Title: Happier at Home
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Happier at Home is NOT a manifesto about how a woman’s place is in the home. Quite the contrary: New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin loves her family and her job. In Happier at Home, Rubin takes the lessons she learned from her first work on happiness, The Happiness Project, and applies them to life at home by making a series of home-centered resolutions each month and chronicling her success and failures along the way. Paradoxically, Rubin notes that “Happiness doesn’t always make me feel happy” (7), so some of her resolutions are no fun at all, such as “suffer for 15 minutes,” where she makes herself tackle the daunting tasks of a huge backlog of unorganized family photos. Some other “paradoxes of happiness” include “accept myself, expect more of myself,” and “Hell is other people. Heaven is other people.”
In the introduction, Rubin explains well why her highly personal account might be extremely relevant to our own lives: “I tend to learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sweeping philosophies or wide-ranging research. It’s from the experience of a particular individual that I learn most about myself – even if we two seem to have nothing in common. . . I hope that reading about my happiness project will encourage you to start your own” (xii).
Parts I liked best and how this book made an impact in my life, especially as a mother:
Happier at Home was an uplifting and inspirational read that served as a concrete picture of what being a deliberate mother can look like. Rubin covers all the Powers featured on Power of Moms in her vulnerable account of her triumphs and failures as an individual, wife, and mother. Some examples include:
- Acceptance. Rubin suggests having monthly adventures with her husband, but he doesn’t want to. She accepts this, reminding herself that “the only person I can change is myself” (263).
- Individuality. The first of Rubin’s “Personal Commandments” is “Be Gretchen,” and she notes “just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean it’s fun for me (43).
- Progress. Rubin resolves to give back to her community by taking on the cause of organ donation, something she cares deeply about but felt powerless to improve. She recounts: “[A]s I pressed ahead, I fought my dangerous, familiar desire to keep it simple by limiting my involvement to tasks within my comfort zone. . . [T]he task grew far larger than that!” Then she gathers her courage to push forward by reminding herself of her personal theme for the year: “Bigger!” (232).
- Optimism. Rubin’s resolution to “make the positive argument” remains an inspiration for my daily life. She observes that “When a person takes a position, he or she looks for evidence to support it and then stops, satisfied. This mental process gives the illusion that a position is objective and well justified. However . . . a person can often make the very opposite argument, just as easily” (74). She goes on to explain, “When I caught myself thinking, ‘Jamie [her husband] isn’t very thoughtful,’ and my mind started kicking up examples of thoughtlessness, I contradicted myself with, ‘Jamie is very thoughtful’ – and sure enough, I was able to come up with many examples of his thoughtful behavior. . . I could actually feel my opinion shift. It was almost uncanny” (75).
- Moments. Happier at Home is a tale of moments. Rubin’s quest for happiness may seem like a lot of work, but the payoff is an increasing number of happiness moments that she illustrates so beautifully I sometimes found myself in tears.
(Learn more at her website http://www.happiness-project.com/about/)
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