting gig. And I was certainly starting to hold onto some of those little creeping grudges: “He gets to go to work everyday while I’m here taking care of the kids and the house.” “He’s sound asleep and I’m up feeding the baby. Again.” “He gets to pee with the bathroom door closed.”
But then Meagan spoke some words I really needed to hear:
One of my biggest mistakes in Marriage 1.0 was waiting for my husband to make me happy. Whatever I wanted – whether it was a social life, financial security, or a break from the kids – I expected him to “give” it to me…
It took me a while, but I finally learned that if I really wanted something, I had to take responsibility for getting it or at least asking for it directly, without hinting around.
Characteristic of the simple wisdom she offers through the book, Meagan cut to the heart of a problem that I suspect plagues many relationships (especially ones with kids) and one that I can certainly cop to: I am definitely guilty of playing the martyr, of making passive-aggressive comments, of not taking responsibility for my own happiness. And I was grateful to Meagan for the wake-up call that – even with three under four at home with me – I need to speak up and ask for the things that I need to keep my head, keep my cool, and be happy.
So what are those things? Time to write, help with childcare, time alone with Husband, one-on-one time with each of the kids (preferably not in the middle of the night due to the croup), and lots and lots of coffee. 🙂
Are you good about asking for what you need?