Are We Women Happy Yet?

September 22, 2009 at 7:43 pm 6 comments

Maureen Dowd’s column in Saturday’s NY Times, Blue is the New Black
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/opinion/20dowd.html?_r=1

tells us that according to the General Social Survey, women are less happy than before the 1970’s, and men feel better.  But why?

Well, first let me ask a few questions about the survey, for example, how is “happiness” defined? What questions were asked? To whom? By whom? How representative were they? And if all that checks out, then let’s go ahead and ask why we might be generally less content than 40 years ago.

I bet a lot of this decline in happiness is related to economics, and a second influence being our inexperience and discomfort with the practice and power of taking care of ourselves.

Women have more educational and career choices in America than we did when I was in high school in the early 70’s, but due to economic policies that have favored corporations and consumerism over families, healthcare, and employees, our national economy has shifted from one of women’s work being considered a “choice” to work as “necessity,” for the great majority of women.

Even for women who work in a field of their choosing, the pressures to provide income for the family and to attend to the children, home, extended family members and community is over the top.  And in this severe recession, there is even less to go around yet greater family needs.

The shift to such a financial necessity may not lessen a woman’s interest or drive to work, but with the added responsibilities and relationships of that work, on top of the deteriorating support systems and policies in place today, women bear a heavy load

Second to the economic problem, but connected to it, is women’s concern for how people are doing – their families, extended families, co-workers, neighbors and friends.  As natural empathizers, it’s easy to recognize when other’s physical or social-emotional needs are present.  What’s REALLY hard for many of us is to recognize our limitations and promote our own self care.  It’s especially tough when women are faced with the dilemma – If I take care of myself, my loved one’s day will be harder; but if I put my loved one’s care first, I’m so exhausted and drained I feel like I’m on a downward spiral.

So before saying anything more, I want to acknowledge every one of you or your women friends who are caring for children, parents, siblings, other people’s children, all while working your job or seeking one.  And for those of you in financial hardship or facing someone’s illness without proper healthcare or social support, I hope you find someone to extend a hand or speak up for you.

I also think that in our development as women, on a psychological level, we have more to learn when it comes to understanding and gaining our power.  There is the external application of power – advocating, exerting pressure for change, mobilizing for causes – and there is also internal application of power – for example, practicing self-care, honoring our physical, mental, and social needs.  Whether reading, running, cooking, having sex, gardening, singing, viewing the arts, chatting with girlfriends or listening to a child’s imaginary play, life offers us joyful moments. Most women I know say the one thing that they need to be more content with their lives is….TIME, a very hard commodity to come by.

So I leave us with some questions on the subject:

What do you need in order to practice self care? What are some of the greatest pleasurable activities in your life and how often do you make time to engage in these?  How do you get past obstacles -mental, physical, financial or social- in order to make time for what you love to do?  Who is a woman you know that seems to somehow balance responsibilities and self care? Why is she a role model to you? When you don’t seek out pleasurable or rejuvenating practices, what happens to your well being? Now, quick! What’s that one thing in your heart that you would really find pleasure doing, if you could somehow put it into action?

If a girl or young woman you know asks you, “Are you happy?” how would you like to answer? What advice or role modeling can you offer that might encourage her to take her self-care and well being to heart – in mind, body, and spirit?

Much love,
Beth

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How We Keep Our Cool Easing the Pain by Coming Together

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alita  |  October 9, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I’m going to venture what could be an unpopular response, but merely offer what my observations are on this subject: women are unhappy because the quest of the feminist movement has gone too far. Men are happy because they’ve been pushed to a place where very little is required of them. We’ve made life too easy for them.

    Women are created to nurture, create, respond and advocate. While I have respect for women who work full time (I am one of them!) I don’t feel that women need to feel the amount of financial pressure they have agreed to take on in this feminized culture.

    Men are created to protect, provide, respond and stabilize. I understand that men have overstepped their boundaries sometimes in their quests to provide for women. The idea that women are “weaker” is antiquated. However, a man’s basic need to provide and protect remains. But they have been stripped of their innate purpose.

    In our pursuit of everyone “being treated equally” we have overlooked our basic needs as men and women and thrown everything off balance.

    As a single woman in my late 20’s, I often find myself wondering, “what’s wrong with all the men???” They are lazy, overweight and lacking passion. They refuse to pursue. I can’t help but consider that part of man’s problem has in fact been caused by woman’s insistence to be “just like them” instead of pursuing equal acceptance for what is great in each and every one of us.

    Reply
    • 2. Vanessa Caveney  |  October 9, 2009 at 9:52 pm

      Thank you, Alita, for participating in this conversation and for your courage in speaking your truth. Women’s happiness is a complex topic and the range of opinions reflect the varied experiences of each of us.

      Through our Council program, we have had the pleasure of coming to know some incredible men. These men – our trainers and training participants – are caring, wise, strong, and empathic. We would respectfully disagree with you that expanded definitions and expectations of manhood and womanhood, initially fueled by the feminist movement, have resulted in the denigration of men. We feel this evolution has brought us closer to allowing both sexes (and anyone on the spectrum in between) the freedom to express every part of their identity. The liberty to convey all aspects of our character, whether they be traditionally male or female qualities, is integral to our emotional and physical health. This drive to become a whole person, true to our essence, is at the cornerstone of our philosophy.

      Like you, we see differences in men and women and like you, we also strive for “equal acceptance for what is great in each and every one of us.” In this vein, may we suggest that what you see as women striving to be “just like” men may in fact be the liberated and gender-neutral expression of their own goals? We value all opinions from our community and look forward to your response.

      ~ Vanessa Caveney, Program Coordinator, Girls Circle Association

      Reply
  • 3. nicoa dunne, holland archer, inc.  |  September 23, 2009 at 12:11 am

    absolutely – the women’s movement has given women choice, but as we know too many choices often create paralysis and a sense of being overwhelmed… I think we need to work through this lull of dissatisfaction and become CONFIDENT in our choices that will make us happy! What makes us INDIVIDUALLY Happy? Once we are confident in our choices and stop comparing ourselves to others and stop “shoulding” ourselves based on individual unrealistic expectations …. I think happiness is within reach. I believe what we are experiencing now as a “generation of the female gender” we will ultimately see corrected within the generations to come….you are right – we must role model and our daughters are watching very closely! I am a proud mother of three and last year started a cause called “I Can, I Will, I Am” to instill confidence in the women and girls in YOUR life! I think this transcendence to happiness starts there….with confidence!

    Reply
    • 4. Beth  |  September 23, 2009 at 4:04 am

      Thanks for your input. I agree, and I know when my friends encourage me to go for it, whatever it is that’s in my heart, it’s so helpful. Keep up your great work/cause on I Can, I Will, I Am!

      Reply
  • 5. Giovanna  |  September 22, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Beautiful post, Beth, and a good reminder to all of us. Thank you for your words of wisdom. xoxoxo

    Reply
  • 6. Moorea Dickason  |  September 22, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I am a HUGE fan of Beth Hossfeld’s mind, heart and writing.

    Thank you for this article Beth. It really spoke to me as a text book example of the way overextended woman working full time, keeping a home, being a wife, daughter, sister, friend and community member who is struggling with putting self care coming before some of these other relationships. Thank you for validating my feelings, honoring this scenario and presenting some simple solutions and questions to help bring perspective.

    Reply

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