This week, it was my husband’s turn to be out of town. He left on early Sunday morning and came back on Thursday evening. I was left with two young, very active toddlers. Though it was physically challenging at times and exhausting to be on “kids duty” for the whole week without extra pair of hands, my emotional status has been surprisingly even and calm. I noticed that I hardly raised my voice to my kids, I used humor to redirect them and got them do things, such as getting ready in the morning, or getting them to sleep at night. Since I knew that I will be on my own to pick them up from daycare after work and put dinner on the table, I had planned each meal in advance and actually ended up cooking more than I would normally do. In other words, things went really well on that end.
You might be wondering why that was, whether my husband doesn’t play much role in taking care of our kids to begin with – or something. That is hardly the case. As I wrote in the recent post “50-50 Parenting”, he plays a vital part of raising our kids and he does at least 50% of it, if not more. I certainly would not want to do this alone for more than a week at a time. But what was different this week was that since he was not physically there, I had zero expectations for him to do anything in taking care of kids. It was all up to me to provide the care they needed. Obviously, I missed his company and seeing him at the end of the day, talking about what happened that day or about kids – which we did on the phone every evening – but I spent zero time or energy getting upset about him not contributing enough, doing things in a wrong order, or playing mafia wars on Facebook etc. This week, my happiness did not depend on him doing something for me or for our kids. I had zero expectations, and I created my own happiness by taking care of myself, and did what I wanted to do, such as getting plenty of rest, de-cluttering our place and so on, and it was great.
So can I stay this way even after he came back? Can I actually be this happy all the time if I didn’t expect anything from him? The truth is, when he is around the house, I can’t help but expect him to do things, and when that expectation is not met, I chose to feel unhappy. I “bypass” in variety of ways (making unhappy face etc.) and try to get him do things that I want him to do. Even though intellectually I know that my happiness should not depend on him doing anything, it is a hard rule to live by. My friend Henry once said that he (in his words “freakishly”) does not get upset about anything because he doesn’t expect anything from anyone. This means that his happiness does not depend on other people – he can be happy all on his own without having anyone doing anything for him. If everyone lived like that, all the drama will go away. I suppose one thing we could choose to realize is that when your mood depends on what other people do for you, or to you, you are choosing to make someone else responsible for your happiness. This reminded me of a section from one of the volumes of the “Harry Potter” book series – I’m a big fan – where Hermione, one of the main female characters tells the boys, Harry and Ron, that she’s glad her happiness does not depend on whether or not their team win a match of Quidditch, their favorite sport. On one hand, you can say that it’s a lonely place to be; you are unaffected by what’s going on around you. This also makes that notion of “making someone happy” more like an illusion – you are not that powerful when you are dealing with someone like my friend Henry. But on the other hand, it’s a refreshingly liberating feeling to know that you and you alone are responsible for your own happiness.
How about you? Does your happiness depend on something or someone else outside of you?