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As For Me and My House: Prologue

April 23, 2010

I’m continuing to read Gretchen Rubin’s New York Times best-seller, The Happiness Project, and reflect on Gretchen’s thoughts and suggestions on my blog. This month, Gretchen writes about stress-reducing activities and cognitions to bring additional happiness to parenthood.

There were several difficulties I had while processing this chapter. First, it’s incredibly difficult to conceptualize happiness when it coexists with a concoction of anxiety, fear, and sadness (and a wealth of other emotions parents experience). Parenting appears to be a difficult, tiring, conflict-producing, stressful task; it’s no coincidence that more couples divorce between years 6-8 of their marriage (generally, the beginning of parenthood) than any other time period.

Gretchen evaluates the tension of increasing happiness through a stressful process with the following (from pg. 91-92):

“In many ways, the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called fog happiness. 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.

Many activities that I consider enjoyable aren’t much fun while they’re happening–or ahead of time of afterward. Throwing a party. Giving a performance. Writing. When I stop to analyze my emotions during the various stages of these activities, I see procrastination, dread, anxiety, annoyance at having to do errands and busywork, etc. Yet these activities undoubtedly make me ‘happy’. And so it is with raising children. At any one time, the negative may swamp the positive, and I might wish I were doing something else. Nevertheless, the experience of having children gives me tremendous fog happiness. It surrounds me; I see it everywhere, despite the fact that when I zoom in on any particular moment, it can be hard to identify.”

This metaphor brought hope and peace, and allowed me to ask, in any situation (parenting or otherwise), “How do I recognize and identify happiness in the fog?”

The second difficulty I had while conceptualizing this chapter stems from the fact that I am not a parent. Amusingly, I’ve taught a parenting class before, using material used in positive reinforcement practicums such as 123 Magic. I could lead deep philosophical conversations about setting boundaries and rules for the house, rewarding, and punishing your child. But my knowledge of parenting is strictly theoretical. At this point, all Katie and I can do is dream.

We aren’t ready to have kids, but we want them at some point in the future. Over the next week, I wanted to share some of our dreams of what our home will look like in ten years. These thoughts won’t be parenting skills that we’ll employ, such as whether or not we’ll spank our kids; rather, I want to imagine how our home will be. I want to think about the gifts and characteristics that Katie and I share and those that are unique to us and dream about designing a household according to those passions and unique traits.

In helping to kick off this series, I want to ask this question: “What are some important themes, symbols, and/or unifying activities that identify/represent your household?”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Corrie permalink
    April 29, 2010 7:51 am

    This wasn’t your question, but I tried to name some of the happiness in having a child:
    – to be madly in love with an amazingly cute human being (sometimes I feel like a silly teenager)
    – to be loved back with open arms and a deep trust
    – to hear wisdom in the words of a two-year-old
    – to watch and take part in carefree childhood activities

    I suppose it will change when we’ll have a second, or when they grow older.
    But this is what makes me happy right now.

  2. Corrie permalink
    May 5, 2010 1:57 pm

    Further thinking about this, I want my home to be (and hope it is already):
    – a house of books
    – a house of good home-made food
    – a house of lively discussion
    – a house of hugs and kisses

    And BTW: Happy birthday!

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