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How to Be a Happier Mom

Admit when you're stressed

Ironically, once you stop expecting motherhood to feel warm and fuzzy all the time, life as a mom gets easier. "It really helps to realize that it's okay to feel frustrated, angry, tired, or irritable sometimes," says Dr. Ubel. "You're not a bad parent. It's not even a bad parenting experience. It's just normal."

Get enough sleep
Most of us know that money can't buy happiness, but who knew that a good night's sleep just might? That's a key finding of that University of Michigan study. "Making sixty thousand more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night," says study author Norbert Schwarz, Ph.D., a professor of psychology.
So how can you sneak in that extra hour or two? Misha Sauer, mom of 1-year-old Riley, says her husband is good about taking over on the weekends so she can sleep in or nap. "It absolutely makes a difference in the way I feel," says the Culver City, California, mom. "And I'm more willing to do something active, like take my daughter to the park. If I'm tired, the most I can do is sit there and read to her."

(Re)consider your priorities
It may sound simplistic, but one key to being in a more positive mood is to structure your day so you do more things you enjoy. "It's how you spend your time, not your money, that counts," says Dr. Ubel. "If you have any financial flexibility that lets you maximize your family time, use it now. For instance, do you really need to be the one to clean the house? How about paying someone to help out? And if that's not an option, think about how clean your house really needs to be  -- do you need to make the beds, or is bed-making time better spent drawing pictures with your kids?"
And if you work outside the home, consider exploring whether you can afford to go part-time rather than full-time.

Go with the flow
Time seems to slow down when you're doing what you enjoy, whether it's gardening or running laps. People who experience this level of engagement  -- which psychologists call "flow"  -- are happier than people who rarely do. And you're lucky to have a master of it right before you: your child. "To you and me, every leaf and ant is pretty much the same, but not to a two-year-old," says Reivich. "So try to actively notice things as your child does that ant is dragging a big piece of bread, for instance."
Bringing more of your best qualities  -- your strengths  -- to the often mundane tasks of child rearing can also help you feel more engaged. "One of my strengths is humor," Reivich says. "I was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my kids one day, and I started talking like it was a cooking show: 'Now I'm browning the bread, now I'm applying a thin layer of peanut butter.' It transformed a mundane task into something all of us could enjoy." One mom she knows loves architecture and got passionate about explaining the history of columns as her 4-year-old made sand castles. Her preschooler may not have gotten all the references, says Reivich, "but it was entertaining for both of them."