Friday, July 6, 2012

How To Be A Happy Man

What makes a man truly happy?  If you look at how men spend their money on luxury items (read: the non-essential things that supposedly lead to happiness) you might answer electronics, eating out and drinking, cars, or even sports.  But does any of that make a man truly happy?  After all, we all know that money doesn't buy happiness.  So what is it?  What is the key to happiness for men?  Experts at Cambridge University posed the same question, and the results may surprise you.

I checked out an article on one of my favorite sites, The Good Men Project. The title of the piece was Study: Men Who Help Around The House Are Happier.  While I hate that title almost as much as I hate it when people ask me if I am babysitting my daughter*, I was curious about the study.  In the original report in The Telegraph, the explanation is as follows:

"A study of men across seven countries found that those who shouldered a bigger share of domestic responsibilities had a better sense of wellbeing and enjoyed a better work-life balance. But experts suggested that, while this may be partly because they felt less guilty, the main reason could be that they had simply learnt the secret of a quiet life."
I don't think it is a surprise that men who pull their own weight around the house are happier.  Even though the study says that there is no evidence that their wives are happier, the men may perceive that their wives are happier when they do their fair share, and I think that goes a long way for guys.  We like to make the people we love happy.  I know that brings me joy.

Another site that I frequently read, Role Reversal, featured a response to an article in The Atlantic titled "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" (meaning a successful career and a happy home life or work-life balance).  The author argues that men are largely responsible for women's inability to achieve a work-life balance.  Men are still "using their own fathers as the standard", and that just doesn't work anymore.  They need to look at their domestic partner and ask, "Am I carrying an equal load compared to her?"  I tend to agree.  When I was the breadwinner in my home, I put in long hours and left most of the domestic work for my wife.  Sure, I still mowed the grass and tended the garden, but I would easily ignore the dishes and laundry because she was at home.  I could have helped more, and I should have helped more.  I would feel guilty while I was at work because I knew how hard she was working taking care of our newborn and keeping up with the regular household duties.

When I started staying home with our daughter, I quickly realized that the domestic duties were now mine.  Thank God I love to cook!  I do most of the dishes, and I do most of the laundry.  The only thing I haven't mastered is the real tough cleaning, but I'm working on that too.  My wife works two jobs so that we can make this arrangement work, and in order for her not to burn out, I need to do the housework.  When she is able to come home and just relax, that makes me happy because I helped create that environment for her.  Does my wife still do a lot around the house?  Absolutely.  Does she still pick up where I am lacking?  Yup.  Do I check out when she gets home? That's called partnership.

In a great response to the "Having It All" article, Jeremy Adam Smith reminds us that if we "want it all" we should try to show some gratitude.  And it works both ways.  Working partners should regularly thank their partners for all the things that get done while they are at work.  At-home partners should thank their bread-winning partners for all that they do around the house as well.  Gratitude is one of the leading factors in marital happiness.  I thank my wife all the time for how hard she works, and for how she picks up where I am lacking.  She thanks me for the great meals that I cook and how well I take care of our daughter.  It works both ways.

So, men, now that you know what is truly going to make you happy - carrying your fair share of the load and thanking your partner for all that she does - what are you going to do differently?  What are you going to try to work on?  How can you balance the division of labor in your home?  Do you need to make any changes?  I know I have work to do.  But I am thankful that my wife is patient with me.  I think I need to go tell her that again.


*Personally, I don't think women should be asking their men to "help" around the house.  Isn't it their home too?  Aren't they half of the partnership?  Shouldn't at least half of the domestic responsibility be theirs?  When you ask them to "help" you are really allowing him to think that domestic work is women's work, and that he can be a hero by "helping" you get it all done.  Start expecting more from him. Let him participate in any way he can. Don't beat him up when he gets it wrong the first time - he's learning something new.  Encourage the positive behavior that you want to see from him.  It will go a lot further than nagging.  Plus, when he works around his own home, he can help break down the aging stereotype that "domestic work is for women" by teaching his children about partnership.   

10 comments:

  1. Very well-said! The times aren't a changin', they've changed. You explained well my own feeling when people say "are you babysitting?" Really? My own children, are you serious? And, "helping" around the house. It's my freakin house!

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  2. Oops, wasn't finished. Both of us work and I know it makes my wife happy to come home and see that I've not done as my father would have, came home and propped up my feet. I'm glad to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of my own castle and subjects.

    Great post!

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  3. Society still hasn't quite figured out how it works now that women work outside the house. Not that it's a new thing--society is still suffering from a 50-year-old culture shock. My mom worked full time and then came home to what was basically her second job. The idea that we shouldn't compare ourselves to our dads is perfect. My dad was cool, don't get me wrong, and he did some manly chores like throwing out the trash, but I bet he doesn't know which is the washer and which is the dryer.

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  4. I love the footnote and felt I knew where you were going when you referenced feeling about the same as dad's babysitting. To me it is about carrying your fair share whether you are male or female. The share of work includes home and office, etc. Nobody in a partnership should feel they are carrying the majority of the load.

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  5. Marriage is a partnership. There are times I do more than my wife and times she does more. In the end though its about trying to find the balance where we both feel like its equal. I try to say thank you for the things she does and vice-versa. The moment one of us no longer feels appreciated is when we start to have a problem.

    We have both learned how important it is to make sure the other feels like they doing things right. No one likes to feel everything they do or attempt to do is wrong. Both of us have worked hard to appreciate the things we do wrong as well right. We have tried to make sure they are learning opportunities and won't talk about whatever it is bothering us if we have any resentment or bitterness without stopping and taking a step back first.

    PS. Separate question for you Matt I need to know where to send you the Real Fatherhood Story? I would have direct messaged you on twitter but it says your not following me...lol...yikes....

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  6. TheRealMattDaddyJuly 9, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    Thanks for stopping in...

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  7. TheRealMattDaddyJuly 9, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    ...and glad you came back to complete the thought!

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  8. TheRealMattDaddyJuly 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    I hear ya! We have got to evolve to match the speed at which women have evolved, otherwise, the balance will be unfairly tilted with most of the weight on their shoulders.

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  9. TheRealMattDaddyJuly 9, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    I really thought it was interesting that the balanced effort made the MEN happier, but left the women largely unaffected. Maybe the men were happier because they perceived that their wives were happier? Maybe there was less nagging? Maybe they got encouragement for the things they accomplished? Who knows? But it is interesting.

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  10. TheRealMattDaddyJuly 9, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    Couldn't agree more! And I fixed that Twitter blunder. I can't wait to share your story with my audience.

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