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8 Ways to Surprise Yourself With a Smile in the Trenches of Motherhood

A mother of 3 adorable monsters, I mean kids, that I am trying to raise with patience and empathy.

Nothing says “Smile” like your kids sleeping!

Nothing says “Smile” like your kids sleeping!


Life as a mother is often a grab bag of emotions. You go from being completely overwhelmed with the endless demands on your time to amazed by the little bundles of joy to frustrated after that same bundle of joy peed all over the floor you just mopped. In these moments, a good laugh or a genuine smile can make all the difference.

Even with the knowledge that laughter is the best medicine and smiling can change your outlook, it can be extremely difficult to make either of those things happen. I have come up with 8 ways to “surprise” yourself into a happier mood even when the dark side of motherhood is upon you.

1. Change Your Email to Something Uplifting

I have done this for years. Email is a part of daily life, whether you're checking your inbox or filling out a form at the doctor's after your kid has caught a bug from licking the handles of a shopping cart. It is something we see daily (if not multiple times a day), so make it positive. Ditch the format of and try a new approach.

  • Empowering:
  • Encouraging:
  • Uplifting:

2. Splurge on at Least One Delicious-Smelling Cleaning Supply

As a mother, it seems like there is always another mess to clean up. To make it a little more pleasant, I grab one of the great smelling cleaners from Method. I love the smell of the lavender all-purpose cleaner and the almond wood cleaner. Both really cover up the previously mentioned pee smell emanating from the boys’ bathroom.

3. Hide Love Notes to Yourself

When I am in a positive mood (like when my youngest takes a surprise nap), I write little notes to myself on scraps of paper that seem to be everywhere in my house. Nothing to much, just quick phrases like “You are awesome” or “Keep it up, Buttercup." Sometimes I just doodle a funny picture or a heart.

Then I hide them in places I know I will find them eventually, like the bottom of my underwear drawer or in a coat pocket. I always seem to find one when I need a smile. (I also do this for my husband, and it makes me smile when he finds one of the more lascivious notes I have left XXX.)

4. Place Corny Jokes Around the House

Similar to #3, but I tape these jokes to things like cleaning supplies, the back of the cabinet door where I keep said supplies, on the mirror in the kids’ bathroom, and the inside of the toy box lid. Pretty much anywhere I know I will probably be feeling frustrated when I see it. A good chuckle really takes away the resentment of picking up the LEGOs you just picked up an hour ago after you stepped on a Minecraft Creeper. A few good examples:


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  • Q: Why don’t skeletons go to scary movies?
  • A: They don’t have the guts.

More Adult

  • Q: How do you catch a Polar Bear?
  • A: Cut a hole in the ice and place peas around it; When he comes to take a pea, kick him in the Ice hole!

(Hint: The cornier the better, and if your kids can read, have them join in. The jokes they pick will remind you how adorable the little mess-makers really are.)

5. Set Positivity Reminders on Your Phone

I use my reminder app on my phone to keep me on top of everything I need to do. I have reminders like: “wake up the kids” x2 (I tend to push snooze, so the extra reminder is important), “school starts in 30 min," “library book in backpack,” etc. All these reminders, while helpful and necessary for an overwhelmed mom, can be stressful and annoying (especially if you still can’t find the kid's other shoe and sister just forgot she was supposed to bring 3 box labels to class today and—yes! I know school starts in 30 min).

I occasionally write myself a reminder like “Smile” or “You are someone’s sunshine” and then spin the date/time dial to something random. Fate always seems to know when I need to quit scowling and smile.

6. Change Your Ringtone to a Favorite Song From High School

For some reason, hearing 4 Non Blondes' “What’s Up” empowers me. When I feel empowered, I can’t help but smile and feel less overwhelmed. I usually keep my ringer on silent, so on the occasion that I have it turned on it is an appreciated surprise.

7. Change the Background Picture on Your Phone Often

I always try to put something bright and fun as my background. If you're like me and look at your phone WAY too much, then keeping it fresh will help fight the gloomies that come with the repetitiveness of motherhood.

Sometimes, I find peaceful pictures of far-off places. I can let my mind drift to the quiet of the waves crashing instead of the loud crashing I just heard in the kids' room that I know is a huge mess. I also like to put pictures of my kids sleeping to remind me bedtime is near. Occasionally, I let my daughter change it for me, and that usually ends up being pleasantly amusing.

8. Put Some “Guilty Pleasure” Songs on Your Playlist

Everyone has those songs that you would rather not have everyone know you like because it’s embarrassing. One of mine is “Barbie Girl” by Aqua (I told you it was embarrassing). I have a mood enhancer playlist that is a good mix of societally acceptable songs and guilty pleasure songs. The randomness of the shuffle guarantees a surprise every new song. I just make sure I'm wearing headphones!

I regularly use most of the ideas on this list, and they really help boost my mood. Others take a little prep, like #3 and #4. Those I usually do when I am already feeling positive, kind of like saving for a rainy day. Good luck, and remember: Keep smiling—it makes them wonder what you are up to!

© 2020 Sunny Day

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