Finding Joy in Other Kinds of Motherhood

by Gretchen Rubin
Originally Published: 

One reason that my blog has brought me so much happiness is that blogging has widened my circle of friends so much. I met Melanie Notkin because we’re both interested in using social media to engage with readers—especially since her first book hit shelves in 2014. In Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids, Melanie shines a light on relationships that bring a tremendous amount of love and happiness: the bond among “aunties” and their nieces, nephews, godchildren, and more. I knew that Melanie has thought a lot about happiness, so I was eager to hear what she had to say.

What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

I call my nephew and nieces to hear the sound of their voices. Nothing puts a smile on my face faster than that.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

When I was a teenager, I thought happiness was an automatic result of popularity. Today I know it’s the reverse; popularity is often a result of happiness.

Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (For example, I remind myself to “enjoy the fun of failure.”)

“Keep going.” A close friend reminds me of this when I share a success; there’s more where that came from if I just keep going with a positive attitude.

Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?

I know what used to detract from my happiness. I focused on who I wasn’t by my mid-30s (a wife, a mother) instead of focusing on who I was (a devoted aunt, a business owner). Once I began referring to myself in the positive (I’m not childless, I’m “childfull” because I choose to fill my life with children to love) I quickly realized that happiness is self-defined. You just need the right words to rewrite happiness for yourself if life didn’t go as planned. That’s why I launched in 2008 and wrote Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids. So many women have discovered their incredible value as aunts and godmothers and the invaluable role they play in a child’s life. That makes them, and me, very happy.

Do you work on being happier? If so, how?

Every day. I practice letting things go—not giving up on success, but rather understanding, knowing and believing that cause and effect are not always immediately directly related or visible. If I do something that I believe will make me happy, and yet it fails, I believe that success will come from an unexpected source in the future. Letting go of my perceived beliefs of what I think should make me happy, versus believing that all efforts result in eventual greater happiness, is my greatest “work.” Happiness is undeniable because I don’t stop believing in it.

To read more by Gretchen Rubin, visit her site.

This article was originally published on