The Happiness Connection  

You're not a bad mom

Not everyone likes the term fur baby.

I’m not sure why. For many people, their pets are like children. They love them fiercely and want to give them a good life.

For any woman who identifies as a mother of some sort, whether she’s given birth to her baby or not, one of the worst things to experience is being thought of as a bad mom.

This fear-of-parenting judgment is probably true for men, too. But this week, in honour of Mother’s Day, I’m focusing on women.

I walk my dog twice a day for his benefit more than my own. I take him for his annual examinations and vaccinations. I buy special dental food that can only be sourced from a vet. I shower him with my love.

I consider myself to be a very good mom.

I’m also a good daughter. I’m starting the clearing and cleaning of my mom’s house, so it can go on the market.

My dog, Charlie, doesn’t fit into this plan very well. He can be high maintenance.

Rather than worrying about his walks, pee breaks, and giving him enough attention while I’m attending to the house, I’m going to put him into daycare.

He needs his Bordetella vaccine before I can do this.

I contacted our regular animal hospital, but they didn’t have any appointments for two weeks. Rather than wait, I booked him in with a different vet.

I expected a quick shot and the exchange of money.

It wasn’t quite so straight forward. This new person insisted on doing an exam. It had only been a month or two since Charlie had received his annual checkup, but whatever.

I was taken aback when the vet came out and said Charlie’s coat was a little rough and should be washed more regularly. He recommended every two weeks.

I was also told that his teeth needed better care.

I’m sure my eyes narrowed, and my mouth straightened into a hard line under my mask.

He might have been trying to drum up new business by telling me things he felt my regular vet had missed. Perhaps not knowing Charlie’s history, made him see the situation in a different light. It didn’t matter.

I heard criticism that amounted to him declaring I was an unfit mother.

If he’d been talking about my car, I’d probably have dismissed his comments without much thought, or even agreed with him. But he wasn’t talking about an inanimate object. He was discussing my baby.

Being a mother can be tough. If you love your human or animal babies passionately, you want to do your best by them, but who decides what’s best?

When my daughter was born, I struggled to breast feed. I managed for 10 weeks. By that time, I realized she wanted more milk than I could produce.

When I turned to formula, I felt ashamed of my actions. I’d been indoctrinated to believe that breast was best. What kind of mom was I if I couldn’t’ do what was best for my child?

This same protectiveness, mixed with feelings of being judged, rose to the surface with the words of this unfamiliar vet.

Have you ever perceived that someone was judging your parenting skills? Maybe it was by your children. They’re often very quick to let you know of any improvements they think you should make.

When it comes to motherhood (and fatherhood,) it’s easy to fear judgment and to perceive criticism.

When this happens, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do my actions/words feel like the right thing for me to do/say?
  • If applicable, have I listened to the thoughts and feelings of my child and taken them into consideration?
  • Am I doing anything that I believe will harm or hamper the health and happiness of my child?
  • Am I willing to change my mind and course of action if the answers to the above questions change?

After considering these things, if everything still feels right, stay strong in your convictions. Ignore the naysayers and critics.

You can’t let yourself get too bothered by the words of others. Being a mother to any living being is tough enough without accepting perceived slights or criticisms.

No one gives you a mother’s instruction manual, and even if they did it would be useless. Every child is unique and so is every parent. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to be a mom.

If your children are adults, let yourself off the hook. Be there to love and emotionally support them, but recognize it’s time for them to chart their own course.

I accept that there will be things my kids didn’t like about my parenting. There will be situations they judge with some level of criticism.

That’s OK.

As long as you try your hardest, do what seems best at the time, can apologize when you get it wrong, and lead by example, you are not a bad mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.


Don't drink the poison

During the last 30 years, I’ve painted the walls of many rooms.

The best results come when I take the time to fill holes and cracks, sand uneven sections, and make sure the surfaces are clean before I start decorating.

The principle of prepping before painting, applies to many things, including happiness.

I received an email this week from a woman who wants to be happy, but is struggling. She’s plagued by feelings of resentment over unfair treatment in her working life that left her in a difficult financial position.

Can you relate? I know I can.

Getting stuck in negative memories and emotions is a common affliction. It’s not only painful, but it also keeps you from moving forward and finding a sense of peace and contentment.

If I go back to the decorating analogy, you can’t paint or paper over cracks and expect them to vanish permanently. They need to be filled and sanded if you expect the result to be lasting.

Wanting to be happy without addressing emotionally charged experiences that are lying beneath the surface, is futile. It’s a little like putting a Band-Aid on a severed limb.

It’s difficult to choose contentment and joy when you’re consumed with guilt, regret, or bitterness.

The good news for this reader is that she’s taken the first and most vital step already. She’s aware of what’s happening and wants to make a different choice.

The prep work needed if you find yourself in a similar situation, involves releasing the past with forgiveness and embracing the present with gratitude.

What’s in the past is in the past.

There’s nothing you can do to change it. You may feel you were treated badly or misunderstood. It makes no difference. The only way forward is to let all your outrage and negativity go.

I love the accuracy of this quote by Saint Augustine.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Think about that for a minute.

Do you believe the people you hold grudges against are losing sleep over how you feel?

All you’re doing by holding on to these feelings is hurting yourself. Anger isn’t going to change what happened and is likely to keep you from moving forward.

Looking for others to admit they did you wrong, isn’t going to change anything. Your happiness rests on your shoulders, not anyone else’s.

That said, letting go isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Many humans find it difficult to release beliefs, feelings, and possessions, even though they’re no longer serving any positive purpose.

It’s as if you don’t know who you are without them.

But believe me, once you let go, the feeling of relief can be life changing. I know this from personal experience.

It doesn’t matter why you’re angry or resentful. Accept your emotions for what they are. You don’t need reasons or proof to support them.

I believe everything that happens in life benefits all who are affected by it. Some things can be devastating, but they come with hidden blessings if you’re willing to look for them.

Growth and resilience come from challenges. Be grateful for the tough times, even if they aren’t fun to experience.

My favourite tool when it comes to releasing resentment, anger, and bitterness is forgiveness.

Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to forget what happened, but it removes the emotional charge that’s holding you back.

I write forgiveness letters to everyone involved in any situation that’s causing me to hold on to negativity.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to share your words with anyone else. This is about you, and only you.

Forgive the people who caused you so much angst.
Forgive the people who seemed to stand by without coming to your aid.
Forgive yourself for wasting so much of your life being consumed by these events instead of being happy.

Write the letters, read them over and then either burn or shred them. This last step symbolizes your decision to release through forgiveness.

I like to use the Ho’oponopono prayer to structure my letters.

I’m sorry
Please forgive me
I love you
Thank you

I add how I’m feeling to each of these statements.

Don’t skip the letter to yourself. Take responsibility for your actions and emotions. Recognize that you didn’t have to hang onto your baggage and forgive yourself.

Keep writing letters as layers of resentment surface. If you’ve been hanging on to these emotions for months, years, or even decades, you can’t expect them to disappear in one day.

Once you start forgiving the past, consciously increase your level of gratitude for the present.

Keep a gratitude journal.
Every night before you go to sleep, think of three things you’re grateful for that happened that day.
Set a timer on your phone. When it goes off, stop, and think about something you’re grateful for at that moment.

Deliberately look for gratitude in everything. Surround yourself with it.

If you want to be happy and love yourself, but struggle to let go of the past, I recommend you try the above actions.

You may find it difficult to do this work by yourself. Don’t hesitate to contact a councillor or coach if you need assistance. They can help you if you get stuck or need support.

If you want the best results, doing the prep work is always worth the time.

I hope this helps.

Are you happy?

I’m not asking whether life could be worse, or if you’re grateful for what you’ve got. I want you to think about whether you’re happy.

Pause, close your eyes, and focus on the question.

If you’ve tried this, you may realize that choosing yes, or no is more complicated than it might appear at first glance.

Don’t rush to find an answer. Accept what comes to mind and then dig a little deeper focusing purely on the query, are you happy?

Thoughts that might run through your mind could include:

What is happiness?

  • I felt happy 10 minutes ago, but now I’m irritated. This question is irritating.
  • I have such a great life; it feels wrong to say I’m not happy.
  • I don’t feel happy, but I don’t feel unhappy either.

This isn’t a test. There isn’t a right answer.

The purpose of this exercise is to help you look more closely at your feelings and what you believe about your life.

Awareness is vital in any area of growth. That’s true whether you’re striving to progress in your personal life or at work.

You don’t know whether something needs tweaking, overhauling, or to be left as is, until you know what the current state of play is.

If you want to make changes to how you feel about your life, self-awareness and total honesty are two major keys to success.

Happiness is an emotion, but it’s also a state of mind.

I believe being happy is more about how you approach life, not the ever-present feelings of joy and excitement.

Some days you may feel grumpy or irritated. On others you may find tears close to the surface. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a happy person.

Being happy is about your approach to life and how you react to challenges, disappointments, and successes. It requires constant and consistent monitoring.

When you practise happiness, you don’t expect to love every moment of your life. But when challenges appear, you aren’t surprised, nor do you expect them to last forever.

I practise happiness and, generally speaking, am a pretty contented and positive person.

However, with the recent occurrences in my life, I’ve had to remind myself of some of the principles that are instrumental to the practice of happiness.

With the continuation of the pandemic, greater restrictions, and COVID fatigue, you may also benefit from a reminder.

  • You are solely responsible for your own happiness. Others may bring joy and pleasure, but without them, you are still capable of being happy.
  • There’s more than one perspective to everything. You have the power to choose the way you want to view your life.
  • Practising happiness doesn’t mean you won’t experience negative emotions. There aren’t any feelings that shouldn’t be acknowledged and accepted. They all serve a purpose. Your task is to understand their message and then choose to keep them or let them go.
  • Everyone who’s touched by an event or challenge has the same opportunity for growth, though not necessarily in the same way. Whether you win or lose, you have a chance to discover a deeper understanding of yourself.
  • Happiness doesn’t come from what happens to you. It springs from the choices you make. You get to choose your reaction, perspective, and next steps.
  • You’re not responsible for how other people view life, or whether they’re happy. That’s their responsibility.

With these principles firmly in my mind, I’m ready to get back to being happy.


Find peace in exhaustion

I’m exhausted and puzzled.

After these all-consuming few months with my parents, I’m giving myself three weeks of down time to recuperate.

I’m one week into this recovery period, and I’m still feeling incredibly tired. Shouldn’t I at least notice some improvement by now?

It’s strange that it can take weeks, months, or even years to get to a point of extreme exhaustion, yet we somehow expect to recover within a few days.

It’s like taking an hour to walk somewhere, and then believing you can travel back on foot in five minutes?

If you spend a year depleting energy, why should you think you can replenish it in a week?

There are lots of life events that can bring you to a place of extreme physical or emotional exhaustion. Work, parenting, relationships, and caregiving are common reasons.

Once I realized that energy might move in and out at the same rate rather than seeping out and flooding in, these are three things I’ve encouraged myself to focus on.

Accept what is

Our current sunshine and warm temperatures usually make me feel invigorated. Not this time. I’m loving the weather, but I mostly just want to sit in it, not take my dog for a walk, clean up my house, or weed.

That’s OK.

You don’t have to keep moving forward and push through your tiredness and lack of motivation. Don’t judge yourself or expect things to be different. Simply allow your life to be as it is.

Take as much time as you need to recover

Just because I decided to earmark three weeks to focus on recuperating, that doesn’t mean I’ll be completely recovered at the end of that time.

It’s OK to feel tired. It’s OK to need more time. Don’t pressure yourself for it to be different.

I’ve been exhausted before, but not at this age or from this situation. I can only guess how much time it will take.

I’m still helping my mother. I visit every few days bringing items she wants, getting signatures on documents, or finishing tasks I haven’t managed to do yet.

These all require energy, which slows the replenishing process.

I remind myself daily that recuperating will take as long as it takes. Setting a recovery date is unrealistic.

Choose a healthy lifestyle

Eat well, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and try not to add unnecessary stress to your life.

There’s a lot to do to get my life back on track. My home is a disaster and more cluttered than usual with the arrival of things from my parents’ house.

Rather than sinking into comfort foods and relaxing drinks, I’m choosing to be healthy.

I walk my dog twice a day, regardless of whether I feel like it or not. I’m eating nutritious foods and making sure I drink lots of water.

The biggest difference is that I’m paying more attention to how I feel.

When a feeling of tiredness washes over me in the middle of the afternoon, I rest or take a nap. If something feels stressful or hard, I leave it.

To help with this, I’ve chosen not to make to-do lists.

That doesn’t mean I have no awareness of what I want to accomplish. There are things I want to get done, but I’m not pushing myself with a specific timeline.

Currently, I have a pile of items I want to put into the basement. I gathered them together yesterday. I hope to get them moved today, but if I don’t, there’s always tomorrow, or the days after that.

It’s good to remind yourself that life isn’t a race. There’s no link between the speed of your recovery and how good a person you are. There are no extra marks for how quickly you bounce back from physical or emotional exhaustion.

Find peace in this situation by listening to your body, accepting your situation, and enjoying what is.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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