Gretchen Rubin would appear to be a very happy person. She’s written the 2010 blockbuster bestseller “The Happiness Project” and writes a blog on the subject. In fact, she is happy, she told me.
She acknowledges that her life is far easier than most and she and her family enjoy good health. Rubin, though, suffers emotional setbacks that any similarly fortunate parent can recognize.
Sometimes she fears she might not be happy enough, she might not be enjoying her kids’ childhood enough.
She describes the feeling at the beginning of her just-published new book, Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life,” (Crown Archetype). The emotion overwhelmed her one evening when she was loading the dishwasher and her husband and daughters were in a nearby room.
“What was that yearning I felt? I was homesick, I realized, with a prospective nostalgia for now and here: when Jamie and I live without two girls under one roof, with our parents strong and busy with our two little nephews just learning to talk and play, everyone healthy despite a few long-standing, nagging medical concerns, and no disasters looming except the woes of sixth grade.”
It was this feeling that inspired her to apply her Happiness Project — a month-by-month focus on creating more joy in one aspect of her life — to her home life.
In writing it, she spent the month of November focused on parenting and discovered four resolutions that helped her enjoy family life more:
●Underreact to a problem. That is, restrain the instinct to spring into action or anger at small provocations. (Her example is how she responded to a jar of purple nail polish spilled on a rug.)
●Enter into the interests of others. She talks about the importance of learning and talking about what interests other family members.
●Go on Wednesday adventures. In her case, this means spending extra time alone with her older daughter since she daily gets time alone with her younger daughter. Codifying this one-on-one time, she found, makes it something both she and her daughter look forward to.
●Give warm greetings and farewells. She’s begun making a small fuss when each family member leaves in the morning and comes home in the evening and it helps remind everyone that they are loved.
“My children make me very happy, but it was too easy to be so busy and distracted that I forgot to appreciate the sweet, small moments of parenthood. I tried to find resolutions that would help me slow down and really experience this season of life,” she said.
“I didn’t want to look back on my children’s childhoods and think, ‘Gosh, I barely remember anything.’ After all, I barely remember anything from my own childhood,” she said.
What do you think? Is this too much navel-gazing or is there something to “Underreacting” and “Wednesday adventures”?
Do you have rituals that help boost the joy of family life?