Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Book Club: Parenthood - Lighten Up

In Chapter 4 of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin starts by telling us about a study in which experts found "child care" only slightly more pleasant than commuting. I remember reading that study, too, and thinking it surprising. But then I remembered when my children were toddlers and how stressful it was to be taking care of them full time... I'd taken a year-long leave of absence and was surprised to find that child care was much more demanding than my job as a software engineer. And no one was paying me! Although I had a lot of mixed feelings about it, and I never would have admitted it, there was part of me that was relieved to get back to work when my leaves were over. One of my co-workers asked if I'd enjoyed my "vacation." I just about jumped down his neck when I answered, "Taking care of babies is no vacation!"

Gretchen agrees that children, though a major source of happiness, can also be "a tremendous source of worry, irritation, expense, inconvenience and lost sleep." She explains that she feels the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called 'fog happiness.' She explains: "Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don't really seem to bring much happiness at all -- yet somehow they do."

I would say this thing that Gretchen describes as 'fog happiness' is not 'happiness' but love. Loving someone does not always bring happiness. Love is about putting someone else's happiness above our own. Sometimes you sacrifice, as we do when we care for children, but we do it gladly, because we love them. When someone we love is happy, so are we. When someone we love is sad, hurt, scared, or angry, we often feel those same emotions... so we are not always happy when we love someone. But even though we are not always happy, we could not imagine a world without this person we love.

Of course, if we're talking about teens, we do get to a point where we're happy when they move out of the house.

1 comment:

rebecca @ altared spaces said...

"Of course, if we're talking about teens, we do get to a point where we're happy when they move out of the house." I have to say: this cracked me up.

Yes, it is love. Delicious love. Can't be explained love. I don't know if I want to do it again, but wouldn't ever, ever want to UN-do it love.