Unhappy, really?

photo by Jessica Todd Harper for New York Magazine

A writing teacher of mine once told me that "Thinking about writing is writing." That would mean that I have written several novels, a manuscript, a book of short stories and a few children books. I am always thinking about writing - in fact not a day goes by that I don't have 20 ideas or happenings that I want to transform into the written word. And then comes motherhood.

Take this post for example. It has been sitting in my drafts folder for 7 days. And its been in the drafts folder in my head as well - taking up precious resources and energy that I don't have to spare. And taking me out of the present moment, when I could be fully immersed instead with planes, trains and automobiles.

As you can see, I am not only a little behind in my blog writing, I am also behind in outside reading. I don't always get the news right when its happening which means I don't get the interesting editorials either. This one from New York Magazine is from June and its only September. That's not too bad, is it?

All Joy and no fun - why parents hate parenting by Jennifer Senior (for full article follow this link NY Magazine) candidly explores the not so sunshiny part of parenthood. The part where you snap at your partner just because he is there, the part where you open a beer at 5pm because it might be only thing to calm your nerves, the part where you feel alienated from the rest of the adult world because you spent your day in the sandbox, the part where you feel like you have been traveling without speaking the language because you have been trying to decipher the signs and sounds and pointing of an 18 month old whose mind is much sharper than his language skills and the part where you have to use every part of your creative mind and master degree educated brain to figure out how to get your child to eat, anything.

This article supports the claim that I heard many months ago, that people with children under the age of 5 report to be the unhappiest amongst parents. No surprise. It's hard. And no amount of profound love and divine connection that you have with your baby changes that.

So why are people with children less happy than people without children, as the article suggests. There could be so many reasons and so many factors, but I think that at the very essence of the matter is this: expectations. We wait for happiness: until we get into our 1st choice college, until we find that perfect mate and have that perfect wedding, until we find the right house, until we have that perfect baby, until we have that second perfect baby, and so on. Should I continue?

And then when we (I am speaking for women here) have some or all of those things, we try to do it all. Work, mother, cook organic meals every night, keep a perfectly clean house, maintain friendships, maintain our marriage and maintain a wonderfully put together physical appearance. Um, please tell me how you make this work?

This expectation and need to do all of these things is what makes me unhappy.

I can see this play out in my own life, even though I know how fleeting and useless this line of happiness seeking is. And when I do actually allow myself to just get on the floor and build the garage with my little engineer, that is when it hits me that I can simply be happy. That I have a choice. But then I start to think about dinner that has to be made and the emails that I haven't answered and finances I haven't dealt with and the blog posts that I really, really want to write and then the flood of "I am so unhappy with my life" washes over me.

I don't like the monotony of raising a child or the extra energy it takes to let him walk down the stairs by himself or the extra time I have to take to wait until he puts all his pacifiers back in his bed in the morning, but it is part of my choice to become a mother. Part of raising a child in this modern Western world. And really, my reaction, my happiness, my attitude, is all up to me.

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