Are You Happy, Mama?

“Are you happy, mama?”

My daughter started asking me this a lot, about a year ago. I’m not sure why. She asked it sometimes when she was reading the scowl on my face. I understood why she was asking it.

But other times, we would be in the course of a normal moment in a normal day and it would come: “Are you happy?”

Usually, my answer was yes. Of course I’m happy. Are you happy?

Other times, my answer was no. Or not really. I never gave those answers out loud.

After she asked, I would always pause. Am I happy?, I'd question myself. And: Do I appear happy? Her question would made me realize all that I have to be happy about. Was I actively feeling happy in the moment she asked? Maybe not exactly. But once she asked, and I reflected, I would see around me an abundance of things to be happy about:

Breakfast with my children. A healthy breakfast. Organic, even. We can afford that, plus the house we’re sitting in. My kids are cozy and clean. We’re listening to Jack Johnson on a device that allows us to call out virtually any music we want to hear, and within seconds we’ll be listening to it.

These are the simple things, the things that are so commonplace that they go unnoticed in the course of most regular days. Of course we have food in the fridge and a place to sit together and eat. Of course we do.

But, of course, that is not a given. And when you can feel that deep, authentic gratitude for the abundance you otherwise overlook, the day changes. Life changes. We were so abundant, all along. And yet still, more abundance flows.

It’s easy to forget this because I am human. And a mom. And you know the things that make us human moms don’t always put us in the zone of immense gratitude. It is honestly so much easier to fall into a thought pattern like “I would rather be sleeping than eating breakfast at 6am because my kids won’t sleep and it’s not like I get to eat breakfast—they do. When I make breakfast for myself, they just want what I have and I don’t get much. The toddler is throwing his blueberries on the floor and oh my gosh are those ants? Again, ants? He won’t eat the blueberries but he will try to eat the ants attracted by the blueberries, what the heck is up with that? I better empty the dishwasher before he’s ready to get out of his chair so I can actually empty it without him climbing in and reaching for the knives.”

But then, it would come: Are you happy?

And then, gratitude.

It reminds me that, in any moment, we can make a shift from that stressed, overwhelmed place to a place of gratitude and abundance.

It’s not always easy. It took me a lot of practice and reflection to get there. But now I can make a hairpin turn to joy. Quiet joy, but, I hope, joy that is reflected on my face and in my being. Joy that makes my daughter not have to ask “Are you happy, mama?” Because she sees it. Because she feels it. Because she knows.