Tag Archives: happiness

Happiness is your responsibility

I was reading an interesting article about Pixar today breaking down the character relationships in Toy Story in a paradigm of parenthood.

So even as, on one level, Woody and Buzz act as children to Andy’s parent, on another they act as parents to Andy’s child: His happiness is their responsibility, and they will resort to the most-extreme measures imaginable to ensure it.

I think that’s something a lot of people believe today, that parents are responsible for their children’s happiness. And yes, absolutely, my children’s happiness does depend a lot on me. If mama isn’t happy, nobody is. And I want my children to be happy.

BUT.

BUT.

I can’t make them happy.

And their happiness is not my top priority.

I think many people of my generation—we poor millennials—were raised in this paradigm. But then we reach adulthood and suddenly we don’t have a cruise director who’s in charge of making us happy. Happiness is not only a choice, it’s a skill.

Happiness is a skill.

It’s one we have to learn and practice and we do need to start in childhood. It’s something we have to learn for ourselves, like tying our shoes or riding a bike or long division. And like those skills, we learn it with tutelage, but heavily through our own effort. If we’re never allowed to struggle or make an effort, though, we won’t learn that skill, and we’ll be wearing the emotional equivalent of Velcro sneakers well into our thirties. (I saw an adult, older than me, trying on Velcro sneakers at the store last week. No, sir. Just no.)

Millennials are seldom accused of being well adjusted or well equipped for life. I think cultural norms of parenting, a backswing from our parents’ parents’ parenting, probably did most of us a disservice. (Mom, Dad, I don’t mean you, or us. Obvs we’re doing okay 😉 .)

Even children are in charge of their own happiness. Making my children happy—while very nice—is not my primary function, and ultimately it will not be up to me. I want to teach my children to be happy. That’s absolutely part of parenting. But let’s not forget our goals as parents: we’re fostering well-adjusted, independent, capable adults, not permanent children who depend upon us for their every happiness.

(That may not be anything like what the author intended in his passing comment on the topic, but I just had this brain wave.)

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Don’t overthink happiness!

Ryan got a subscription to Fitness magazine, thinking with a name like “Fitness” it would be for both genders. Of course, it’s really not. (I don’t know; are the pictures of half- and quarter-dressed women supposed to appeal to women? I know I don’t work out in underwear.)

I like to read it, though, especially after I saw this blurb on a study from Perspectives on Psychological Science in the October 2011 issue of Fitness (p 105; emphasis mine):
daddy reading to rachel

Women reported experiencing worse moods after reading an article touting the importance of joy and then immediately taking part in a fun activity. “Setting higher expectations for happiness can actually lead you to feel less happy,” says study coauthor Jane Gruber, Ph.D. . . . To avoid that buzzkill, pause to savor little feel-good moments. . . . “Enjoying the activities themselves, rather than because you think they are going to make you happy, is key,” Gruber says.

What do you think? What are your “little feel-good moments”? (You can see one of mine at right!)

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From the archives: How to choose happiness

This might be my favorite post on this blog of all time.

rebecca smilingChoosing happiness. It’s been a bit of a theme for the year—one of my resolutions, one of our Group Writing Projects (oh, man, looks like it’s about time for one of those again). It’s something we hear about a lot.

And now I finally know what it means.

Surprisingly, it has a lot to do with why, when I talk about how heart-rendingly difficult stay-at-home motherhood can be, people tell me I should get a job.

It’s because we don’t know how to be happy.

I think we need to redefine what constitutes “happy.” It is not the “constant giddy with delight” that society would have us believe.
Liz C, in a comment at Segullah

Choosing to be happy does not mean that we will automatically be happy all the time. It doesn’t mean we always choose whatever might make us happy right this second.

Choosing happiness means we choose the things we know are most important for our long term happiness.

The analogy that keeps springing to my mind is one of food. I like donuts and ice cream and cake and pie . . . I could go on, but you get the idea. Food does make me happy, treats especially. I do the grocery shopping, so if I wanted to, I could stock up on these things every week and eat them every meal.

But I can’t choose cake and ice cream all the time. Yeah, I’d enjoy eating it (to a point), but I would soon get sick, gain weight, and miss out on vital nutrients. (Scurvy, anyone? Oh and PS tooth decay?)

To be happy with my body (liking how I look) and happy in my body (not feeling like crap), I have to make healthier choices. I do enjoy eating healthier foods, too, though not as much as my sugary treats.

The same goes for my day-to-day activities. I could ignore my kids all day, plunk myself down in front of the computer and them in front of the TV (where we are now, thank you), but we all end up grumpy and lazy.

Choosing happiness means doing what I may not want to do most right now—it means choosing the thing that I know is right for me, what’s important in the long run.

Staying home with my children all day may not be an endless delight for me. There are diapers and housekeeping and tantrums and nap strikes. But I believe the most important contribution a person can make to the world is to raise their children right, to show them love, to give them their personal attention. I know that in twenty years, my successful marketing campaigns won’t be what warms the cockles of my heart.

By choosing to raise my children myself, I’m choosing a long, hard road—but one that leads to real, long-term happiness.

What do you think? Are you giving up treats today so you don’t vomit tomorrow?

(More thoughts on how to choose happiness as a mom here.)

This post originally ran 8 October 2009.

Photo by Swamibu

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What is happiness?

Considering the topic of my blog, quotes on happiness tend to stand out for me. I found one of these last week while reading Delirium, which I really liked. The book is about a society where they’ve found a cure for love—and it’s mandatory. It’s illegal to fall in love. Even parents don’t really love their children. If a child gets hurt, their parents tell them to get up—if they respond at all. A mother mentions that her child had pneumonia for two weeks as if she was reporting an appliance breaking down. (Dude, if I didn’t love my kids, I’d be ANGRY I had to take care of them when they were sick. But the Cure takes care of that, too.)

The main character and her best friend are coming up on their turn for the procedure. As they go in for their pre-procedure evaluations, the friend turns to the main character and says, “You can’t be really happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes. You know that, right?

The main character thinks her friend has kinda lost it, but by the end of the book, she knows that her friend was right.

The other happiness quote I’ve come across this week was on a friend’s blog:

Everybody in the world is seeking happiness – and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.” – Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People via Clarissa Draper.

Love it!

What are your favorite quotes about happiness?

Photo by Peyri Herrera

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J is for Joy!

Yeah, I know, J was Tuesday. But I did L Tuesday and now I’m doing J. It’s all good.

Men are, that they might have joy.


Typically, people define the difference between happiness and joy with happiness being more fleeting, and joy being deeper, stronger, and longer lasting.

I think that’s pretty accurate. Joy and happiness can co-exist. I see both in the little moments of motherhood.

I think Joy is built from little moments of happiness, with the assurance (or at least the conviction) that our choices are on the right track—that we’re doing what we should be.

What do you think? How do you define Joy? When do you feel it?

Photo by Collin Mel Cunningham

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Loving any minute of it

If you’re in Utah, don’t forget to enter the Thanksgiving Point Giveaway! Today is the last day!

It seems like, if we’re happy, we’re supposed to love every minute of our lives. If we enjoy motherhood, we should love every minute of it. And some people really do love every minute of being a mom—so if we don’t, there must be something wrong with us.

I don’t believe that’s true (and I sincerely hope it’s not!).

I say this because sometimes I struggle to love any minute of motherhood, for weeks at a time. Sure, there’s the occasional 30 seconds of bliss as I snuggle a finally-asleep-again-baby, and the flush of pride when Rachel starts crawling at six months or Rebecca successfully counts to 12(!) at <two and a half, and the smiles at Hayden’s first realistic full-body drawing:

Hayden has drawn Rachel. The spots on her tummy show where her diaper leaked.

But those tiny pleasures are so easily forgotten after hours of diapers, whining, crying, screaming, bickering, punishments, refereeing, and motherhood in general—hours where it feels like these tiny tyrants need everything you have to give and more.

When I dare to admit that feeling, I often get comments telling me I should go back to work. Give up, essentially. Focus on what will make you happiest (“giddy with delight”) immediately.

I do still think that what I’m doing as a stay-at-home mom is important. But sometimes, I’m so unhappy on a daily basis that I struggle to feel that what I’m doing is best for me and for the kids.

I do still think that what I said a year ago is true:

Choosing to be happy does not mean that we will automatically be happy all the time. It doesn’t mean we always choose whatever might make us happy right this second.

Choosing happiness means we choose the things we know are most important for our long term happiness.

But I think I need to put more effort into making better choices on a day-to-day basis. I don’t believe we’ll be “giddy with delight” every minute, no matter what we’re doing, but we can try to focus on the things that do make us feel good about motherhood. And it’s about time I recommit to doing that.

When I was good about working on Feeling Fulfilled Fridays, that’s what I was trying to do: focus on those things that I can do to affect the way I feel and we all function. Maybe it’s about time I work on those things again.

I stopped posting about it for several reasons: struggling with these feelings, being too busy, and the deafening lack of response and enthusiasm from 99% of my readership. However, I think that focusing on fulfillment again—refocusing—can help with the first two, since I think they’re really symptoms of the problem instead of side-effects.

The last one . . . well, that one’s up to you. Is there anything I can do to help encourage you to participate in Feeling Fulfilled Fridays?

As a reminder, for FFF we create a list of things that help us feel accomplished, work on a few of those things during the week, and report on Fridays.

What can you do to enjoy your time as a mother more?

And oh yeah, Rachel really is crawling:

Manic smiley photo by Astrid Phillips

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