“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
That’s always the message I whisper to new fathers. They look confused at first, expecting more traditional baby advice. But the babies will be fine: It’s the Mama, the Mama, it’s all about the Mama. When the dads flash back to their own upbringing, there is a knowing nod. Ah, yes-s-s-s. Must…keep…Mommy…happy.
According to Dr. Meg Meeker, I should be whispering the same thing to new mothers. A popular writer of parenting books, a pediatrician and a mother of four grown children, Meeker has a new book just out called, “10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity.” (Ballantine Books, $15.)
After reading her book, I had a revealing chat with her on the phone last week. At the core of her wisdom is one word for what we all should aspire to: “contentment.” She said she originally wanted to use that term in the title, but happy worked a little better as a title.
To me, there is a difference between the two emotions, and a major key lies in her No. 1 habit: Understand your value as a mother.
“Our real value,” she says, “comes from three places: We are loved; we are needed, and we are born for a higher purpose.”
Now that’s a far cry from the big three messages coming at us night and day from the popular culture: what we look like, whether our kids are happy with us and how big our paycheck is.
Meeker learned these lessons from many mothers she quotes in the book, including Julianne. She asked Julianne how she became such a contented mother of two daughters.
“I take after my mother,” Julianne said. “She loved being a mom. My sister and I were her whole life and she enjoyed being with us. I never felt pushed into being anything other than who I was, and I always knew that she enjoyed our company. I adored my mom. . .
“These two need me. I do feel irreplaceable to them and I guess that comes from my feeling that my mom was irreplaceable to me when I was growing up. And she still is. .. What I give these two monkeys is more important to me than anything.”
And that is just the beginning of the list of “habits,” which are:
~~ Maintain friendships, especially those with other women.
~~ Value and practice faith.
~~ Say no to competition.
~~ Create a healthy relationship with money.
~~ Make time for solitude.
~~ Give and get love in healthy ways.
~~ Live simply.
~~ Let go of fear.
~~ Embrace hope as a way of life.
This is all simple, sound advice, delivered with impressive clarity. My big moment with Meeker came with Habit No. 9, where I recognized how much fear I hold on to as a mother, without truly realizing it. I just called it “stress” or “anxiety.” But its true name is fear and it’s got to go. . Isn’t it ironic that fretting about not being a good enough can actually pass on fears to our children, instead of security, fun, our deep love for them and the joy of being their mother?
Meeker’s advice is a treasure. Learn more about her at www.megmeeker.com.