Confessions of a happy family

Take it easy

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Maybe we're overthinking family time. Maybe family happiness is easier to attain than it seems.

The article titles are everywhere, and if you're like me, you have learned to tune them out or you live life with a subtle but nagging guilt.

"Four Crafts to Make Easter Magical!"

"Seven Ideas for Family Fun!"

"Three Things You’re Not Currently Doing That You MUST Do Immediately to Ensure Your Children Love You and Turn Out Moderately Normal as Adults!"

Look, a lot of these articles present some wonderful ideas for family fun. We’re not saying to forego these ideas or just give up on activities that allow your family to bond with one another. But the abundance of articles and the numerous Facebook musings of other mothers got us thinking: What actually makes a family happy? We interviewed several normal moms with happy families to get their ideas, and the answers were surprising.

1. Enjoy the "nothing special"

"I’m very happy and content, even when my kids are unaware, when I observe them enjoying each other. My kids like to play board games and sports and just sit around and talk and laugh," says Patty Kelly from Texas.

No one can deny that family vacations are really special, and there is certainly a place for unique events and experiences. But happy families like Patty's have learned to enjoy the mundane in day-to-day life and soak up time with one another, with an understanding that the mundane is special in its own way. When a family can learn to enjoy one another when nothing special is happening at all, happiness and contentment are close at hand.

2. Stop being Super Mom

We laughed out loud at Elizabeth Hayes' response: "I’m happiest when the kids and husband clean the house for me as a surprise — probably not the answer you're looking for!"

What Elizabeth didn't realize is that this is exactly the answer we're looking for. Moms across the U.S. are burned out from trying to do it all. Happiness is challenging to hold onto if you're tired all the time, and it's hard to enjoy your children if you're constantly thinking about the messes that you need to clean up after they finish playing. If you want to feel content and relaxed, then there's a good possibility that something has to give. In fact, married women do seven more hours of cleaning per week than their single counterparts. And since cleaning is miserable anyway, our vote is for husbands and children to take ownership of more of the chores.

3. Play, play, play

Yesterday, my family didn't make it to the zoo. We didn't clean the house. We barely got dinner on the table, and my daughter's pajamas were embarrassingly stained. But you know what we did do? My husband and I, led by our toddler, ran and hopped between our front door and our back door with our hands above our heads, yelling for at least 20 minutes. We did it because our daughter thought it was hysterical, and we did it because we couldn't stop laughing at the smile that was plastered on her face. And even though it was just a silly game, the feelings of contentment welled up inside of me and colored the rest of our evening together.

Life is just too short to be so serious. As women, let's take control of the happiness in our families by relaxing, playing and soaking it all in. (And outsourcing some of the cleaning!)

More on family fun

10 Fun family dinnertime traditions
5 Reasons why family vacations are important
Teaching sportsmanship during family game night