You have to love Australia's 'Winning Culture'. Meeting an Aussie last night and getting through the typical first question of 'what do you do?' with my 'I write a blog on happiness and learning' response, he responded, 'Right buddy, get ready to take some notes' and handed me a Pure Blonde. All the chaps standing around were in the burgeoning family stage. Happiness and learning was focussed on their mini mes.
In truth, I am not smack in the middle of the 'thinking about happiness' demographic. That is probably when you have hours to sit around and not many responsibilities. The majority of my buddies are battening down the hatches. Between work and kiddies under six, there isn't much time for anything else. You know what they say about raising children though, 'The first 18 years are the hardest'. In one of the most entertaining looks at happiness I have come across, Daniel Gilbert talks about the challenges to happiness posed in the child raising years. I am a big fan of little people, but I know that I am in the position of being able to feed them sugar and hand them back as soon as they start wriggling. Many of my friends have that crazed, when-will-sleep-return look in their eyes.
Quite a few of these mommies and daddies have been keen to write guest posts, but finding an hour when energy and quiet coincide is tough. In Australia I am told new Mums get an hour with a social worker shortly after the baby gets home. They give them a bit of coaching and then they are on their own. The question I have been wondering about is whether this is indeed a case of just getting through the tough times, or whether there is a better way to give new parents support. All the points I write about when it comes to happiness - exercise, diet, relaxation, breathing, positive thinking, relationships and flow - get put under real pressure in those first few years.
The documentary 'Happy' looks at co-housing in Denmark. I wonder if that would help? The traditional 'graduation' to a nuclear family leaves families struggling between balancing breadwinning and child rearing with two adults to share the tasks. This means both are likely busy all the time. More than all the time. In the old days when people lived close together you would have had support from family and friends. For all the benefits of a global world, it does stretch support networks. I, as an example, am a more than willing baby sitter but the people I care about are scattered across the globe. Plus I look like Tom Hanks from Castaway so some mothers would be understandably scared. The beard does seem to fascinate little people though.
Co-housing may include a few young families and some people at latter stages in their lives. You get the advantage of granny wisdom, you may have teenage babysitters, you can share cooking and cleaning duties, and hopefully simply have a little bit more time.
For most of my friends in this situation, it seems their wishes are actually quite simple - a little more sleep.