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I’ve heard it so many times.

I’ve even thought and said it myself: “I just want my kids to be happy.”


But recently, I’ve decided “just being happy” isn’t what I want for my kids.

Lots of things make my kids happy. No rules and late nights watching Disney Junior makes them happy, a mountain of Skittles dropped into a tub of caramel popcorn makes them happy, setting them loose in a toy shop with sticky fingers and a hammer makes them happy.

My ultimate objective as a parent is not to make my kids happy, it’s to see them fulfilled.

Happiness will be the occasional side-effect. But happiness is a fickle thing and seeking constant happiness is just as numbing as none at all.

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When I focus so intently on creating happy kids, I am implicitly teaching them that any time they’re not happy, life is bad.

It’s an attitude that offers them ice-cream sundaes to cheer them up when they’re sad. It’s more toys when they’re bored—or hours of TV to keep them entertained. But that only teaches them that a lack of happiness can be fixed with ‘stuff’ that comes from the outside.

No one has ever found happiness there.

I now believe that my job as a parent is not to make my children happy, it’s to keep them healthy and safe.

And if I get to want something for my children, it’s not going to be happiness.

What I want for my kids is to experience love in both its waxing and waning phases.

I want them to overcome challenges with intelligence and grace.

I want them to adventure through their hearts and minds, uncovering more exquisite treasure within them at every turn.

I want them to live in lifelong curiosity, to hunger for knowledge, to thirst for experience.

I want them to be rooted in empathy and compassion for the world around them. I want them to be kind and generous, full of humanity.

I want them to want to make a palpable difference to the lives they cross.

I want them to believe in who they are and the power of their tiniest contributions.

I want them to be confident.

I want them to meet fear often, and to find courage on occasion, because that means they’re working outside constant comfort and security.

I want them to explode with ideas and creativity, to explore, to experiment with whatever they can get their hands and minds on.

I want them to take risks, to fall, to fail and to learn what it is to stand up again with scrapes on their knees and scars on their hearts.

I want them to believe in the healing power of ‘again’ or ‘next time.’

I want my kids to be secure enough in themselves to go hunting when they’re hungry and to be big enough to share the catch when they make it.

I want all these things for my kids and most of them don’t come with the irrationality and flightiness of happiness.

Those things require effort and time and commitment from me as a parent.

They require me to continue to educate myself about first and foremost, myself.

They require me to be the best and most authentic version of ‘me’ every day, every minute, every ‘now’ that they’re around and that they’re not.

They require me to read and learn about education, nutrition, psychology, children, brains, candy making, costume jewelry, dinosaur species… whatever matters at that moment.

They require me to find the teachable moments in the endless milk spills and broken vases.

They require me to explore my own fears and limitations and breaks and beliefs.

They require me to be open and to hold space for them to be themselves.

They require me to be understanding of their differences and their quirks.

They require me to problem-solve on the spot when they come running to me in tears.

They require me to step back when they have their own battles to fight, when they have their own wounds to heal, and they require me to know when to fix, and when to hold.

They require me to have endless compassion, to rain love and understanding and acceptance on them whenever I have the energy left over, and especially when I don’t.

They require me to have courage and faith when they are dealing with something I have never come across and don’t know what to do.

They require me to say I don’t know, let’s look it up. And sometimes, simply not to know.

They require me to stare in the mirror for a good long time, they require me to admit my own faults, to laugh out loud as often as possible and also to cry out loud when crying is what’s needed.

They require me to ask for help and forgiveness and support and to live with as little guilt as I can possibly survive with.

Parenting is one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. It is also one of the most soul-wrenching, heart-scoring, mind-bending, love-filling, confidence-scorching, self-esteem-building roles a human could ever play.

And it’s a lot of work because I want to be the kind of parent that my kids will want to be like.

I want to be the kind of parent my kids look up to and the kind of parent they turn to when they need a friend to listen. I want to be the kind of parent that knows deep in the depths of her secret soul that she gave what knowledge and wisdom and experience she had, went in pursuit of what she didn’t, and lived in peace with what was left in between.

Just wanting my kids to be happy isn’t enough.

Teaching then HOW to design lives brimming with meaning, connection and value is a monumental challenge.

I’m still learning how to get there myself.

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Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:


Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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