Finding Purpose In Parenting: The Other Kind Of Happiness

Photography: Fran Jorgensen | www.franjorgensen.com

By Megan Connolly

So, how was your day?

Filled with pleasure? Unbridled joy? Relaxed, comfortable contentment?

Yeah, ours wasn’t either.

From 6am it’s been go time. We haven’t stopped putting effort into helping someone or something else get better since then. We are tired. We want to go to sleep most nights at 8pm. One of us is has a huge hole in her sweater and it will be a long while before she is near a shop with enough free time or money on her hands to buy anything to replace it.

As parents we can go days and days and days without a single person saying or doing anything particularly kind for us. We don’t think we are unusual in this respect.

Parenthood is really hard and can feel not so great some of the time. And so we are left wondering…rational decision makers that we are meant to be…Why do we keep doing it?

Why do we become so happy when we hear a friend is expecting? Why do we end every gripe about our days in the trenches with small, irrational people with “oh..but they’re lovely really..” Why do we revel in something that leaves us so depleted, poorer and greyer than when we began?

Technically known as ‘eudaimonic’ happiness, this is the hit of wellbeing you get when all of that work finally pays off. You’ve saved your pennies. You’ve finished the marathon. You made a tough decision but stayed true to your beliefs.

We put this parenting paradox to you as a way of introducing the second pillar of happiness: Purpose. It’s the happiness that can take a while to arrive because you have to work for it. Technically known as ‘eudaimonic’ happiness, this is the hit of wellbeing you get when all of that work finally pays off. You’ve saved your pennies. You’ve finished the marathon. You made a tough decision but stayed true to your beliefs.

It’s the part of well-being that is centered on finding a purpose and serving that purpose, leisure and glee be damned. It’s when it feels good to not feel good because you are building something so much larger than momentary pleasure. It is the result of planning and all of the extra brain power our massive cerebral cortex allows. It’s the type of happiness that denotes we are human, intelligent, and different from the animals. We can deny our appetites to serve a higher call.

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