Apparently there have been a whole lot of people talking about a new study showing women get sadder as they age, while men get happier. Arianna Huffington. Maureen Dowd. Joan Williams. Marcus Buckingham.
Buckingham kicks it off on the Huffington Post by distilling the study as follows:
All told, more than 1.3 million men and women have been surveyed over the last 40 years, both here in the U.S. and in developed countries around the world. Wherever researchers have been able to collect reliable data on happiness, the finding is always the same: greater educational, political, and employment opportunities have corresponded to decreases in life happiness for women, as compared to men.
Even though the study specifically interviewed women and men of differing marital status, most of the blog responses seem to be talking about married women.
So, to sum it up, why do women start out happier and get bluer as they age? They start out believing in equality. And then they discover the scoop.
Joan seems a little sour grapes about the distribution of household chores. I realize every day I'm way more fortunate than many women in that Beloved does literally half of the household chores. We couldn't function if he didn't. We don't send out the laundry. We don't have a cook or a housecleaner or a lawn service. In fact, damn it! We don't have any servants at all. We just have us and our house and our jobs and only 24 hours in a day. If we didn't both pull our weight, things would just not get done. So I certainly can't blame any of my general malaise on my good-for-nothing husband, because he's a kick-ass cook who irons better than I do.
If I were coming home from working a full-time job and then doing everything? Hell, yes, I'd be depressed. How many women is this happening to? I can only speak to my immediate social circle, but the working couples I know seem to share household chores quite a bit, or else they outsource them. I only know one full-time stay-at-home mom, so I can't really speak to that crowd. Feel free to speak up and educate me -- do you do everything around the house? Do you outsource any of it? Does it make you depressed?
And why would single women be getting more depressed, if it was all about household chore distribution? I don't it's completely about that. (Though I don't discount it as a contributing factor if the chores are not shared the way they are in my house.)
The more important things that are crowded into their lives, the less attention women are able to give to each thing.
Ah. I think she might have nailed something here. For women and men, multi-tasking creates chaos, inattentiveness to detail and that general feeling of brain-fried malaise that descends on me personally every day as I drive home after being battered for eight hours by buzzing phones, 105 business e-mails, 105 personal e-mails, four meetings, six deadlines and 18 visits to my desk from co-workers needing an answer to a question.
And it sucks. Not being able to give something or someone your full attention sucks. I remember early in my career a mentor told me the best thing I could do for my mental state was give myself time to work. Give myself time to get something done correctly. Do less in each day, and do it better.
Ha! Everyone who knows me will think that is really funny. I cram a lot in. But I also recognize when I start getting depressed that I really need to pull back and hand wash some dishes or plant something in the ground. I need to do something manual and methodical that keeps my hands busy so it is LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE for me to do something else at the same time.
I've been there lately. The past two weeks, if you'll look back at my archives, had me breaking down in tears pretty much daily and in very public spaces. I didn't know what was wrong -- I just knew I was overwhelmed and weepy and a complete mess. There were too many deadlines, too much going on, too many people needed something in the same period of time. I am a perfectionist and was terrified of turning in shit. After I got home from a business trip on Thursday at 1 a.m. and got up at 7 on Friday to chaperone my daughter's kindergarten field trip, I realized the chaos had to stop, at least temporarily. No more. The end. Katie, bar the door.
I really think that's it -- knowing you can't do a very good job at anything, because you don't have the time to dedicate to doing it the way you want to. Women have been lauded for the last few years at being better at multi-tasking, which probably means we're doing it more. Over the past forty years, there have been more and more opportunities for women to take on more tasks at once.
Perhaps the best thing we can do for ourselves is one thing at a time.