This week I’m looking at what happiness means from my perspective as a new parent.
I was initially motivated to write this post by a blogging carnival on the theme of ‘Happiness around the world’ being organised by Multicultural Kid Blogs and hosted by Giselle Shardlow of the blog Kids Yoga Stories. The event got me thinking about what happiness means, especially within a family context.
As fate would have it, whilst thinking about writing this post I read an article from BBC News about how there had been a slight increase in overall happiness here in the United Kingdom over the last year. As well as health, employment and relationship status, the article speculated that one-off events such as the 2012 London Olympics may have played their part.
On a personal level, I’d say that getting married and going on honeymoon to Andalucia in Spain played a bigger role in my overall happiness as did the news that our first child was on the way. As my wife works in conservation, I’d joked during my speech that I’d heard some of her colleagues would be heading off to the Olympics on a tractor with a load of wooden posts and barbed wire… to take part in the fencing competition. That’s probably one of my better jokes and may go some way to explaining why my wife jokingly said in her speech that she was marrying me ‘despite my sense of humour rather than because of it’.
The Olympics were in their own small way linked to one of our happiest pieces of news during the last year as getting emotional about some of the events was one of the signs that led my wife to wonder if she was pregnant. She phoned me to let me know that she was while I was on a work trip to Paris. The very same day, I went to see the French Olympic team travel down the Champs-Elysées on open-topped buses.
At times, I think that happiness is seen as being something that is overly seen as being accessed through the accumulation of wealth. Whilst money certainly can make life easier, I think it’s important to focus on the value of time spent together as it is something that money cannot buy.
This notion was brought poignantly in a recent post by Aaron Gouveia on the Daddy Files blog entitled Dad are we poor? One of his main points was that focusing on achieving a work life balance by working 45-50 hours per week, rather than 70-80 hours, allows him to spend valuable time with his family. For him, this is worth more than being able to buy a massive house, fancy car and always being able to buy his children the newest and most in demand toys.
As I’ve talked about in a previous post, taking my two weeks of paternity leave was very important to me. I was very lucky to have two weeks of leave on full pay due to the policy of my employer. This goes well beyond the statutory minimum of £137 per week that the state pays to fathers on paternity leave.
Being able to spend time with my son and my wife in the days following his birth was really special and I felt so happy to be able to be there and see him develop and help out however I could. It was also great to be able to go and do simple things as a family such as go to a cafe by the sea or for short walks in the local area.
At the same time as blogging about being a dad, I really enjoy reading other blogs that focus on issues such as well-being and work life balance. Such matters are closely linked to achieving happiness as a parent.
Like many articles on his blog Fathers, Work, Family, a recent post by Scott Behson entitled Regular Exercise Can Help Us Be Better Dads really struck a chord with me. It came at a time when I’d just started to try to get back into running, an activity that I’ve also found has helped me to feel good both physically and mentally.
I also loved the focus of a post on the Dad Down Under blog about the author’s decision to set himself a series of monthly challenges in order to ‘have [their] mind, body and soul firing on all cylinders’. This month, he’ll be aiming to read for 30 minutes every evening and go to bed by 9.30pm each night. Next month, his target is to do 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. Of the twelve monthly challenges, I’ve identified at least six or seven that I will try to stick to myself. With the first one, I’m going to allow myself to go to bed by the slightly later time of 10pm but this is a reward for having recently increased my exercise levels 🙂
In the last week, I also listened to an old episode of the Dads Unplugged podcast in which the presenters discussed an article entitled Don’t Carpe Diem. In this article, the author argued that focusing on enjoying parenting masks challenges and difficulties and can make parents who don’t enjoy every moment feel inadequate.
Looking back at both our son’s birth and his first three months, I’d freely admit that there have been a few stressful or difficult moments. However, that is probably to be expected with something new that brings with it changes and added responsibilities. Overall, I would say that the last three months have more importantly also brought with them a new and exciting sort of happiness emanating from his daily presence. As I have said here, this time is one when I have thought a lot about what it means to be happy and how to achieve happiness.
I’d love to hear your views on this article, so please feel free to leave a comment below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen.