the eleven step program for instant mom happiness

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately.

Whatever, who am I kidding here? It’s been a whole lot of a big funk lately that dozens of caramel macchiatos from Starbucks can’t even begin to soothe. Motherhood has seemed overwhelming, life stressful and the future a whole bunch of nebulous unknowns.  I hate unknowns. Just telling you – so if you have a secret or surprise – it’s best to just tell me or else I will turn into a gigantic knot of nerves as I analyze every single possibility to infinity.  I know everyone always says to embrace the moment, but when the moment involves a whole bunch of not knowing what to do next sometimes I just want a solution. A program, a course, something, you know?

Just give me the map. And the answers. So I don’t go crazy.


Because that sludgy goo of unknowns and stresses was chipping away at the tenacity I would boast about having.

As the weeks moved on I just become more and more withdrawn. Oh yeah, you might not have noticed from the outside because I’m really really good (like so many of us are) at hiding it. But my friends? The ones who cared deep about the girl stuck within and don’t care that she’s not perfect? Oh, they noticed. And they’d tell me they wanted the joyful and happy Rachel back. Want me back? Hahaha. Want me back. It’s lucky the kids got lunches packed and laundry folded and I was always on time for school pick up – I just kept pushing me to the back over and over and over.

I was really afraid.

I was terrified, actually. Terrified with coming face to face with the me that stared back at herself in the mirror in the morning.

So I dug my heels in. Mothered. Without much joy or happiness but with purpose.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that’s bad.

I think that’s sometimes what we need to do and I think it’s a noble thing – to fight even when our own reserves are empty. No one really talks about that part of motherhood, do they? They talk about the periphery stuff so often and when you’re in the midst of this loss of happiness part it can be hard to share about it when the biggest debate you see online is about what kind of snacks are cool for the second grade picnic. Don’t get me wrong as sometimes that periphery stuff can be enough to make one go crazy. You read the article on sunscreen, right? Well, there are just so many choices and information out there that sometimes motherhood can be a whole lot of decision making when we just want to step out, take a break and yell enough world, enough – can I have a break?

But kids don’t wait for us to get our heads screwed on right again or for all the ducks to be lined neatly in a row. Or the laundry to get caught up.


They’re there demanding our time and looking for their shirt which is in the washing machine but should have been put in the dryer because you forgot. Again. And they don’t like dinner or they forgot to do their homework. And there we are standing in a kitchen feeling like we’ve failed.

But it’s not really about failing or being enough. It’s about you, right now. You who knows she’s supposed to find this happy and wonders why in the world you can’t see the glitter for fun but instead sees it as work. Okay, okay, I know putting glitter as the example is the extreme example of patience, but I hope you understand (for those of you with children younger than glitter age let me warn you that glitter is the nemesis of moms. Ignore what pinterest tells you. Ignore. And run.) Sometimes happiness and finding ourselves and the whole big thing is put on hold when we survive.

Here’s a secret I found out about myself: I was using pain to protect my heart. Somehow I held onto ALL THE HARD THINGS that happened to me and wouldn’t forget them or let anyone else forget them. Do you know why? I was TERRIFIED of them happening to me again. I didn’t want a gas man at our door every again with a big wrench telling me he was going to turn off the power unless I paid the unknown to me $976 bill. I didn’t want kids angry or worrying about money. I didn’t want to feel like I didn’t matter. So I, without even really realizing it, lived in pain.

I’d have something good happen and my brain would instantly remind me of something bad — like it was protecting me. But it was eating away at my happy and making everything seem heavy. And I mean everything. Normal motherhood things – laundry, dishes, homework, bedtime – just all seemed to be this pile of drudgery. And a school project? I’m waving the white flag of surrender thinking about it.

In the winter I went through everything in my house. It ALL. And it started something in me. It started exposing all the ways that I hid my unhappiness and fear behind things. The more I could be busy managing things the less I could deal with my heart. It was kind of convenient, in a weird way, to have to control things so that I didn’t need to manage the festering pain that I used as my buffer. Well, once all the stuff left my house and it’s clean and the kids are at school there I was – raw and exposed and all of a sudden finding myself in this unbelievable cycle of fear. Fear of being abandoned, not measuring up and so forth.

It trickled into motherhood.

But I didn’t know what to do. I thought I needed a solution. A program. I didn’t know how to put down the coping mechanism that I lived with for 30+ years. And then one night I had this wake up call. And in that moment I realized that holding onto everything – all the worries, the fear, the pain, the anxiety – was robbing me of today.


Hahaha. A cliche, right? Savor the moment?

But it’s deeper than that. I wasn’t able to actually ENJOY my kids because my mind wouldn’t be quiet. It would be rolling and rumbling with thoughts and fears and when they’d pass me the basketball I’d be mumbling a nice uh-huh but I wasn’t there. I kind of was rushing from a to b to c back to a and putting myself on the back burner and pushing myself to exhaustion because I told myself that’s just what moms do. But, inside I was a mom, a woman, burning the candle on both ends and when one does that it leads to overwhelm. And not much really being there and showing up.

We need to show up. To be there.

And for so many of you, if you’re anything like me, then you will have to actually let go of stuff. I know, not the easy answer right? Not the 11 Step Program to Instant Mom Happiness that you read everywhere. Maybe your family life isn’t what you thought or your job or your friends or your kids. But, my sweet friend, this is life. And we all get a finite numbers of minutes on this earth and I think that it’s time that you and I and your friends stop living behind the masks that weigh us down and we start to really live. To fight for ourselves. To find that real authentic happiness. And to know deep deep down that the moments we get in life, while not perfect, are moments that we are blessed to have.

It doesn’t mean they have to be perfect.

Don’t strive for that.

But live. Start to let go of the things that rob you of happiness. Maybe it’s perfectionism or the constant stream of stuff to do. Maybe it’s fear of what others think. Maybe you fear you’re failing. Maybe you don’t think your’e enough. Maybe you just need a friend.

Your time, sweet mom, is now. Not when the kids reach 18. Not next year. Not tomorrow. Not whenever, but now. Now is the time to inhale and to replace all the failing thoughts and fears with truth about you. That you are a survivor, a fighter and that you can do this.

You totally can.

I am emerging from that dark cave, that funk and I just want you to know I believe in you. I believe that you can find you again. And you can find happiness. And that you don’t even need a mythical eleven steps and that it starts with you, looking in the mirror, and letting things go. But more than that, it is you, looking into your eyes saying I am worth it.

You are worth it.

Right now, in your life, no matter what the story.

You are worth it.

Eleven steps or not, you’re worth it.


ps. Take a look at this image. Over 10 million seeing the TRUTH about motherhood.


15 Responses to “the eleven step program for instant mom happiness”

  1. June 6, 2016

    Christine Reply

    Thank you…. Just thank you.

  2. June 6, 2016

    Michelle Weiss Reply

    I recently found your blog, like yesterday, and I can’t get enough. I just got done reading eleven steps to happiness and it’s as if you were sitting in my kitchen talking to me as I yell at my kids for whining, ugh! Thank you and I appreciate the real ness you bring, I’m a single mother to four kids and most days I feel like I’m just going through the motions.

  3. June 6, 2016

    Angela Reply

    I’ve been following your blog for a little while now. I originally connected because of the first post or two that I read in which I really related to some of your stances or anecdotes regarding motherhood. It didn’t take long for me, as a counselor, to see a pattern. One that laid a path possibly pointing toward depression and anxiety. It’s understandable for anyone to go through, without rhyme or reason. However, wiith all you’ve been through and the responsibilities that lie solely on your shoulders, it seems almost unavoidable. Clearly (I hope!), I’m not diagnosing, but merely bringing up and encouraging you to find the help, support and guidance to get you through this. From one mom to another and in your words – you are loved, you are needed, you make a difference; you are enough.

  4. June 7, 2016

    Richard Reply

    God has designed every woman to be mother of her own children;therefore as a mother, you have good day and bad day. But God is in control of everything, he will not allow you to be tempted beyond your control. Moms can inspire their joy at CHEER to all MOTHERS

  5. June 7, 2016

    MICHELLE Reply

    I am very impressed with your post. I relate to so much of this article.
    But, am I missing something maybe? I was expecting actual steps. Is it a book I need to find?
    Thank you for sharing what is inside you. Wishing I could do the same sometimes.

  6. June 7, 2016

    Sarah Reply

    Sitting in my parked car at the moment crying thinking, holy cow, it’s like she got into my head and wrote down everything I had been feeling but couldn’t find the words to. And even managed to put words to things I didn’t know I was feeling until I read them. The dark cave you mention and the stranger in the mirror you are avoiding..:I’m all too familiar with their power. So Thank you for the much needed inspiration today to take a step toward the light out of the darkness and to look that stranger in the mirror square in the eyes and say hello. And to start the process of coming to terms with things that I’ve been hiding from. And to let know she is even more powerful than the dark cave. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Sarah. Thank you for writing me and encouraging me too — letting me know I wasn’t alone. Blessings and joy to you.


  7. June 7, 2016

    Angela Reply

    Just wanted to let you know that I really needed these words right now, thank you so much!

  8. June 9, 2016

    Jane Allen Reply

    I appreciate this article in all entirety. You were talking about me. It just sums up the story of my life. I grew up with low self-esteem and I kept covering up with perfectionism and work. Anytime I failed at a project or didn’t do well with my kids, I took it personal. I attached my sense of identity with achievement. As a result, I was always miserable. I grew up introverted and had social anxiety. I’m just working my way through all of them by telling myself the truth. By finding the girl that’s stuck within me. And by telling myself I’m totally worth it. Yea, away with destructive coping mechanisms. I’m about to break out in new and unpredictable ways.

  9. June 10, 2016

    Gianna Reply

    Man! You totally got me with this title. There were NO 11 steps, but there was a whole lot of heart and truth.

  10. June 11, 2016

    Michelle Reply

    Wow, this is powerful! I love how open and honest you are, it’s incredibly brave to share these parts of yourself. And I see myself in here, especially that paragraph about hiding your fears and unhappiness behind things, and if you could control and manage things, you could ignore the rest…man that is SO where I have been, and am also starting to realize it and come to terms with it and examine it and deal with it…it is SCARY! But so necessary, and so healing. Thank you for putting up that mirror that I–and probably so many people–need sometimes. I am inspired to continue move forward by your words. 🙂

  11. June 25, 2016

    Emily Reply

    Thank you for this, I love it. I have been reading Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now and it goes along exactly with what you are saying. I am really trying to work on this. Thanks for your insight! Hugs ❤

  12. June 25, 2016

    Emily Reply

    (And if you haven’t read any Tolle, I think you would love it after reading your own thoughts)
    How you said you aren’t always present with your kids…I feel the same way, and it makes me sad. He teaches how to focus on this moment…nothing more nothing less…but it is so damn hard when you’re a Mommy! But with that said, it is also a MUST when you’re a Mommy ❤
    (I was a teacher for 10 years and am now a stay at home mom. I have no business “agenda” to share about reading his work…it just truely is life changing) 🙂

  13. July 5, 2017

    Aubrey Reply

    Oh Rachel, yet again you’ve hit on some very real issues that I too am dealing with. I’m going to write this here because I haven’t been able to really talk about it, and at this point why the heck not just open up? I’m going through a divorce with the man I’ve been with for the past 10 years, since I was a teenager. It’s the only real relationship I’ve ever had, and I chose to end it. We have 2 small kids together, and he’s in the Army. I was never actually happy in our relationship since we got married, and it’s eaten away at me, especially since I stayed at home with the kids for about 6 years. It’s been about 4 months since we separated, and he asked to keep the kids with him for the time being so he can finally bond with them and I can get somewhat of a break. But I am breaking inside. I can’t be present with my children when I am with them because I am overwhelmed with life in general. I have no idea how I am going to take care of them or myself once I have them back with me full time and I am divorced. I’ve lost my faith because of this whole situation, where I killed myself for years and years trying to make things okay and take care of everything, but they ended up falling apart anyways. I’m just breaking. The only happiness I feel now is by distracting myself from reality. I didn’t want to be this person, and I cannot figure out how to get myself out of this dark place.

    I’m sorry to be so raw on your blog post, but your article just reminded me that I HAVE to get to a place where I am okay so I can be there for my babies. I cannot fail them like my parents failed me. So thank you for your words of encouragement, and reminding me to be in the moment with them. It is so incredibly important.

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