5 things I gave up to be a happier mom

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Happy Mom

because-I-said-so-greenGluten, flour, sugar, Diet Coke, food I can actually taste.

Just kidding. I love gluten. And sugar. I would never give those things up. In fact, a nighttime pint of Ben & Jerry’s is often my reward for surviving another summer day with four kids at home. But there are a few things as a mom I’ve had to quit, and I’m much happier since I did. For example, I gave up:

1. Trying to have my daughter look like a Gap Kids advertisement

A friend recently told me that my precious, 4-year-old, ONLY girl looks like a hot mess at least 50 percent of the time. Back when she was a headbanded and bejeweled infant, that observation would have devastated me. But now I can laugh and admit my friend is right. Said daughter spends her days wearing a swimsuit, tiara, flip-flop and cowboy boots. And I kind of love it. The day I stopped caring that my boys “nice” clothes were clean basketball shorts was a blessed day in the Andrus household. The any-outfit-goes philosophy has been liberating, and it’s totally cut down on the laundry (that I’m not doing anyway).

2. Breastfeeding

Don’t be mad. Hear me out first on this one. I think breastfeeding is great, and I know how important it is. But when people go all La Leche League on new moms, they tend to gloss over the fact that breastfeeding is hard. And that it doesn’t always work out for everyone. I breastfed four kids, but I never made it to the American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended year with any of them. I did the best I could with hungry babies and a low milk supply, but I always felt like people were judging me when I switched to formula. Looking back, that was probably just me being hyper-sensitive. That first year of motherhood is about survival. And I think all new moms worry that they aren’t doing everything “right.” At some point, though, you have to accept that you are doing your best for your baby. And that’s enough.

3. Hour-by-hour clean-up

I REALLY like a tidy house. Vacuum lines are one of my favorite things. But a wise grandma told me that when she was young she didn’t constantly pick up her house during the day — it was a waste of her time. I’m trying to take that to heart. And when friends stop by unannounced, I’m not going to apologize or frantically shove things in closet. This is the stage of my life right now. When I’m living the good (retired) life in a Florida retirement village, you can bet my countertops will sparkle. But until then, let fun and mess and chaos reign.

4. Instagram

First things first: I love, love, love seeing kids holding trophies on Instagram. And that picture of pedicured toes looking out on blue water? I am over the moon that someone is going on vacation. I know these are only moments in time, and that other people have work and the stomach flu and straight-losing seasons too. But I can’t help but feel depressed when comparing my life to the world of Instagram, and liking and commenting on every.single.photo takes too much time. So I shut down my account and am happy about it. For now, I’ll just stick to my Facebook feed. Cat-shaming articles are always good for a pick-me-up.

5. Guilt

This one is kind of a trick. I still feel guilty most days, and if you wanted a list of 10 things I’m doing wrong as a mom, I’d rattle off 20. But Mom Guilt is horrid and unproductive, and just so darn tricky to shake. The problem is that after-the-fact handwringing isn’t going to all of a sudden make things better, or parenthood any easier. It just makes things worse. So when my kids write their teenager babysitter hate mail or uproot all of grandma’s newly planted flowers, I’m just going to put on my bedazzled “Mother of the Year” shirt and move along. They’ll do better tomorrow. I’ll do better tomorrow, too. And just thinking about it makes me happy.

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Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

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