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Kathy Buckworth

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Happy, Who's Happy?

Posted: 08/11/11 12:38 PM ET

A recent report has suggested that family "fun" is anything but, indicating that finding personal happiness through the act of having children is a tad... overrated, and concluding that in fact children can bring the level of "happy" down, not increase it.

I don't really think this will come to a surprise to many people -- oh, sure there are some great times to be had with your kids, and there are many moments of pride, personal satisfaction, and dare I say it, pure joy. But to suggest that the overall level of happiness is higher simply because one has children, is extremely hard to measure given that there's no real way to un-have children and have a real comparison.

For instance, if you didn't have your kids, would you then transfer that sense of unhappiness to the latest promotion you didn't get, the mountain you didn't climb, the third language you didn't learn or great Canadian novel you didn't write? (I have to stop there, as I'm not entirely certain what people without children are capable of accomplishing. Just making sure I still have the same number of kids at the end of the day that I did when I started is a big accomplishment for me some days, let alone studying Italian in Italy.)

I know in my house, the term "happy" starts to take on a different meaning when it gets used by different family members. For instance, my teen daughter, on cleaning her room after being asked, nay begged, to do so 17 times, will stomp downstairs and announce that it is done with a "Happy now Mom?" rhetorical question.

Actually, no I'm not happy about that. There is little intrinsic value to having a teen's room cleaning for approximately 1.7 seconds (the time which lapses between my "inspection," the handing out of allowance/car keys and the time it takes for the hoodie and jeggings to hit the floor). So I have no problem with a report which states that our happiness level is perhaps not where it should be simply because we've had kids.

Happy is as happy does, and writers and philosophers have been trying to crack the happiness secret for generations. How do you define happiness? These quotes say it all for me.

"Parents were invented to make children happy by giving them something to ignore." -- Ogden Nash

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." -- Oscar Wilde

"To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost." -- Gustave Flaubert

"Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory." -- Albert Schweitzer

Clearly, it's all in how we define it. The great thing about being a parent is that it's easy to measure happiness after you've been through some of the greatest depths of despair to get there. Don't make me tell that childbirth story again.

 

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