How to capture what *your* happy looks like, mama

Your specific brand of euphoria? It’s unique to you.

How to capture what *your* happy looks like, mama

Happiness looks different for everyone.

If you can come to terms with that, you’re three steps ahead of most people on this planet. What makes you happy is not necessarily what brings others joy.

Your specific brand of euphoria? It’s unique to you.

Maia Haag spent a long time discovering and capturing the essence of what made her smile and brought true contentment to her life. It took a long time for her to not only find balance in her life, but to achieve what she would call “a life of real happiness”.

After risking it all by leaving her successful career in brand management at General Mills, she self-published My Very Own Name, with her husband and his graphic design firm. Now “I See Me!” is the largest publisher of personalized books and gifts in the US.


Check out her tips below for identifying what makes you happy, and how to bring more of that light into your life.

1. Notice the moments when you feel the most alive

Maia Haag: Take the time to notice exactly when you’re feeling fulfilled and try to work more of those moments into your life. Maybe you love to volunteer, to take art or yoga classes, or play in a sports league. I take tap dance classes for adults each week, and I always feel energized after each class.

Moms hesitate sometimes to take time for themselves, but your spouse and kids will find a way to survive while you’re gone for an hour or two. You’ll bring your happiness home to them. And you’ll demonstrate to your kids how important it is to pursue one’s passions.

2. Surround yourself with those who add to your happiness

Maia Haag: Identify who in your life makes you happier when you’re around them, and schedule regular time with them. Each night after dinner, I take a walk with one of my kids and our dog, and it’s a great way to catch up one-on-one with my kids. It’s also a relaxing end to the day. Our dog will paw my leg when it’s time for the walk, so it’s clearly become part of his routine as well.

My husband and I try to schedule dates at least twice a month to stay connected. To keep up with my friends, I go on dog walks with them on the weekends and I schedule lunches. If you don’t make it a priority to schedule time with the people who make you happy, it’s easy for time to slip away without seeing them.

3. Find what balance means to you

Maia Haag: Life/work balance means different things to different people. I’ve always liked the analogy of the three cups: one cup represents your work, one cup represents your family, and one cup represents yourself. Sometimes two of those cups might be full because you’ve filled them with your time, whereas the third cup has become almost empty. It’s a matter of recognizing when one of the cups is empty so that you can rebalance the cups.

For me, there are constant external demands for me to keep the work cup full, so I have to focus more on the other two cups. To ensure that I spend quality time with my family, it helps when I leave my laptop at work, even if just for an evening or two during the week. I love the feeling of freedom that I experience when I leave it on my desk at the end of the day, and it frees me mentally to focus 100% on my family during the evening.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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