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Wednesday, October 14, 2009



Hi Stace. This is an excellent post and a very interesting topic. I remember a friend once told me we're in love when we decide we're in love, which has always stuck with me. It just gets me thinking that maybe we need to take a more active role to be happy -- it's not just something that happens to us, but something we have to make happen on a daily basis. good post. makes me want to read more on the topic.


Great piece, Stace. I wouldn't trade my choices for anything!! I've been thinking a lot about this lately too and agree with Dave that we have to take an active role to be happy but this may be a learned skill and some people didn't have the opportunity to learn it very well. They suffer because of that. Exposure to people or methods (such as meditation or Cognitive behavioral therapy) that can teach them this can help but the individual has to be willing to learn and practice. Even people with this awareness have to find time to practice!


This is intruiging. I can see both sides of the coin, definitely. I echo your sentiment and the other comments about choices. The choices we have and opportunities presented to us have come leaps and bounds from 20 years ago. My take on the ever-present "unhappiness factor" is two-fold. First, we decide when we are unhappy. Even if our days our pressure-filled or doom-and-gloom, we are the ultimate authority on whether that super-charges us or makes us unhappy. Second, unhappiness does not occur in a vacuum. Other people are around that can support, listen, offer feedback, and even solve issues. My co-workers are an extension of my family. I spend an incredible amount of time with these people. Frankly, they are flattered when I reach out to them, as I am flattered when someone reaches out to me. Even if we can't solve each other's problems, it helps to voice a concern and/or just listen. The win-win is that if they help me achieve my goals, we all go home feeling good.


I can’t help but think that the happiest working moms are those with flexible schedules. When I think of the working mothers I know, most have some sort of part-time, flexible, or at-home arrangement. I am thankful for my career, but if I had to clock in at a nine-to-five job, my happiness level would plummet.

And, as for choices, we’re lucky we have so many – but they are just that, choices. Perhaps American women's ‘funk’ can be attributed to us not making choices . Too many of us feel we need an interesting career , active, involved super-children, community participation...and a body that can pass as 30. Our teeth must be whitened, our hair dyed, and our triceps sculpted by 6 am bootcamp classes. And forget about grabbing take-out after a busy day, dinner must be home-cooked, (from organic, locally-grown food, of course). The post-dinner stroll will have to wait, too; there’s bookclub to read for...homework to oversee...and a work presentation to prepare for... No wonder the U.S. happiness meter is sagging!


Personally, I think our expectations are a huge part of the problem. We need to sometimes forget what we think we should do or have or be and just let ourselves experience more joy in what is.


I'm glad to hear from all you happy readers. I think everyone makes excellent points - about unrealistic expectations, the importance of taking charge of your own happiness, and the role of close relationships with co-workers and friends in happiness. I think there's a lot going on here that I know I'll be thinking (and perhaps writing) about some more.


I love the way you phrase it -- that people are trying to put us back in the "barefoot and pregnant" box. I certainly can see that both women and men have greater stress when we pursue "non-traditional" gender roles, such as the male homemaker and female breadwinner. (Although it's increasingly difficult to argue that women who work are non-traditional -- we are the majority, after all.) But I would say that it's worth it to buck the historical trend and pursue our passion, for both genders. Why shouldn't women enjoy the satisfaction of work and men cherish the joys of home and family? The potential reward: a full life.

Steve B.

My problem with the 'happiness' study is that it could have been used as a way to criticize women and feminism *no matter how* it turned out.

An excellent post on Echidne of the Snakes ( went through the other possibilities --

"Let's pretend that we don't know what the happiness survey tells us about the period from 2004 to 2006, and that we only know women came across as somewhat happier than men in the early 1970s...

1. Suppose we find that the results are unchanged from the early 1970s: Women are still somewhat happier than men. How would you use that to attack feminism, hmh?

You could argue that feminism didn't do anything for women! They feel the same although their lives are supposedly so much better! Feminism was wasted, and it is time to focus on men's unhappiness.

2. Or suppose that the results from 2004-2006 show that women are even more happier than they were in 1970s. What does that mean? It means that we are ignoring the poor, poor men who are getting increasingly less happy while we focus on just women and girls. Time to change!

3. What if the more recent results show that men have caught up or even bypassed women on the happiness ratings? What would we write then? Well, feminism obviously failed to make women happier so let's scrap it.

4. Even absolutely equal happiness figures for men and women in 2004-2006 wouldn't do, because they would show a relative drop in female happiness. Thus, feminism failed again.

There you are."

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