Ross Douthat has a pretty good column about women’s happiness declining while men’s increase.  He runs through a whole list of possibilities but I think he may be starting from the wrong place.  After all, what is ‘happiness’ exactly?  And how desirable is it, if it means excluding other emotions?  As an example, studies find that people who voluntarily elect not to have children are, overall, happier than people who do.  Now, I may be less ‘happy’ with my kids, but there are other emotions, ones I don’t think we have names for, that take the place of happiness.  And although I can’t adequately describe them, the idea of going back in time and electing not to have kids and thereby exchanging them for ‘happiness’ is absurd.  I’m much more fulfilled with the kids than without them. So too might women’s lives be richer and more full, albeit with less room for ‘happiness’.

And what about men’s increasing happiness.  Just speculation, but one emotion we may have less of (and thereform more room for happiness) is pressure.  With two income earners in a household, the temporary loss of a job doesn’t necessarily mean swift loss of healthcare for the children and financial doom for everyone.


One Response to “Happiness”

  1. Cathy Says:

    I absolutely agree that men’s happiness has most likely increased as the pressure to solely provide a comfortable existence for those unable or unwilling to provide for themselves, decreases. In today’s structured world … we cannot so easily deviate from the expectations we have put upon ourselves.
    No time to take note and enjoy the beautiful scents that permeate the air on a beautiful spring day or to leisurely watch a beautiful sunrise when little Johnny has medical needs and the bills are mounting….. those simple things that bring true joy must be set upon the shelf for another day far off down the road. Today your mind is filled with worry and there is no time for enjoyment when all the solutions must come from you…. how wonderful it would be to let someone else provide the answers.
    Burdens are far less cumbersome when they are shared and although we have made a start in this direction, we have much to improve on.
    It makes sense women’s happiness has decreased as they return to the workforce full time…. Doing their best to function as stay at home mom, while simultaneously working outside the home. I would bet there was no home cooked meal waiting for the majority of working Moms when they returned home from a hard days work…. There was no one waiting there for them with well behaved children who were told to be quiet while loving spouse fetches their slippers.
    This last decade has produced evidence that both men and women can find happiness through sharing the burdens of everyday life.
    Asking rather than demanding; appreciation rather than expectation…. the balance can be tricky, but so worth it when both men and women find they can take those simple joys down off-the-shelf and bring happiness into their lives today instead of some day far off down the road.

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