Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Do my children make me happy?

I had a bit of a moment whilst walking home from work today.  It went like this: I phoned the 12 year old to make sure he'd got home safely from school, and to tell him I was on my way.  We had a normal conversation, but he said something at the end that made me smile.  I can't even tell you what it was; something innocuous, but in his boy's-not-man's voice, with a hint of cheek, and a lot of love.  And for a split second, it made me happy.  Which, after the couple of days I've had, was no mean feat.

But then, as I heaved myself up the hill, I thought: have my children made me happy?  Do any of our children make us happy?  And if not, why are we programmed to have them?

Because the burden of having them both, particularly now I am a single mum, can sometimes weigh heavy.  Sometimes, they argue and fight so much that I feel like taking myself out of the house and walking away.   Very occasionally, they send me over the top so I feel like I've lost control.  In my Granny's day, this is when the stick or the belt would be used; these days, I shout like I'm rabid, then go ominously quiet.  Occasionally I slam doors.

But mostly days pass with the usual rubbing-along-ness that all families have.  Homework nagging. Tea making.  Some jokes.  A little bit of thoughtful conversation.  Moaning.  Arguments.  Music.  Lots and lots of Minecraft.  More nagging.  Occasional dancing.  Laughter.

And all the time, in the background, I worry about them.  I'm anxious on all levels, from the tiny (homework, spots) to the medium (eating healthily, school, friendships) to the humungous (can I afford to feed them?  Are they safe?).

Having children has given me purpose in life.  No doubt about it.  Without children, I would be looking for something else; adventure, charity, business - something to give me direction and clarity.  I would not be without them, I am proud of them, I would die for them.

And my children DO make me happy, sometimes.  But then so does cake.  And sex.  And my birthday.

I'd argue that happiness is not the same thing as fulfilment.  Because although I feel fulfilled, the stress levels I feel at the responsibility I have, can negate some of that happiness.

Having just read this back, I'm shocked at the selfishness of my own post.  Aren't we all supposed to be Earth Mothers, and isn't simply having children supposed to make us beamingly happy?  So happy that we live for our kids?  I wish I was like that.  I really do.

But for me, happiness is a mixture of life's rich tapestry (or some such bollocks) and it doesn't, I'm afraid, rain down out of my kids' arses.

Perhaps my attitude has got skewed?  I'd love to hear your views on this one.

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  1. I don't think you're selfish, you're perfectly normal. Anyone who lives for their kids is using their kids to fill a hole in their lives. Its difficult to say whether we'd be happier as childless people because how can we know now whether we wouldn't feel an ongoing yearning for babies, or find some other self-created doubt or anxiety to obsess over? I believe that life is always going to be a series of ups and downs no matter what road you take in life. No one gets to be happy all the time...

    1. Thanks so much for commenting. I think you're right - no one is happy all of the time. And children frustrate the hell out of ALL of us at one point or another! But I do feel that children do 'complete' some people. Or maybe it's 'family' that completes them. And I am envious of this, and would love to be in their gang.

  2. I loved ready your post. Thanks so much for writing this. It's so honest! I think if we all stop to think we would realise that another person or a thing can't ever make us truly happy. Happiness is (in my humble opinion) a desire or aspiration to feel a certain way, which is sometimes unobtainable. People and things add to this feeling, just as you say. I think contentment is easier to get than happiness i.e. the feeling that you get when you achieve certain things (children, a career goal, running a marathon) and feel proud of those. I personally struggle with what happiness is, are some people just more disposed to it, why doesn't knowing you have a good or fortunate life make you happy? People often say to others 'you have this or you have that', 'you are so lucky, you should be happy' but I personally think happiness is so subjective that no one person's happiness will ever be the same as another person's, and although we aspire to happiness we can't all get there, all of the time.

    1. Hi Joanna, thanks so much for your comments. I agree with you that happiness is so subjective, and that some people seem more predisposed to it than others. I guess, if I were looking at my life in terms of a graph, the line would be pretty steady at the 'contentment' level, with spikes of 'happiness' and dips of low days. Anything can cause these spikes and dips; children, work, house, friends, a comment, a look...and the list goes on and on!

  3. Great article. I suppose I believe that we shouldn't rely on any other person or thing to make us happy. Having said that, adding people who love you to your world does add to the amount of love received although not always the contentment that needs to accompany it for true happiness?!! I'm so different now, forged by motherhood and responsibility, I can't imagine another childless version of myself.

  4. Also, I think when you say that children seem to 'complete' some people, don't forget that people often (even more so in these times of 'social media') put a spin on their lives - everyone wants to be seen as being the 'perfect' family, so happy, so fulfilled, but its like looking at a duck on the surface of the water - you don't know what the hell those little legs are doing down there!! :-) On the subject of people being more predisposed to happiness - I'm not sure on that one - I think its more a case of some people are *less* predisposed to depression?

  5. Great article - brave, too! Questioning the joys of parenthood is a bit of a taboo among parents. I can't imagine NOT having children. I wanted that experience, with its overwhelming highs, thudding lows and an equilibrium which feels 'happy' (whatever 'happy' is, to paraphrase Prince Charles!). I wouldn't ever wish not to have had them, because they are fundamentally part of me, and they're interesting and lovely, as well as surly and uncooperative, and yes, I'm afraid, like most of us, my children ARE my life, along with the day-to-day running of the household, simply because I have no time or energy left for much else . However, there are many, many times when everyone is wanting a piece of me, or I'm at the end of my rope, when I think that I have actually lost - sacrificed - ME in the process. I can't work out whether that statement is selfish or selfless!


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