Mothers are their children’s ‘happiness anchors’

It’s that time of year, when we root into family tradition, work so hard to create magical memories for our children and feel all the warmth within ourselves. Granted, the holidays are a mixed bag for so many; they can certainly be triggering for some. They can bring up family drama, past hurts and longing for maybe what we didn’t have ourselves. Either way, as a mother, most likely you are already thinking about all the ways you can create holiday magic for your own children.

These moments that you’ll create, the memories that will stay with you and your children for years to come—they are happiness anchors. They’re filled with feel-good emotions that are tangible and accessible long after the actual experience is over.

Happiness anchors in parenting are the moments that you create for your children that ground them into your family, your family’s culture and values. They are the memories they’ll share with their children at the dinner table 30 years from now. These anchors act as antidotes to the daily grind; they’re moments of true connection and undistracted togetherness that disrupt the day-to-day and create an ocean of belonging for you and your children.

This is foundational to your child’s developing sense of self—how they see themselves in the world,their sense of connectedness to you and something bigger than themselves. These anchors are fun on the surface but deeply powerful and impactful at their core.

And chances are, like many mothers, you are the driving force behind these happiness anchors for your children. You are the one who does all the dreaming and the planning. You’re the one who does all the research to make it happen. In essence, you are your child’s happiness anchor (no pressure here, as all your child really wants is YOU. It is far less about what you do with your child, and more that they simply have time with you). But you need your own happiness anchors to ground you, too.

Mothers need happiness anchors too

Moms tend to be the ones managing it all these days; the household, the career and the parenting, according to Motherly’s 2023 State of Motherhood survey. It’s a constant juggle with not much reprieve. Burnout continues to be a symptom of our culture—and mothers feel it extra deeply. With so much to do, it’s easy for mothers to focus on everyone and everything before themselves.

Mothers want to mother; they want to create the best life for their children; they want to be their anchors of happiness. But the cost is all too often at the mother’s own expense.

Mothers don’t need fancy weekends away to create happiness anchors, although that would be great too. They don’t need to spend tons of money or take hourly breaks, although again, that would be ideal and they deserve them.

However, they most certainly need brief moments of relief from the hustle when they can find peace and calm within themselves to keep going.

They need “glimmers,” or as Deb Dana, LCSW, author of “The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy” says, “small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm. We’re not talking great, big, expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection, these are micro moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.”

Mothers need moments to ground themselves, anchor themselves, back into the here and now. Moments where their nervous systems have a chance to regulate themselves once again. After all, it’s in this place that a mother can then be an anchor for her children. Pushing through day in and day out takes its toll. Yet finding brief opportunities to reconnect with yourself leads to presence and attunement, which then is both modeled and shared with your child.

How to create happiness anchors for moms

It starts with reflection: let your emotions lead you. Begin by letting your mind float back to times in your life in which you have felt genuinely happy, filled with gratitude and joy. What made those moments so special? Look for common characteristics in those memories: was it a song, a particular location or a cherished activity? Those will be clues as to what you want more of in the future.

Create a glimmer routine and plan your happiness anchors

The smaller details that lead to genuine happiness and warm feelings in your body, those are your glimmers—hopefully achievable daily. Think of how you can incorporate these into your daily life. Maybe it’s sippingcoffee out of your favorite mug every morning. Or maybe it’s listening to your favorite song in a rushed 5-minute shower. Whatever these moments are, now that you have identified them, try to intentionally incorporate them. This is your glimmer routine.

These small rituals are vital, explains Becca Piastrelli, author of “Root and Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect to Land, Lineage, Community and the Self”.

“Ritual is vital for mothers because, for many of us, the rite of passage of becoming a parent can really shake things up in our life. What once was often no longer is, and it takes time to fully digest and integrate the changes we undergo in our matrescence.”

“Ritual helps us metabolize the changes we are going through so that we can take life in.”

Becca Piastrelli

“The easiest way to begin creating ritual in your life is to scan your days for the things you already do that might seem mundane or out of mere necessity, and infuse more meaning into it. This could be setting an intention with the first sip of coffee or tea in the morning. It could be asking the shower water to cleanse off what didn’t serve you that day. It could be asking the wisdom of all the mothers that came before you to fill you with nourishment and energy during a nighttime nursing session. We are already so busy, so it’s not about adding more to our plate. Instead it’s about taking what we already do and making it more intention to serve us,” Piastrelli says.

And for the bigger memories, like apple-picking and making apple pie or driving with the windows down on a summer’s day, those might be more of your broader happiness anchors—things you can look forward to with intention. Can you look to your weekends now with a new perspective as you create happiness anchors for yourself? What memories do you want to create for yourself—not just for your children?

Take your happiness anchors with you

Just like there are trauma triggers that spark hard feelings and challenging memories for us, there are also glimmers that can bring up warm and calm feelings too. Find yourself a tangible glimmer token; maybe it’s a bracelet from your recent vacation, a stone from the river in your pocket or a new family photo on your phone. Let it be something you can carry with you and use often to make these glimmers easily accessible and ready when you need them.

Build on your happiness anchors list

Journaling can be useful for reflecting on what brings you peace and genuine happiness.  Begin jotting down experiences that fill you up intentionally or unexpectedly and reflect on what made them so special. No matter how big or small, these moments are essential to your well-being and can help to show your children that your happiness matters too.

It’s not just what we tell our children that matters, it’s what we show them. They want to be “us” in so many ways; it’s on us to show them the healthiest versions of ourselves then, so that they can become their healthiest selves too. Remember: You aren’t selfish for being a happy, calm and grounded mother; that’s what keeps you healthy.

Maybe this holiday season, you can create some new traditions for yourself; where you can find a little magic for yourself and bring happiness to this busy season that is just for you. Go forth and be the magic that you are for your children—create all the happiness anchors you can. Just make sure to seek out your own glimmers along the way.