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Perfect or Happy?

by Shelley Colton


I recently came across an enlightening expression on a blog post by Alex Miles which deeply affected me:

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned through motherhood, it’s that [kids] need a happy mama, not a perfect one.”

You know that old adage “If mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” We know it’s true! This perspective changes the way I feel about self-care, about intentionally making time for me. Not only is it essential to nurture ourselves for our own sanity and happiness, but it is essential for our children’s joy as well. They will learn to follow a pattern of self-care in their lives as they see us practicing self-care.

I have noticed that when I am feeling resentful – yes, that is the primary emotion that clues me in – it is often because I have been neglecting to take care of myself. I can’t say it enough: caring for ourselves is not selfish. It is imperative.

Ramona Zabriskie touches on this principle in her remarkable book Wife for Life. She affectionately refers to self-care as “The Pioneer Woman Challenge,” in honor of her own great-grandmother who taught her this important value. She points out that taking care of ourselves is at the heart of building beautiful relationships - with our spouse as well as our sons and our daughters.

“Building beautiful relationships requires a woman of pioneer proportions; courageous, pliant, resilient, centered, and most of all, self-reliant. In order to preserve and cultivate her stake - her man and her family - a Pioneer Woman takes care of herself. This is the only way she can give from abundance (from a full heart and with a strong body) and receive with confidence (from a deep-seated belief that she deserves nurturing and attention) . . . she believes in her own objectives, but finds a way to meld them with the hopes of others, particularly those of [family].”

So, what is “The Pioneer Woman Challenge?”

“It’s not as strenuous as plowing a prairie or as distasteful as plucking a chicken. Any woman can do it. Any woman will love it. All you have to do to execute The Pioneer Woman Challenge is romance your own heart. Be your own fairy godmother. Go get happiness--by yourself and for yourself. Thrill yourself. Fill yourself . . . fill your own tank by taking responsibility for your own happiness. Romance your own heart.”

And here’s how Ramona advises to get started. Get out your journal or a notebook and begin now:


1) Make a list of three things that you do, or can do, or would like to do, that dazzle your heart. Three of your greatest passions. Remind yourself of these every day, then keep your heart and eyes open for opportunities to take steps toward them.


Brainboosters: Dreams, projects, long-term goals or hoped-for eventualities. Write a book, own a bed & breakfast, build a cabin on a ranch, travel to Europe, record a song, learn to play an instrument, etc.

Litmus test for opportunities that come while dazzling your heart: “Is this opportunity helping me to respond to my family with love, generosity, and intelligence? Or am I still reacting to situations because I feel more stressed than ever?”

Don't go overboard. “Draw your [family] as much as possible and as much as they are interested, into your passions. Prioritize their well-being over that of everyone else in your world, so they never have to question your why, your availability, or your love. Give their passions just as much enthusiasm as you give yours.”


2) Make a second list of AT LEAST ten things you do, or can do, or would like to do, that delight your heart. Ten ordinary things that make you feel good. Choose one or two or more every day and do them - no matter how busy you are!


Brainboosters: sit at the piano for a few minutes, shop, get your hair or nails done, go to lunch, go for a walk or run, call your mom or sister or friend, take pictures, draw, watch a show, plant flowers, garden, write a letter, dancing, rocking a sleeping baby, enjoy good smells, baking, yoga, journaling, blogging, reading, meditating.

The takeaway according to Romona? “Romancing your own heart will make you irresistible. Your inner contentment reassures your [man and your children]. Your genuine cheerfulness draws [them] to you.”

And who doesn't want that?


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