The Happiness Project: Are you happy?

Before we left for the cabin, my friend Meg dropped off a book she’d been reading, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

I’d wanted to read it ever since I read in New York Magazine that children don’t make you happy. Which didn’t surprise me. When it comes to relationships, we always say, “Nobody can make you happy but yourself,” yet we put that expectation on our children and then act surprised when they alone don’t fulfill us.

But they sure are cute.

I wanted to read her book to find out what did make you happy. Because like the author, I am happy – I’ve got a wonderful husband, three adorable children, and a dog to boot – but sometimes I feel I get lost in the busyness, when what I want to do is celebrate the joy my life brings me.

One of her insights into being happy in marriage is, “Don’t Expect Praise or Appreciation.”

I’d been self-righteously telling myself that I did certain chores or made certain efforts “for Jamie” or “for the team.” Though this sounded generous, it led to a bad result, because I sulked when Jamie didn’t appreciate my efforts. — Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project

During our vacation, our 1-and-a-half-year-old got sick. While Matt was off drafting his fantasy football team with his buddies, I cleaned up puke. When I finished wiping up the floor, while comforting our toddler on my hip, I couldn’t help but think Matt owed me. Big time.

I felt myself simmering. Sulking. And I saw what Rubin was saying, how much resentment sours things. Because really that’s what parenting is about, being present in the moment. And sometimes the moment you get sucks but you’re there. You get to be there. And that, in itself, is reward enough for me.

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31. August 2010 by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson
Categories: Marriage, Parenting | Tags: , , , , | 20 comments

Comments (20)

  1. this is SO true…we have to humble ourselves, let go of our pride and expectations and learn to be grateful.

  2. I’m reading this book too! I love it so far:) Very true about being grateful for the things we didn’t know we should be grateful for…like being there for your poor daughter while she’s “puking”. I would have felt exactly like you, and I’m trying to change that too :) Beautiful pictures by the way.

  3. Ugh. So true. So very true. I have ruin too many moments by my own immature / sulking behavior. It is such a challenge to find that happiness within and to serve others with a smile and no bitterness in our heart. I work on that daily.

  4. I’m on the waiting list for that book from the library – Person #65 last time I checked! Apparently, lots of us are looking for our ‘happy’ –
    Speaking of, I just loved reading YOUR book – I find myself nodding my head in agreement with so very much of what you say…
    I’m finding that just because things are going MY way some (ok much of) the time, doesn’t mean that they aren’t going ok…

  5. Personally I think your husband should have been helping to wipe up the vomit but you’re right … there’s no point in festering over something that won’t change. I’ve been married for 20 years and I’ve realized I will never change the things in my husband that drive me crazy. I’m just grateful for his good qualities.

  6. I’d say those little ones could make anybody happy. Look at their little faces..
    thanks for stopping by. Have a great day

  7. Oh, the hose. It is a huge attraction at our house too.
    I saw the book at the book store and I was fascinated by it. Your review has interested me more. I’ve struggled with happiness for a long time and I’ve learned that it has to come from me. It is my responsiblilty to be happy not my kids or my husband. Going to put in on hold at the library right now.

  8. This sounds like a super book! I may have to check it out…

  9. I look at happiness like unconditional love a mom has for her child. It’s unexplainable, feels awesome, sometimes has to forgive or be forgiven, but none the less it is always there. To my daughter, I am Love. I am happiness too. Even when she refuses to go to sleep at a reasonable hour or pick up her huge messes. :-)

  10. I agree. That was a great message, esp. the part that the moment sucks sometimes but you’re there. I feel the same way about my husband sometimes when he’s doing his fantasy sport junk but then later when I’m trying to do something that I really want to do and enjoy, I know that he’ll take the kids so I can concentrate.

  11. First, thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting. Your children are precious. Enjoy them now, at the bat of an eye, it seems they are grown. I had a 4 and 3 yr. old when we had identical twins. I wish I hadn’t felt so tired all the time and had enjoyed them more. We have a great family and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  12. I write partly to remind myself that there is SO much that is really good in life. Of course, I still have to work against my neurosis & melancholy nature but it’s worth it.

  13. Great post! I have to have that book. Thanks for share it. Going to look for it now. :)

  14. This is so true. I’ve wanted to read her book too ever since I came across her website right before the book was published. Sounds like what she has to say is spot on. I adore my family and am so grateful to have them in my life and they are totally the most important thing. That being said, I am also grateful for my many outside interests, because it helps me stay, well, sane most of the time and it gives me opportunities to share new things with my family, if that makes any sense.

  15. I agree that we can’t always expect other people to make us happy. One of the problems that I had (still have) is that I thrive on praise and appreciation. When I don’t get it I feel unappreciated. I’ve learn to pat my own self of the back and be happy about my accomplishments.

  16. Omg, what an interesting way of looking at things. I sometimes resent being the one caring for all the boo boos, and fighting off all the fevers. I should start concentrating on the fact that at least “I get to be there”, and that alone should make me happy.

    Have a great weekend!

  17. I love her website and it is one of my most visited. I have yet to read the book however. It is on my list with eleventybillion others.

    You raise such an important point, so often it is the expectations we place on others that cause us inner turmoil. I have HUGE expectations of myself, place those same expectations on others and naturally encounter disappointment. What has to change in the equation? Only me.

  18. What a true statement that only you can make yourself happy – cute kids definitely help though!!! Happy Labor Day!!

  19. Found you from Follow Fridays! Please let me know how the book is, as I heard about it – but haven’t read it yet……

  20. I think puke often makes perspective hard to remember, but it does return and we do what are called to do. Motherhood is a vocation after all!

    I think I’ll need to read the book!

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