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To thine own self be true (but you might be less happy)

By Leslie Graff

sweepI recently read the following article. It said that American women are becoming less happy, while American men are becoming happier. They suggested it was due to women taking on more roles outside of the home. Stating that women are increasingly disconnected and distracted, and as they get busier they have less time for the various parts of their lives and as a group, having children makes them less happy. I wonder if the explanations of these puzzling phenomena are really this simple or more deeply embedded in our cultural beliefs and expectations about self, family, and what happiness is.

We live in a very “me-focused” society. It’s your thing, do what you wanna do. Self is pre-eminent in this day and age.  Sacrifice is the new “s” word. It is a taboo construct in our culture. Few things are seen as egregious as giving up something you want.  Children demand sacrifice, children smack in the face of  self-service. They are needy, they require our time, our bodies, and  the subjection of our own momentary pleasures or desires. There is no question they make life harder.  Any mom who goes to the grocery store can appreciate throwing children into the mix makes it more of a “hassle”.

Can more hassles=happiness though?  To me it depends on how you define happy? If you see happiness pleasure, a mere emotion, something you can’t control, then having children probably will make you less happy.  Yet if you view happiness a choice, something we assign to our lives when we are doing something we feel is important and has purpose, despite our momentary emotions- you probably won’t feel the same way.  Surely too the definitions of happiness are different if you are looking from our long-term, eternal view as opposed to an atheistic, hedonistic, “eat drink and be merry” philosophy.

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