Tuesday, June 16, 2009
When a reader forwarded me this article, entitled "Were 1950s Moms Happier?", I felt like she had been reading my mind--just the week before I had been talking with a group of women about the "curse of too many choices," and about a conversation I had with my mom in which she told me that the idea of finding "fulfillment" in her work would never have occurred to her--back in the 70s, when she was a recent immigrant and looking for a job, finding something that paid the bills was the end in and of itself.
According to the article, and the NYTimes article it references, we are a bunch of melancholy mommas. And while there has been much commentary poking holes in this conclusion (the one that resonates most with me is that women in the 1950s might not have honestly reported their unhappiness--think "The Hours"), it is telling that many of the "reasons" people give for this sort of malaise center around an an over-involvement in the lives of our kids, and the constant navel-gazing about "the perfect work-life-family" balance that, let's face it, we all engage in.
Could it be? Could it be that, in trying to craft a delicate system of balance in our lives, we are actually engaging in self-sabotage? I can remember when, in a moment of postpartum haze, I asked my mom if she was "happy" working full time, raising two daughters, putting dinner on the table every night...her answer was this: "It never occurred to me to ask that question." Now, that may seem less than ideal from our oh-so modern and over-analytical vantage point--but, according to this article, perhaps not over-thinking happiness is a precursor for actually being happy.
When I really think about it, I know that more choices and more opportunities are a good thing. Just because I am realizing at this point that there will never be a perfect harmony of everything I want in my life doesn't mean that striving for such a situation shouldn't yield happiness. Bottom line? Sometimes you have to decide to be happy.