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Finding Happiness in the Little Things

Christine Pafumi
Oct. 25, 2012

One mom's take on finding happiness from small places to relieve stress as part of the Care.com Interview Series

Whether she's dancing to her favorite music in the driver's seat on her commute to work or enjoying a dinner out with her boys (ages 5 and 7), Colleen Vanier knows the importance of beating stress by finding joy in life's small pleasures. The Milwaukee-based Mommy Always Wins blogger tells us how she manages stressful days at the office and at home while keeping her cool, knowing her limits, and fitting in time for the mindless, addictive games she loves on her phone.

As a mom juggling kids, family and everything that comes with it, how do you generally handle stress?

I try to always be prepared and I'm not afraid to cut corners! I recently told a new mom friend that at the end of the day, it's all about "What's going to keep Momma from losing her mind?" Making a home-cooked meal every night is ideal, but if I actually cooked every night, I'd be stressed out, cranky and wouldn't have much time with my kids. Instead, I try to pick up take-out or eat at restaurants that will serve my kids healthy foods, and enjoy listening to my kids tell me how their day went instead of slaving over a stove while they entertain themselves.

Tell us about your most common stresses. How have you dealt with them? Has it gotten easier/harder to deal with?

My most common stress would have to be related to communicating with my ex-husband regarding kid schedules. I commute a long way to the office every day, so having a good understanding of who needs to be where and when they need to be there is key!

Do you have any daily stress-busting rituals or routines? What are they?

I have a great mix of music on my iPhone that I listen to on my way to and from the office - I say whatever you like, rock it! I don't worry about someone in the next car thinking my music is dorky or that they'll judge me for car dancing. I'm more than likely never going to see them again, and figure if it provided me with 10 minutes of small happiness for no money, it was worth it!

I'd also have to say talking with my friends helps! I may not have as much time for them as I did before kids, but whether it's over text message or over a cup of coffee, that 20 minutes talking with someone who really "gets" me and what I'm going through is invaluable.

There is no denying it - sometimes mom just needs 'me time.' Imagine that you have 30 minutes of free time to yourself. How do you spend it?

With a good drink (coffee, fancy juice or soda, usually) and a good book or something mindless on TV.

Is it hard to break away for a moment of relaxation for yourself? What is your trick for getting away and making time for mom?

I make happiness a priority, and look for it in small places. I'll take a walk outside over my lunch hour, or play some mindlessly addictive game I love on my phone on a 15-minute work break. After the kids go to bed, I set a limit on the chores I do every evening. I know I need that 'unwind time' or I won't be able to fall asleep at night.

If you are in the middle of stressful day and there is nothing you can do to get a minute to yourself, what is your quick trick to de-stress in the moment?

I try to walk away if I can, even if it's just for 10 minutes. I know it works with kids, too. I've asked my kids to spend 10 minutes in their room (OK, more like made them spend 10 minutes in their room) where they couldn't ask me questions or beg for MOOOOOOOOM. Usually I don't get quite 10, but even if it's 5 minutes, I use that time to remind myself, "Will this really matter in 10 years?" Answer: probably not.

Do you feel that your stress can project onto the kids? How do you keep your own emotions in check?

Yes, it definitely does! I try to remind myself I don't want to be that mom who yells all the time. I also realize there is value in the situations where maybe I haven't done my best at keeping my cool. I'll apologize to my kids if I've behaved poorly and point out that Mommies are people, too, and don't always make the best decisions, though we certainly try. I tell them I love them and that we'll all try to be better next time.

What have you learned about dealing with stress over the years?

That it's usually not nearly as bad as you thought it was in the moment!

The kids are finally tucked in for the night - how do you unwind?

I'm definitely a TV gal! I love my TV shows on Netflix! I have a TV in my room with Netflix streaming so I can lie in bed and relax completely.

If you could share one stress-busting tip with other moms, what would it be?

Cut yourself some slack! Don't try to do it all - you'll only make yourself unhappy. Know your limits!

Colleen Vanier is the writer behind Mommy Always Wins. A thirty-something working mother, she loves music, obscure pop culture references and used book stores. She lives in Wisconsin with her two boys. Find Colleen on Twitter and Facebook.

For more helpful tips, check out the Care.com Interview Series: Mom-Stress Busters 

Photo used with permission from Colleen Vanier.

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