24 Mar
Posted in: parenting
By    2 Comments

Learning to be Unhappy

Happiness is not a destination... - Roy Goodman quote

I was part of the conversation, but really didn’t want to be. A group of moms were discussing how they ultimately want for their children to just be happy.

I feel stress mounting every time I hear that statement, “I just want my kids to be happy.” That’s a lot of pressure. Pressure I don’t want or need to be putting on myself. I can’t make it through a day without feeling some other emotion besides happy. I know parents don’t expect their children to be happy every second of every day for an entire lifetime. We can agree that overall we want our children to be able to find joy in their lives.

I knew those moms were talking about their children, in general, feeling happy more than any other emotion. One mom wanted to know if it’s hard to make sure all four of my children are happy. I should have walked away. One of my weaknesses is not being able to think through what I’m about to say before it actually leaves my head. I never really stop to think about what my thoughts sound like coming out of my mouth or how they might be perceived once I’ve let them loose. Instead of walking away, I answered.

“My goal isn’t really to have them happy all the time. It seems unrealistic for me to strive for four happy children all the time when that’s not how life is. I guess I try to teach them how to deal with not being happy.”

They all just stared at me. I had just labeled myself as the mom who wants her kids to be unhappy. I tried to explain my thinking, but I could tell I had killed the conversation when the topic quickly changed to the weather.

If I get to choose the emotion my children experience most, I’ll pick happy, but there are so many other emotions they experience. I feel part of my job in this people-raising business is to help my children cope when they aren’t happy. Happy is a comfortable emotion we just embrace. What about sadness, hurt, anger, all those emotions we desperately try to shake off? It’s important to know how to manage those emotions.

I worry what it would teach my children to continually hear me proclaim that I just want them to be happy. They won’t, and when they aren’t, I want them to know that it’s all right. There’s nothing inherently wrong with not being happy. The problem arises when you don’t know how to manage your emotions, or don’t realize that through the darkest hours there will be sun.

Managing emotions was not a concept stressed in my own childhood. No one worked with me to understand why I felt what I did. I was a constant fluctuating ball of overemotional energy. Every emotion I had, I felt to the nth degree. It was exhausting navigating through that minefield. I want my kids to be able to locate what’s causing the emotion and not get sucked into an emotional tornado that just swirls around and around until it wears itself out.

Having four very different personalities to deal with and their own emotional tendencies has helped me with my own over-emotional ways. Teaching my kids to stop and think through the trigger for the emotion and frame it in a suitable light has helped me. I’m a much bigger project than my kiddos are. I’ve had decades of no emotional training I’m trying to undo.

My kids know how to be unhappy. They know the adage “this too shall pass.” They are also aware that happy, content and joyful are much-preferred places to dwell. I have high hopes, maybe naive ones, that this will help as as we begin navigating hormonal teen years. Fingers are crossed.

I’m linking this post to:

My Joy-Filled Life - Babies and Beyond Link-up


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  • I’ve got a great sign in my room you should stop in and see! 🙂 Can’t remember exactly what it says…but it’s a good one!

  • And this is exactly the reason God blessed you with a little girl! Seriously, a whole different set and subset of emotions felt to the nth degree! Love ya!