TIGER MOTHERS, MORMON MOMMY BLOGGERS, and Happiness
“By now, I’m pretty sure most of you have read both the infuriating/fascinatingTiger Mother article as well as the fascinating/infuriating Mormon Mommy Blogger article that have been making the rounds over the past couple of weeks. (If you haven’t read them yet, I’m left to assume that you’re too busy berating your children into practicing the piano and/or baking seemingly-ubiquitous Mormon Mommy cupcakes to bother with such things. I do not judge you.) Since my husband makes most of the cupcakes at our house and I let my kids quit piano lessons, I’ve had plenty of time to read both articles, as well as another fascinating (but not, in my opinion, infuriating) article in the New Yorker by David Brooks about brains, social science, relationships, and happiness….”
“…Being a Mormon means you’re around people. A lot. Generally speaking, we get married young, we have big families, we’re called to do things in a group setting that we’d never volunteer to do of our own free will (Webelos!). Being Mormon takes a lot of time. In addition to the aforementioned early marriages and quivers full of children and time consuming callings, we’re also asked to dedicate ourselves to other forms service (missions, cannery assignments, visiting and home teaching) and develop an inner spiritual life (scripture study, frequent meaningful prayer, temple attendance). The 5 Browns notwithstanding, it seems to me that achieving both tremendous worldly success while living the life of family, service, and sacrifice that the Church teaches us to strive for is very difficult, if not impossible, for most of us. (The 5 Browns seem like very happy, nice people. I am not judging them and am more than willing to concede they might be exceptions to the rule.)
“Happiness” is a tricky state to quantify, and all of us, Mormon or not, accomplished or average, will experience various levels of satisfaction and sadness throughout our lives. Some of us are naturally inclined to joy and exuberance, while others struggle to find happiness. Our personal happiness set-point is not an indication of our righteousness, but most often due to genetic and other circumstances outside our control. Even Elder Marlin K. Jensen admits in an excellent Ensign article on the subject of happiness that “although I am richly blessed and have every reason to be happy, I sometimes struggle and do not always have the natural inclination toward happiness and a cheerful disposition that some people seem to enjoy.”
However, each of us can optimize our happiness in this life. In addition to the blessings of eternal life, “happiness in this life” is meant to be one of the outcomes of living the gospel. I want my children to grow up with the greatest chance for happiness. I want to be happy myself. It’s easy in this world—even for Mormons—to get so swept up in the fervor of accomplishment, to think that “if only” we’d had the chance to become that world-famous or extraordinary [baseball player, novelist, CEO] we’d be happier, that if we don’t supply our kids with an endless parade of [Little Leauge, SAT tutoring, Suzuki method instruction] then THEY won’t be happy and, horror of horrors, will blame us. (They’ll probably blame us no matter what we do, right?) Of course, Little League and the Suzuki method can be components of a happy life, but when I fall for the idea that they’re necessary ingredients to a happy life, that’s when I seem to get off track.
Despite being immersed in Mormon theology and culture, I still have to remind myself more often than I’d like that these are the components of a happy life: love, family, service, faith. This is the Good News. The fact that it makes me feel okay about letting my kids quit piano lessons is just a bonus.”