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Education Reporter

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Meg Meeker, M.D., Ballantine Books, 2010, $25.00.

Moms spend a lot of time trying to teach their children good habits. But when was the last time you spoke with a mother who was working on her own habits?

Meg Meeker's book, The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity, serves as a wake-up call to the many mothers who have let their responsibilities — or, in some cases, their vices — get in the way of their own spiritual, mental, and emotional health. Meeker advises mothers to step back and evaluate their habits, and then work on improving themselves in the following ways:

Habit #1: Understand your value as a mother
Habit #2: Maintain key friendships
Habit #3: Value and practice faith
Habit #4: Say no to competition
Habit #5: Create a healthier relationship with money
Habit #6: Make time for solitude
Habit #7: Give and get love in healthy ways
Habit #8: Find ways to live simply
Habit #9: Let go of fear
Habit #10: Hope is a decision — so make it!

Meeker looks at each of these habits in depth, explaining why each is necessary, offering practical tips for working on them, and illustrating her points with stories about women who have successfully navigated them.

Much of Meeker's message can be distilled into one phrase: live simply. Inner contentment, she explains, is hard to achieve when one's environment and schedule become too complicated. Fortunately, when you simplify your external world, your internal world will tend to follow suit. Similarly, when mothers take time to work on their own shortcomings, their entire family usually benefits. She suggests one especially useful exercise to help mothers become more whole:

First, let's make a brutally honest (and private) list of what we expect from ourselves. We must have it all to ourselves on paper because we can never change what we don't know exists. List what you expect of yourself and be very specific . . . Now keep that list and write an entirely new one. Write a list of the goals you have deep down for yourself . . . List them in order of priority from 1 to 10 . . . Review the first list a few times. Now tear it up . . . Take the second list and scratch everything but the top three items off . . . Commit to yourself that you will work only on these three things for six months or a year and let everything else go.

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