On Motherhood: Happiness

I was asked to write a piece for Life Well Lived about parenting, more specifically on the topic of happiness. “How do you teach the children in your life happiness?” they asked me.

I’m new at this parenting thing. I thought I still had plenty of time to read all the books, to get organized, to prepare for motherhood and then Scarlette arrived three and a half months early causing me to dive in feet first. I still haven’t found my footing.

I walked away from my open inbox and asked my husband the question still up on the screen. “How are we going to teach her happiness?”

Jeff’s eyes filled with tears.

(He was chopping onions.)

I know. It sounded like a beautiful moment in our parenting, me all serenely posing thoughtful parenting questions while my sentimental husband pondered them. That would have made an excellent blog post, especially if I had any idea how to take pictures with an artful lens flare.

What actually happened was that I burst into the kitchen on my teary-eyed husband (who’d like me to reiterate that he was crying BECAUSE OF THE ONIONS) in a panic. Because that little line of text on my screen? The one someone wanted me to write a response to like I knew what I was talking about? It was just one more thing about raising a child that I hadn’t even thought of yet.

It’s overwhelming sometimes, this huge responsibility of raising a whole person. It would be easy to write this as if I knew. As if I had it all together. As if I sat down to write this and the keyboard gave life to all my natural parenting wisdom.

But it wouldn’t be true.

Often people comment on the time Scarlette spent in the hospital. “I don’t know how you did it” people say. That time was automatic, more doing than thinking. This? This time of shaping her, not wanting to suppress her natural personality, of wanting to cultivate good in her and correcting her while still making sure she feels loved? This time is easily fraught with insecurities. Am I a good mother?

There are so many things I want to teach her. Grace and honor and confidence and love. Kindness and forgiveness and compassion. The sweetness of an engaging and enduring friendship, the beauty of investing in and serving others, the importance of self worth. And colors and numbers and shapes and animals and “I have no idea what a square root is, go ask your father.”

I sat on the kitchen counter while Jeff sauted the onions and pondered all of it aloud.

“I think WE have to be happy.”

I can teach her so many things. I can tell her stories and paint her pictures with my words. I’m good with words.

But it’s me she’s going to look at. It’s me she’s going to watch and mimic and it’s me she’s going to one day thank as she stands on a stage somewhere because I’m her mother and that is who you want to make proud.


So I did something I haven’t done in some time. I sat down with my bible and looked up every single verse about happiness. It’s where I should have started, the paper thin pages that hold more wisdom than I.

And I settled my heart on a time-worn passage of simple text that says to me “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. ” – ecc 7.14

She won’t see me be perfect. She’ll even see me be sad. But I hope she sees that I’m truly happy even in the midst of experiencing other emotions, and that the simple source of my joy is in the Lord.

They told me I only needed to write a few sentences…

You can read some other women’s thoughts on this topic here + you can enter to win a kindle fire by sharing your own life well lived moment here.



  1. says

    Very well put. We DO have to BE happy in order for our kids to SEE happy.

    p.s. I believe Jeff was REALLY crying because you “burst” into the kitchen and SCARED him to death for pete’s sake. (jk Jeff!)

    p.s.s. K.A. – you are such a great writer. When I read your posts, I feel like we’re sitting in the kitchen over coffee or tea. LOVE it.

    Happy Friday! ~Sally

  2. Corrine says

    You are a wonderful writer and I have no doubt that someday when Scarlette is standing on that stage that you will be able to count yourself as a GREAT mother! Lovely post…thanks for sharing.

  3. says

    I admired your strength and the way you care for scarlette while she was in the hospital, soooo much, but this? WOW, I admire you even more now! you are an amazing example of what a mom should be and I feel like if I could write, that is exactly what I would have wanted to write. thank you!

  4. Rosemary says

    Your honesty, humour, and faith are just fantastic. I am 22 years old and will not have children for another few years, but I love reading about the joys and thoughts you have raising your little girl. Thank you! :)

  5. marah says

    I imagine she will be all “mom, whats happiness?” and you’ll be all “Burninaaaating the peasants and the Trogdor comes in the niiiiiiiiiiiight!!!!! oh…sorry, mommy will answer questions after I finish singing.”

  6. Niki says

    “The most influential person in a child’s life is the same sex parent” -Dr. Phil (of course) :) Talk about pressure! I think you are doing and will always do an amazing job as a mother. I’m preggo with girl #2 and I cry to my husband almost daily about how I want to do everything perfect for them so they turn out to be good people and we don’t show up on an episode of Intervention because I totally screwed them up. Thanks for sharing your fears because I have the same ones……you are awesome and your family is so blessed to have you!

  7. Susan McGuire from Sydney, Australia says

    Being a parent can feel overwhelming at times but I think in those moments it makes us appreciate everything we have more and more. By what you write on your blog I know your doing a fantastic, wonderful, terrific, brilliant job at it so far.

    You are already showing Scarlette about happiness in the day to day things you are doing with her. You only have to look at photos of her and you can see she is happy. Just keep doing what your doing and she will be a very happy girl I’m sure. Have a fun and safe week ahead :)

  8. says

    Forgive me, but I think that question about how to teach happiness is goofy. They are totally over thinking it.

    But, you’ve got it. Parenting isn’t teaching so much as Being. You are happy. You are kind. You are playful, etc… Example is the most powerful teacher, whether or not we want it to be.

  9. Darla says

    Aww, I love that. You couldn’t have said it any better. I think about growing up and knowing that even though we may not have had everything we wanted, us kids were happy because my parents were happy.

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