Why The Things That Make Me Happy Are Simpler Now

by Andrea Mara
parenthood happiness
Susan Chiang / iStock

“I’m kinda looking forward to car-time,” I said to my 6-year-old.

“Me too!” she said, as we packed up our supplies.

It’s the new thing in our house. After months of finding things to do while the eldest is at her gymnastics class, we finally realized that sitting in the car is the most relaxing activity of all. No more will we make the utterly pointless drive to the store to buy bread we don’t need. No more will we get stuck in traffic on our way back, rushing and stressing to pick her up on time. Now, we do the thing I always thought sounded worst of all—we wait in the car.

I bring my laptop and get some emails done. The kids have books and snacks. They fight, but not so loudly that the people in the car beside us can hear and not in a blood-pressure-raising way—just regular, sporadic, relatively quiet fighting. We listen to the radio. We talk. They look at the internet over my shoulder. They spill crackers out of their mouths onto my shoulder. But it’s better than the pointless, rushed bread-buying trips, so I’m sticking with car-time.

In fact, our 45 car journeys a week have been whittled down to a mere 29, through a mix of after-school activities and car-time.

If you’d told me six months ago that I wouldn’t mind spending 40 minutes in a car with two squabbling children, that I’d actually look forward to it as a bit of downtime, I’d have been a little frightened for my future self. I might have staged an intervention.

But actually, this isn’t a new trend—the pleasure bar has been on a downward spiral for eight years now. With parenthood, I no longer have time, space or money to do whatever I want, and as a result, the things that make me happy are smaller and simpler.

I love nights in. I still love nights out, but they’re not the twice-a-weekend event they used to be. Instead, many Saturday nights are spent on the sofa, watching a movie, drinking red wine, and eating cheese. And I look forward to that just as much as I ever looked forward to taking the bus into town—sometimes more so.

I love six hours’ sleep, because it’s more than the four hours that I used to call “sleeping through the night” on and off in recent years. It’s nowhere near the mammoth sleeps of life before parenthood, but I’ve realized I don’t need it.

I love a 10-minute shower behind a locked door while my husband does story time.

I love sitting at a screen, working. Not just because work is good (work was always good), but also because it means sitting down. The rest of my time is spent running and chasing and driving and clearing and refereeing (except, of course, for car-time.)

I love five minutes with coffee and Facebook, when all the school runs are done.

I love getting the train to anywhere. It’s me-time. Phone, book or magazine in hand, half willing the driver to slow down so that I can have more time. Bliss.

I love a glass of red wine on a Thursday night. Because it’s nearly Friday, and it’s been a long week and no matter what I have or haven’t done, no matter how badly, I feel like I’ve earned it.

I love coffee in my kitchen. This bar has lowered further in recent months; I used to have a cappuccino from the coffee shop near work every morning, but I think I love the one I make myself as much as I ever did the frothy one in the cardboard cup. Possibly because I have no choice, but the pleasure is just as great—it’s just that the bar is lower.

Anyway, I better stop typing. Car-time is nearly over, and there’s a child dribbling crackers on my shoulder. That glass of wine is only four hours away now. Bliss.