The Pursuit of Money
Most research on the relationship of happiness to money shows that money buys happiness only when we are abjectly poor. Beyond the happiness that comes from being able to pay for our basic needs (food, shelter, etc.), we don't really get any happier from amassing wealth. Well, new data seem to show that this money/happiness relationship is more linear than we've thought - in other words, more money does provide more happiness. This new information comes from studies of the life satisfaction score of people in various countries, plotted against their mean income. There are many reasons why such data cannot be applied to individuals, but I'm sure many will take this to heart. After all, our whole American economy is built on the fact that we must get rich and have the latest and best stuff to be happy, right?
The biggest problem is that these statistics don't take into account the unhappiness that comes from yearning for money, and from pursuing it at high non-monetary costs. We're conditioned to think that we have to buy a house, for example, and so many families stretch themselves beyond their financial limits to achieve this milestone of modern success. We can't stop there, either, since our house is always smaller or less lavishly decorated than someone else's. Constantly comparing ourselves to others who appear to have more is a recipe for anxiety and unhappiness. And so we slave on, spending our time earning more money so that we can spend our money and be happier someday.
My description may be overly simplistic, but I'm constantly surprised by how tightly this buying-therapy mentality is woven into our lives. It steals our ability to achieve ESP, and that is where I get to speak up. Making a conscious decision to equally share the parenting of our children with our partner usually means rejecting at least part of this road to 'happiness.' This is because we know that the less money we need, the more freedom we have to create balanced lives and share them equally together. The more time we have, the more of it we can give to our kids too. ESP families may not be the richest in town, at least monetarily, but by quitting the quest for more money, we also quit the heartache of not 'enough.'
One line I like in the article about the new money/happiness data is this: "When you're richer, you can decide to work less...." Ah, but how many wealthy people make this decision (short of the Paris Hiltons of the world)? My challenge to those considering equal sharing is to decide when they are 'rich enough' to work less (that's less time, not less effectively), and allow themselves the possibility of doing just that.