Happiness is an Unscheduled Hour

No Telling

Ilive less than a block from the local country club. Every afternoon as I drive home I juggle a to-do list in my head while the fellas out on the greens are putting and driving and such. More than once I’ve wondered how the hell they find world enough and time for such pursuits. Who’s taking the kids to practice/cooking dinner/making the Wal-Mart trip/grading their papers? Okay, maybe they don’t have any papers to grade. Maybe they’re all bachelors or widowers. Maybe they have hired help and lots of money to throw at them.

All I know is I’m really, really tired and they look completely relaxed. Happy.

There’s been a great deal of discussion lately concerning a research project by Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. It seems they’ve discovered that in the past thirty years or so, men have become happier than women.

Well. That’s not very hopeful.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I remember watching my mother slave over dull housework and limited choices. Did the repetition of daily thankless work and the pressure of being the perfect wife and mother make her unhappy? I thought so at the time. My fist was hovering in the air and I assumed that not only had we come a Long Way, Baby, we could have our families and launch a career as well. I figured Mom was settling for half a life.

I, on the other hand, planned to have it all. A lot of us did.

It appears this research is actually telling us about our mothers and ourselves, and it’s saying we aren’t as happy as our mamas were. Is that possible? I thought diving into the career pool was supposed to change that, and now it appears all we did was dive into the deep end with heavy Power Suits dragging us down. There’s a scary Cult of Perfection we bought into along the way, so now we have to be superhuman in our relationships, jobs, and appearance.

Aunt Bee never worried about her abs, I’ll bet.

The study cites all manner of reasons for women’s waning happiness other than our leap into the office. Interestingly, they find that all women are unhappy, no matter what their days look like. To get to the bottom of it, there’s another study of women who rate themselves as whole and happy.

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/js/2.0/video/evp/module.js?loc=dom&vid=/video/bestoftv/2009/09/27/whitfield.men.happier.women.cnnCNN Video

So how do we measure happiness? Here are the five questions from the CNN video. How do you answer them?

1. How often do you do what you like to do?
2. Do you anticipate the day with joy/dread?
3. Do you get so involved that you forget time?
4. Do you feel invigorated?
5. How often do you have an emotional high?

I’m not completely sure what makes men happier than women, but I have an inkling that they don’t worry the same way we do. Men compartmentalize such things and we tend to compound them instead. I could name fifty-eleven bits I’ve planned for or scheduled or worried about just during the time it took to write this blog post. I’ve also been multitasking by doing laundry and brewing iced tea for tomorrow. For me, writing is the answer to several of those questions up there, but I’ve managed to complicate all the fun out of it tonight.

Maybe I just need to take up golf instead.

27 thoughts on “Happiness is an Unscheduled Hour

  1. Hmmmm. I could say I became much happier when I gave up the idea of perfection, discovered God and grew in my faith. I am extremely busy as I work outside of the home (LOVE my job…it's a calling) and homeschool one of my 2 children in addition to keeping up with the household chores. Maybe it's all in the attitude in which we choose to face the day. Instead of a “what's in t for me attitude” we could say to ourselves “how can I make this day better for others”? Oh well. I must say I'm happier now than when I was in my 20's, suffering depression, bulemia and anorexia and self loathing. I don't have any magic answers but just know what has worked for me and my life. Interesting topic Monda.

  2. Thanks, Nathanael! I really hate golf, so that's probably not the answer anyway.

    Amuse Me, I wonder if these women were asked about happiness while they were cleaning the mezzanines. I mean, there's momentary happiness and overall happiness to think about.

    Serious Replies, I've still got thinking to do on this. Sometimes we're too busy to know if we're happy or not.

    5thsister, you ARE busy! I agree, attitude is everything. Giving up that drive for perfection is a tough one, though.

  3. Very interesting post today. I am not particularly happy at this point in my life but most of that has to do with clutter of various kinds. Completing tasks does invigorate me; I anticipate the day with not so much dread as a wish that there were 180 more of them ahead where I could skip work and just take care of me, the cats and the house. And those fifty-eleven bits…sometimes I do fantasize that my computer dies so I could get more “real” work done…but then I'm happy (joyous actually) when it turns on in the morning. So there you go…

  4. I think the article is right…but I also think we women are smart enough to know it and change it. I fell into that “I want it all” trap as well. I was so busy that I didn't stop to enjoy. Since then I've slowed down my life…my mantra is “the simpler the better” and it really works. I seem to be making better choices regarding what I want to spend my time vs. trying to just fit it all in. (Most of the time.)

    One thing I did recently was to start a blog ….a pretty funny one…I think. If you'd like a chuckle and get a chance …. take a peek and let me know your thoughts.

    Hope to see you soon,

  5. I gave up being perfect a long time ago and am much happier. My house is an absolute disaster and it bothers me a little bit, but I'd rather be out playing with my horse or shooting or reading or writing than cleaning house. I love, Love, LOVE my job and have a hard time leaving it, though I'd give anything to never have to grade another paper.

    I think it has to be a conscious choice to “let things slide”. Men can do it because they're not the ones asked, the minute they walk in the front door, “what's for dinner?” Even in our enlightened age, the majority of all housework falls to the woman, which definitely increases the stress level. My answer to the what's for dinner question, is without fail, “I don't know, what are you going to cook?”. The kids are finally getting it and don't ask nearly as often 🙂

  6. Over the last couple of years I got a lot happier – rather than watiting for eveything to begin, I started doing little things to make it happen. Pretending I was living the life I'd always wanted. Makes a difference!

    I think you're right about the different ways most men and most women worry and mentally sort. Most men, once they address a problem, come up with a solution, and move on. You said it – they compartmentalize, which I find hard to do.

    I read a blog called The Happiness Project that is really interesting.

  7. Don't Golf… please. From my 'golfing' experience, they all just stand around drinking until that little white ball lands in the water and then they just drive around making rude noises and laughing. While that does have some appeal to it, we may not be able to read your words if you're slurred :O)

  8. I may be young, but I've always felt that the women who made it practically mandatory to work were being unfair. I don't they realized that once they have a career, it just added something else for them to do. We still have to take care of the house, the kids, cook the meals, look pretty, and on top of everything be successful.
    I'm not a traditionalist, but I think women are unhappy because they have so much on their plate and no one to share it with. What do the men do? What do they have to worry about? Just their job, and some of them worry about their wives. However, that's all they do; worry.
    Thankfully I am not working, but I do have to maintain a household, take care of a baby, dog, and grandmother. And, I go to school full time. If I had to work too I think i'd combust.
    What helps me get through the day though is writing and reading and watching certain TV shows that are just so smart.
    BTW, I know almost everyone here is a golf-hater, but it's actually quite fun. If you don't take it seriously and just wack the ball as hard as you can, it can be really stress-relieving.

    *check out my blog!

  9. While happiness isn't really a decision, because there are so many external factors, I think we can certainly enhance the joys in our lives… with chocolate chip cookies, songs that make you wiggle it (just a little bit), passport-size photos that are so hideous they are comical… etc 🙂

  10. I suspect a lot of women are unhappy because not only are they raising children and taking care of a home, they are also trying to succeed in a career. I do not have children yet and am only renting a home for now, but just trying to juggle my career with taking care of my place and having a fairly new (wonderful) relationship is a lot to handle! I can only imagine what adding a few babies to the mix would do to my sanity!

  11. Really interesting link; thanks for sharing! I do have to wonder whether women are truly less happy than they used to be — or whether we now just finally feel entitled to SAY how unhappy we feel. I'm a relative youngster, but I can't imagine that my mom and grandmother felt any less busy/disillusioned/stressed/frustrated than my friends and I do as we attempt to juggle so much.

    I will brag a moment by saying that my husband does as much, if not more, on the housework and parenting front than I. (Not that I don't do plenty, of course.) But I certainly agree with the suggestion in the article that houses today aren't as clean as they once were. My grandmothers would likely be aghast if they saw the dust in our house. It's just not a priority — because everything else IS!

  12. Golf is a good walk spoiled.[Mark Twain]

    and frankly scrubbing the floor is a cheaper way of getting fit than going to the gym
    doesn't involve lycra.

    Cicero [apparently] uttered something like “if you have books and a garden, you should be happy” or words to that effect

    i have, and i am.

    ps the security word for this comment turns out to be 'bless'…appropriate!

  13. I have a job that I love..
    BUT from the moment I held my firstborn in my arms- I knew that I wanted to spend my time being MOM

    Even 18t years later- if my boys are home, I want to be home too.

    I've managed to make every game and bake every cookie… but subtract the joy and add the exhaution…

    Just don't think we are made to be everything to everybody- and we are the losers in the equation..

    very thought provoking post- thanks.

  14. You know, there are times when I wish you were all in my kitchen drinking coffee or cheap wine or iced tea and nipping bad snacks while we straightened up the world.

    This is one of those times. It's a delight and an honor to have all of you dropping 'round.

    You need to know that.

  15. Women may have really screwed up by going into the workplace and keeping all their other “usual” tasks. Then again, what do women really need men for anyway?


  16. The NY Times had an op-ed piece about this very topic two weeks ago, and it was just so fascinating to me!

    I think it's unfortunate but so true – because women have to fulfill such higher expectations these days and forget to fulfill themselves. It made me remember to always do things that light me up and to make everything like play!

    God knows there's enough unhappiness out there, no need to add to the masses!

  17. What's not to be happy about? There's a fabulous electric storm outside, I live in one of the very best cities in the world, and it also happens to be situated in one of the most beautiful countries on the globe, and my cats are purring, and I selected and delivered around 400 books to about 35 housebound people today, and I'm married to a glorious redhead who's 2 years my senior, sexy as hell, and nearly 60…
    And my cats are purring.
    Blessings. Count 'em.

  18. I saw that article on MSN. It was a little shocking. I consider myself happy, but then again, I'm in my early 20's and it all goes down from here, right? Nonetheless, I think we woman put too much pressure on ourselves, it can't really be helped, and end up distracted and busy busy busy!
    When I told my husband about the article he thought it was amusing, and then noted that he feels more content than happy, but will refer to the two as the same thing: happiness. Perhaps woman are lacking in contentment? Or just too busy to relax and like AoteaWriter said, count your blessing!

  19. In addition to the “nevermind” men are also good at stomping bugs. Never underestimate that, Maybelline.

    Chloe, I wonder if those higher expectations are coming from without or within. We might be submarining ourselves.

    What a glorious life, Aotea Writer! You may need to start counting your blessings on your toes – you've run out of fingers.

    Love that post, Boyles. You've got down.

    Laura, is it possible that in our drive for perfection we've confused contentment with unhappiness? I wonder. You Gen-Y girls are infinitely more relaxed than us older gals and there has to be a reason.

  20. Monda – I so enjoy your blog.

    You may be onto something with the worry factor. If women do actually worry more than men than no wonder we aren't as happy; nor happier than our mothers = there is just so much more to worry about these days…

  21. Thanks for this post. I've just quit my job, got some cows, and am home with my youngest kid. I thought I was happy. But now I've got a chorus of WOMEN telling me what a mistake I'm making: decreased social security, no W-2, no future career. I'm making the “feminine mistake,” I've been warned. But I'm so much happier. It's not the fix all. And it's not for everyone. But I'd certainly like the space to pursue my own happiness without being told I'm a disgrace to feminism. I'm a feminist too! And I think women should be happy and follow their hearts and listen to their own interior voices, even when that means NOT having a W-2!

    Thanks for the post.

  22. Baffled human (great name!), there IS plenty to worry about. Mom had that whole duck-and-cover worry going on, though, and I suspect she wore it heavily. Maybe we just worry about more things more seriously?

    Sarajoy, why do women DO this to each other? I say tend the cows and the baby and the hell with everyone else. We can be feminists and still be women, I say.

    Fist in air for you, gal.

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