If Mama Ain’t Happy

12 self-care tips for parents
April 20, 2018 Updated: October 8, 2018

You know the saying “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?”

As parents, our emotional and mental states can have a profound impact on our home environment and on our loved ones, specifically our children. If we observe carefully, we can often see our strengths and weaknesses reflected back to us in the words, behaviors, and attitudes of our children. They are like little mirrors showing us who we are, for better or worse.

Sometimes those glimpses of ourselves can be the encouragement we need to believe we may be doing a decent job at this parenting thing. Other times, we’re shown exactly those habits we’ve been subconsciously choosing not to look at, only to find we’ve passed them on to our precious little ones. 

This gig is not for the faint of heart.

A mother’s mood even impacts her unborn child. Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Verny once wrote, “Everything the pregnant mother feels and thinks is communicated through neurohormones to her unborn child.”

Mom’s mood can affect the entire mood and atmosphere of the household and everyone in it. Have you ever noticed, Moms, that on those days you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, everyone else’s behavior heads south quickly? Even if you’re doing your best to shield your kids from internal negativity, the energy is apparent and they just know something is amiss.

On the other hand, have you noticed that when your spirits are high, the household seems happier, more peaceful, and runs smoothly? 

Much like the weather, the emotional climate of a home can vary and be impacted by various conditions.

Of course, Dad’s mental and emotional state also plays an important role in the home environment. A recent study at Michigan State University showed that “fathers’ parenting-related stress had a harmful effect on their children’s cognitive and language development.” Further, “fathers’ mental health had a long-term impact, leading to differences in children’s social skills.”

All parents want to provide their children with a safe, warm, loving, and happy home. One way parents can ensure that happens is to take care of their internal atmosphere, so to speak.

Here are 12 self-care practices for parents that can help with that.

Step Outside

Go for a walk around your neighborhood or, better yet, in the woods or near a body of water. Simultaneously enjoy the well-documented mental health benefits of exercise and being in nature.


Establish a journaling habit. Spending a few minutes each morning to jot down your thoughts can work wonders. Don’t know what to write? List three things you’re thankful for.


Choose a small chore, task, or to-do item that’s been on your mind and take it across the finish line. Finish something and give yourself an enthusiastic high-five. 


Before coffee in the morning, enjoy a tall glass of lemon water. It’s detoxifying and hydrating and also quite tasty.

Break the Fast

Psychology professor Jordan Peterson recommends eating a large breakfast each morning, regardless of whether you’re hungry for it. He says, “Keep it carbohydrate light. Make it fat and protein heavy.” This is especially beneficial if you’re experiencing anxiety.

Anticipate Fun

Make sure you have something to look forward to. Schedule free time for yourself, or a vacation, or a fun family outing—whatever you would truly enjoy and look forward to with excitement.


Get to bed on time. If you’re not getting enough sleep, recognize that it’s probably taking you twice as long to get done what you need to do. Getting less sleep doesn’t save time. Regular sleep rhythms and enough sleep allow your body and mind to run on all cylinders.


Get the help you need by asking. People like to help those they love. You are not an imposition. Allowing others to help you strengthens your relationship with them. Someday, when you can, you’ll help them back.


Hug your spouse and your children. Take the time. Pause. Show affection. Let love permeate your home.


Scents can have a powerful effect on mood. Make your home smell wonderful. Cook. Bake. Light a candle.


Enjoy uplifting music. What’s your jam? Turn it up.

Be Nice …

… to yourself, that is. If your loved ones heard what you say to yourself in your mind, would they be concerned? If so, flip the script and talk to yourself as if you’re someone you love.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza