In the spirit of nonjudgment and self-compassion, let’s start by saying that not everyone feels naturally joyful as a new mom. I didn’t feel a lot of innate happiness or joy in my role as a new mom when I became one, even though I expected to and many people told me it was the “happiest time in life.” (If you also feel bad about this not being the happiest time in your life, look back to my post, “Shouldn’t I Feel Better?”)
It’s okay if you don’t enjoy every moment of new motherhood. In fact, don’t expect yourself to love every minute. There are plenty of unlovable moments, when you’re desperate for sleep or trying to solve a poopy diaper mystery (“Is that color normal??”)
Instead, think of it as a process that you might need to go through to find your joy as a mom. Set the expectation that it might be difficult sometimes, or not come naturally. Then give yourself credit for the things you do toward feeling more happiness and joy. We are works in progress!
Here are some ways to build up your capacity for joy in motherhood:
- Spend some mindful time with your baby, just playing or being with them. Notice and savor any positive emotions that you feel during this time. This is joy that you might feel with your baby.
- Recall what used to bring you joy. Sometimes we unlearn how to play and have fun as we grow up. Think back to when you were young, less than 10 years old. What did you like to spend your time doing? Try to bring back some of the joy that you felt as a (wise) child, whether that means playing outside, doing a puzzle, or building a model. Younger you knew how to feel that joy; let them guide you back to it.
- Journal it out: Thinking about joy, write down anything that comes to your mind. What are some things that brought you joy at different phases in your life? What are some activities you’ve always wanted to try? Make a free-flowing list or map of ideas that might bring happiness, and then pick one or two to try.
- When you do come across a moment of happiness, take notice! Bring your attention to it, on purpose, and let yourself really feel what joy feels like to you. Spend time thinking about what it was that made you feel that way, and how you can extend that feeling or bring it to yourself more often. Remind yourself that you deserve as much happiness as you can find.
You might practice one of these per day, adding more until you create as many moments of joy as you need. Feel your joy, Mama!