Happiness Is Overrated. Thankfully.

So I’ve been in Recharge mode for the last couple of weeks, fobbing off my blog duties on the very ones who have sapped my energy. And I made the mistake of mentioning to someone how weary I was. I got a familiar response:

“Oh, but you wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make you happy.”

What!? What the heck does happiness have to do with raising kids?

You will be proud of my improving social skills, because those words did not come out of my mouth. Instead I forged a brittle smile and mumbled something noncommittal. My other option was to remind my accuser of all the studies on the subject. But that would have been perhaps more troubling.

Parents, you see, report being less happy than child-free couples. And stay-at-home parents are on the bottom of that happiness index.

Does that shock you? Of course not; it’s mostly parents who read this blog. It doesn’t shock me either. Where is the surprise that someone who gets to come and go as they please and sleep in whenever they want to would report being happier than someone who can’t? Who wouldn’t prefer endless freedom to go out to dinner and chat about witty adult things, or to go out to a bar and blather about stupid adult things? Who wouldn’t choose forty hours a week of work, then a life of leisure for the other 128?

It makes you wonder, why would anyone have kids?

Me, I’m not going to even try to answer that question for you. Instead, I’m going to ask you to look at a brisk fall day at Soldier Field. Look at the guy down on the field, sweaty, bloody, sucking wind, busting his head. Then look at another guy up in the stands shrieking “Go Bears!” with a beer in his hand and his face painted orange and blue. Who’s happier?

Of course it’s the guy with the beer, the guy who’s not in the middle of the game.

But, twenty years from now, which of those guys is going to remember this day and remember it proudly?

See? That’s my point. Happiness is overrated.

Me, I’ve got something better. I’ve got a purpose. I’ve got a reason to get out of bed each and every morning — usually way earlier than I’d like to and sometimes with such urgency that I break a toe stumbling groggily over the rug like I did last week when I was supposed to be “recharging.” (I had heard my early rising daughter cry out an astonished “No!… Noooo!” and pictured her or her sister’s guts spilling inadvertently on the floor. When I limped into the family room, I finally heard the “s” that preceded the statement. “Snow!… Snoooow!” Literally dozens of snowflakes had fallen overnight. Dozens! For this I lost a toe.)

I may not remember that particular day twenty years from now. I may not remember much of these years in any great detail at all, what with the way the sleep deprivation and constant suck of attention has decimated my gray cells. But I will remember this period of my life in a vague, impressionistic way. And I’ll remember it proudly. If I don’t screw it up before then, that is.

So, broken toe and all, that’s what I’m thankful for this week. You?

2 thoughts on “Happiness Is Overrated. Thankfully.

  1. I’m thankful for parents who also saw this choice as one of long-term reward, if not short term pleasure. And since I was a teacher for many years, I’m thankful for all the parents who feel as you do – because those parents give a teacher a wonderful gift. Thank you, all of you!!

  2. I am thankful that my son (age 27) is: 1) a college graduate, 2) gainfully employed and 3) dating a really sweet girl who a) can hold a conversation, b) is not a maniac and c) is not badgering my son to have a truckload of kids–marriage not necessary (long story, don’t ask).

    I am thankful that my daughter (age 21) is: 1) a junior in college, 2) studying to be a teacher, 3) not pregnant, 4) not an alcoholic or a drug addict and 5) NOT in possession of her driver’s license yet (which insures that my car will remain relatively intact for the time being).

    I am thankful that both my children survived my divorce from their mother with a minimum of screaming, crying and saying “I hate you.” I am thankful that they both voted in the Presidential election. I am thankful that they are both practicing Catholics. (My son wandered off the reservation for a few years, but he’s back now, thanks to his Baptist girlfriend who got up in his grille about his intellectually lazy comment that he was “spiritual, but not religious.”)

    I am thankful that they are both physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. I am thankful that they both have Irish tempers and the wit to hold their ground in a heated argument. I am thankful that they listen to me, even when they disagree with me–which is frequently.

    But I miss playing catch with my 10-year-old son in the backyard. I miss coming home from work, getting out of my car, seeing my 6-year-old daughter smile gloriously, hearing her shout “Daddy!”, watching her run towards me and feeling her grab my legs in a fierce hug. I was much happier back then.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Pat.

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