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What Happy Working Mothers Know

“Happiness is a view of the world,” writes Cathy Greenberg and Barrett Avigdor. “It comes when you align your life to your values, learn to love and forgive yourself and others, and find true joy in the small details of everyday life.”

According to What Happy Working Mothers Know, happiness is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Apparently, “worker fatigue – more common in women than men – costs employers an estimated $136 billion-plus a year in health-related lost productivity,” which is why mothers need to accept they cannot do it all and let go of the guilt associated with the choices they’ve made because guilt is the enemy of happiness.

Greenberg and Avigdor quickly clarify that by happiness they don’t mean sitting around giggling all day or singing feel-good songs. “We mean the happiness that allows you to enjoy being your most fulfilled self – whether as a mother, lover, wife, coworker, boss, or all of the above.”

Here’s how What Happy Working Mothers Know suggests you put the H.A.P.P.Y. in your life:

H is for Healthy: Your Physical and Mental Health

Wellness is your responsibility. Your body needs good food, enough sleep, regular exercise, and 10 to 12 minutes of peace and quiet a day.

A is for Adaptive

Create boundaries for your children, your relationships, and your work so that you still have something left for yourself.

P as in Proud of Your Work

Stop setting the bar so impossibly high that disappointment is inevitable. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect for you to take pride in it.

P as in Proud of Being a Mother

Recognize motherhood is not a competitive sport.

Y as in Young at Heart

Replace negative thoughts with positive ones to be free of the shackles that weigh you down and make you sad.


Ultimately, this book’s findings in positive psychology aren’t revolutionary, but they provide validation for common sense solutions you probably already know but don’t put into practice. Still, if you’re into anecdotal evidence, What Happy Working Mothers Know shares enough stories so that you won’t feel alone in your quest for a better work/life balance. For me, the most practical part of What Happy Working Mothers Know is the exercises. I tried literally putting happiness on my to-do list, as Greenberg and Avigdor suggested.

In between notes to drive my daughters to softball and gymnastics, I wrote at least one thing that would help make me happy on each calendar day. Sometimes it was a walk at the park, other times a phone call to a distant friend, and another time I purchased new songs from iTunes. While initially I felt guilty, it didn’t take long for me to see that I was enjoying my time with my children even more because I’d done something for myself.

Of course, we all know we’re mothers, not martyrs, but sometimes when you’re busy trying to meet the endless demands of parenting, it’s easy to forget. Therefore, it’s good to have books like What Happy Working Mothers Know to remind us.


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Read my other blog Befriending Forty at and find out what happens when the person I thought I’d be meets the person I actually became.

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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