Happy happy joy joy

I was really honored that yesterday, Gretchen Rubin, amazing author and happiness evangelist included me in her series of Happiness Project interviews.

(You can also find it on Slate, which...wow. Kinda nice.)

It seems like happiness is making a comeback. Or maybe because I'm interested in it, the happiness stuff is just finding me. This past spring, Meagan Francis launched The Happiest Mom to change the parenting discussion from preserving sanity to striving for joy. (Her words.) And I'm always thinking of folks like Jen Lemen and Karen Walrond who strike me as being focused on putting beauty into the world and spreading happiness, building up their communities instead of tearing them down.

These are the people I try to have in my head more and more lately, as opposed to the energy suckers and the fair-weather friends and the walking trainwrecks who want to suck the world into their personal dramas, of which there seems to be a new one every minute of every day.

Although man, it is fun to get sucked into a good personal drama. But it's kind of like a one night stand - it gets your blood pumping at the time but afterward...well. You know.

One of the answers I gave Gretchen in the interview seems to have struck a chord. She asked me Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness or detracts a lot from their happiness? I answered:
The happiest people seem to be very focused  whatever they are doing. Unhappy people seem to be very focused on what other people are doing.
I think it's true. So I'm making a pledge to myself to try and refocus a bit. Even though it can be hard. Really hard. But if it makes me a little happier then I'll consider it a success.

I always take the side in the ugly parenting debates that what's most important isn't whether you breastfeed or formula feed, whether you work or stay at home, whether your kids sleep in your bed or not. It's happy parents = happy kids.

I want my kids to be happy. I'm pretty sure that starts with me.


Anonymous Kami said...

I came to that realization fairly recently as well, the happy parents = happy kids thing. I saw that a major problem for me was carving out time for myself. It's been a process but finding time to work out regularly and blog regularly has made me, well, happy. I don't think I was before. Identity is a funny thing. For me, tying it all up in my kids was not the right approach to momming. I'm feeling much better now!

11/4/09, 7:52 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

Great post! And I loved the interview on slate. I agree, my baby's happiness starts with me...and I'd take it a step further and say it starts specifically with my choices.

11/4/09, 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Melissa Chapman said...

Anyone that has seen your infectious smile and - yes it is infectious- knows that you're that kind of woman and mom who radiates happy vibes. Although I have to admit it is hard to stay away from those "energy suckers and train wrecks" :)Your one night stand comment.. PRICELESS!

11/4/09, 7:59 AM  
Anonymous Bettina said...

Awesome post and I love your quote. Brilliant. I find the focus/happiness issue to be a tricky balance. I too am happiest focusing on what I am doing and on the positive, but in order to solve social problems we have to fully understand and expose root causes and injustices--which for us means focusing critically on cultural and institutional barriers that conspire to keep parents making an informed feeding & parenting choice and carrying it out or achieving personal goals). Without a doubt we have to provide negative consequences (e.g. Nestle boycott) but we all definitely need to do more in the way of positive reinforcement, and create strategies that reward,recognize,inspire and empower those who are supporting moms and parents without Pressure, Judgment or Guilt! Thanks again for leading the way.

11/4/09, 8:57 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Bettina: Amen!

I'm all for analysis, criticism, and activism in our communities. I think critical thinking is the first step to being able to right wrongs, challenge injustice, and improve our lives. I am definitely not the head in the clouds type, and I don't shy from speaking up when I sense there's injustice. (Sometimes to a fault. Ahem.)

But I also believe in turning complaints into action. Without action...it's all just drama.

11/4/09, 9:02 AM  
Blogger Gray Matter said...

It was a great interview and that was a great quote. Were you really that spontaneously articulate or did she send you the questions in written form, because, MAN, those responses were amazing. You truly have such a way with words.

11/4/09, 9:15 AM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

I loved your answers. I think you're so right.


11/4/09, 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I'm all for being happy and I also love your quote about happy people versus unhappy people.

I'll admit, I have a lot of complaints. But my complaints are generally not about what other individuals are doing in their own lives. My complaints are about the actions of individuals or organizations that have the ability to significantly influence others and impact on their happiness. If you (the royal you, not you specifically) are doing something that causes others to suffer, I will take issue with that.

In terms of individuals and the choices they make in their own lives, do what makes you happy, but just be considerate of others in doing so.

11/4/09, 9:25 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

That's what you'd call a written interview GMM. Anyone who's ever heard me doing live interviews would never confuse the two. Heh.

11/4/09, 9:25 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Couldn't agree more, Annie.

11/4/09, 9:26 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Having had the pleasure of spending time with your girls, it is pretty clear that they have an awesome mom (and dad) who walk the walk.

11/4/09, 9:34 AM  
Blogger Katherine Lewis said...

I would be so thrilled if our generation of moms could leave this legacy to our children: happy parents = happy kids

What a nice change from the helicopter parents who came before us. (Oh, was that too snarky to include in a comment on a happy post?)

11/4/09, 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Boy Crazy (@claritychaos) said...

Hey, great post and congrats on the Slate interview!

I'm all for happiness. My philosophy is to work towards what you want, what you need, what you believe in; but don't let your happiness depend on the accomplishment of those pursuits. I made a conscious decision to live this way about six years ago, and I have been a MUCH happier person since then.

Good for you for spreading the happy bug. There are plenty of us out there who need it.

11/4/09, 9:59 AM  
Blogger Meagan Francis said...

First of all, thank you for linking to my blog. I'm honored!

Second, what a fantastic interview. You're so funny. And your quote about happy people being focused on themselves...absolutely. I am at my least happy when I'm worried about other people, whether it's what they think of me, or whether I'm jealous of what they're doing or judging what they're doing.

I do think there's a difference, as Annie points out, between an unhealthy focus on others and advocating for better practices from organizations. To me that's helping to bring about change--and action makes me happy.

Simply stewing about how lucky or wrong or annoying other people are....not so much.

That's not to say I never do it...hey, I'm not perfect and sometimes there's a strange bit of satisfaction in grousing. But I look at it more as a moment of entertainment rather than an outlook.

11/4/09, 10:08 AM  
Anonymous She Likes Purple said...

Oh, it's so true! SO TRUE! (And also very hard to keep in mind sometimes, sigh.)

I'm struggling with not caring what others think of my parenting, my marriage, my weight, my job, my life. I was knocked over flat by something really heartless a family member said about me recently, and it took me entire days to get over it AND YET when someone says something nice to me it doesn't stay with me for days. It's in one ear, out the other, I'm sure she doesn't REALLY think I'm all that awesome, self-destructive thinking for the win!

And, really, what ULTIMATELY matters for our children, marriage, jobs, yada, yada, is how HAPPY we are. If we're happy, it'll show. And when people slam us for whatever reason, doesn't that say so much MORE about them than us?

Oh, it's still so hard, but thank you for this post.

Making our lives prettier and happier is a really nice goal.

11/4/09, 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love the interview...love the happiness mantra, "this too, shall pass"...the good and the bad.

11/4/09, 11:39 AM  
Blogger jodifur said...

Great post.

I will add though, from a kid that is really struggling in PRESCHOOL, that happy, helpful teachers help too.

11/4/09, 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

You may want to call Kate of Kate plus 8. She really could use some help in being happy and choosing her friends.

Great post on the Happiness Project. Loved your sense of humor and your honesty. Let's have a glass of wine some time.

11/4/09, 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Rita Arens said...

I totally agree. My father always said "this, too, shall pass," and I remind myself of it all the time. Great interview!

11/4/09, 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree, focusing on others does not help us find happiness. Especially when we are focusing on the imagined dramas of people we've never even met.

I am finding it easier to find happiness as I get older. I just worry less about the little stuff. I gain perspective and experience. I hope this bodes well for my old age. :)

11/4/09, 1:17 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

But wait - according to your quote, blog writers are pretty happy, but blog readers are a miserable bunch...I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to unsubscribe now so I can be happy. ;)

11/4/09, 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Lady M said...

Love this post and congrats on Slate!

I agree - focusing on what I control or can change instead of fretting about others makes a *huge* difference.

11/4/09, 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a GREAT statement - great advice - thank you!!!

11/4/09, 1:37 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

What a great post, and wow, it is so true! Thank you for taking the time to put this "on paper" and share with us!

11/4/09, 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Happy Mommy = Happy Baby was a mantra in our house during the infant years. Also good is Healthy Mommy = Healthy Baby.

11/4/09, 2:02 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Ha Liz, well I guess you could say that blog readers are only unhappy if they wish they were reading something else instead. Which I'm sure my readers often are.

11/4/09, 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Bettina said...

I smell the title for a blockbuster new book, "The Happiest Parent on the Block" . . . if Harvey Karp hasn't already thought of that and cashed in, that is. :-) But think if you wrote it, it would be a heck of a lot more entertaining.

As far as what Annie & I said earlier, I think it's a combo of what Stephen Ury said (in his age old negotiation book)and what the Dalai Lama espouses: be tough on the problem, soft on people; i.e. don't judge your fellow moms for their feeding, sleeping, eco decisions yada yada, have compassion instead. We say, put pressure on the barriers, not on moms!

If more influencers like you insist on it, it will happen! :)

11/4/09, 3:48 PM  
Anonymous MDTaz said...

I see happy as a process, not an end point. Sometimes I have to have a wee bit of drama to go through the awareness-building, confidence-strengthening, humility-making moment that helps me to get again and again, what this crazy life is all about. So a bit of kvetching from good friends or thoughtful bloggers seems absolutely allowed, as long as somewhere along the line (reasonably) we wake up to the reality check and thank our lucky stars for all the good we've got.

11/4/09, 5:44 PM  
Blogger Petit Elefant said...

I love the way that was said. I think it's all about forgetting what everyone else thinks and just keeping your nose to your task.

Love the happy project.

11/4/09, 5:53 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I found your site through Gretchen's, and that quote so inspired me that I had to write a blog post about it yesterday. Thank you! I'm loving your blog; wish I'd found it sooner.

11/4/09, 10:02 PM  
Blogger just making my way said...

Great thoughts! Something I would like to try to focus on myself. Happiness seems to be elusive lately - I'm beginning to realize just what you said - it starts with me.

11/5/09, 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Karen Chatters said...

I love your point about worrying about what other people are thinking and how that effects your happiness. I've never thought of it like that.

I think that, I too, will focus a little more on me and what I'm doing to make me happy and less on what other crap/drama is going on.

I loved your piece in Slate.

11/5/09, 4:27 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

It struck me last week, admittedly I was feeling a bit miserable. And realized that it wasn't just about me. It was wanting my kids to be happy too.

So I dressed up like a demented pilot on Halloween and wiped the frown off my face.

You're right. I want my kids to be happy too. And it definitely starts with me.

11/5/09, 5:13 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Amen. Incredible reminder. Thank you.

11/5/09, 10:15 PM  
Blogger Anne Stesney said...

Here, here, Liz. I'm a firm believer in the happy parent = happy kids. And for keeping the focus on myself. And occasionally on US Magazine. Only occasionally.

11/6/09, 2:20 PM  
Anonymous 6512 and growing said...

I like your take on happiness, simple yet so true. In a weird twist, my son, who despite being born very premature and all that goes along with that, is such a cheerful little guy. He is also very good at focusing on what he's doing. His little sister is extremely focused on what her brother is doing, eating, receiving and I think you know how that plays out.

11/8/09, 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Lagunatic said...

"The happiest people seem to be very focused whatever they are doing. Unhappy people seem to be very focused on what other people are doing."

And this is why I only ever think about myself and what I can do with a jar of Nutella ;)

Some people call me a narcissist, but that's only because they're paying too much attention.

11/9/09, 3:12 PM  
Blogger Kim Moldofsky said...

Your quote "The happiest people seem to be very focused whatever they are doing. Unhappy people seem to be very focused on what other people are doing" struck a chord with me, but in terms of blogging, not parenting.

It's such a drag to hear people complain about not getting invited to this or missing out on that. I usually ask such a person if they started blogging to get those invites. Alas, these days sometimes the answer is yes, but typically the answer is no, and I advise people to focus on their own work and goals.

And I agree with Melissa Chapman- your smile is totally infectious.

11/10/09, 12:08 AM  

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