As soon as I wrote this title, the words came into my head from an old song by the Mamas and the Papas called, “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” I have now given you a big clue as to my age. I found a great video of Mama Cass Elliott singing it here. This is special because she was a great example at the time of someone who was defining her own happiness. So how are you defining your own happiness?
I think it’s very easy once we become parents to define our happiness by the happiness of our children. If they’re OK then we must be OK. And when you have a RAD kiddo that can be really tough. Because you are going to have days, weeks and maybe years where happiness maybe fleeting or seemingly non-existent. And it seems unnatural to search for happiness if your child is not happy. Like we are not entitled to be happy unless the rest of our family, down to the family pets are happy. How did that come to be?
This happens in families who aren’t dealing with a special needs child as well I’m sure. But living in the constant chaos and anxiety of life with a RAD kiddo means that we will be taking a backseat for a very long time. Possibly forever if our child cannot learn to live independently. So do we just sit back and wait to see if we will be able to carve out happiness for ourselves? Doing that is not healthy for ourselves, our relationships or our ability to effectively parent our RAD kiddos.
Defining your own happiness begins with not making your happiness contingent on the happiness of your partner or your children. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work towards making them happy as well. But it does mean that you should identify what is essential to your happiness whether it involves your family or not. That’s not meant to sound harsh. Just that the more you are real about what will make you happy and content, the better able you will be to take care of your family.
So how do you go about defining your own happiness? Well, I am no expert. I spent many years caught up in the lives of my children. After August was diagnosed I was consumed with how to “fix” him. And after homeschooling, tutoring, therapy and extracurricular activities as a stay-at-home mom I got completely lost in my child. When my marriage ended and I had to go back to work and strike out on my own I had no idea what my life needed. And as the years have past and August has spiraled more away from me, my sense of self and definitions of happiness have been tossed more times than I can count.
Here are a couple of references to how to define your own happiness. This first one from Psychology Today is pretty logical and straightforward. This second one aligns much more with what it feels like to be a RAD parent. In both cases, they describe spending time soul-searching for those things which are truly yours in your search for happiness. That is what I wish for you.
Until Next Time,