Where Logic Meets Love

(Un)Happiness and Children

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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Happiness | Faith Permeating Life
When I was in high school, I was really big on being positive and how your outlook on life dictates your happiness in life. I do believe that, still, but I especially think that it was important for me to have that attitude during high school, to get through it as relatively unscathed as I did. What I think is interesting, though, is that if high-school me had sat down with the me of, say, a year ago, I would have told me the same thing that every self-help program and book and whatever will tell you: You can't keep waiting for something to happen that will make you happier. If you keep thinking, "As soon as this happens, I'll be happy," you'll never be satisfied.

Because the me of a year ago, despite having grown up with this positive-thinking concept, was waiting. Waiting to graduate, move back home, get a job, and get married. And as much as I knew it was wrong, I couldn't help feeling that once I got there, I would be happy.

Here's what's so astounding to me: I am. I am happy. Now that I'm done with school, living as an independent adult, and married to the love of my life, I am so much more genuinely content that I've ever been. And part of me hates that, because I know that that's not true for 99% of people, that they can't just wait for happiness to arrive, and I know that my attitude did play a big role in my overall happiness for the past decade. But taking away the stress of school and the pressure of poisonous relationships (my interactions, outside of work, are now pretty much limited to the people I actively choose to connect with) has transformed my life, and I now have free time -- relaxing time, reading time, blogging time -- and the ability to love my husband as much as I want to without distance or other constraints getting in the way.

So what does it mean, then, to find at 24 the peace and joy that some people spend a lifetime pursuing? It means I'm sure I'll lose it.

I once read an article about a study that found that, universally, women are unhappier after they have children. It doesn't matter whether they have them young or old, or how many they have, or what circumstances they raise them in. Women's ratings of their own happiness go down after they have a child.

And it makes sense. After all, what did I just say made me so happy? Time for myself, a lack of things to stress over, an unrestrained relationship with my husband. What is the likelihood that will be the same after having kids?

The truth is, I do want a big family. Mike and I have more or less agreed on five kids. I don't want to get past 30 and still have it just be the two of us. But from the vantage point of 24 -- am I selfish or foolish to try to cling to happiness? Possibly. Do I think that children are the only possible drains on that happiness? Of course not. If I lost my job and Mike wasn't able to get one, my life would lose routine and I'd be worried about money. I know that. We want to move in a few years, and that could cause all kinds of complications. I just -- I'm so amazed at how happy I am right now, that my mind automatically projects into the future and what could potentially end the reign of such joy and peacefulness in my life.

So in a way, it's back to the drawing board. Will I be able to stay happy through a conscious choice, when circumstances in my life change? Probably, but about as much as I did in high school or college. I guess maybe that will have to be enough.

P.S. As if to punctuate my point, the toddler across the hall is throwing a tantrum.

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