Is happiness an emotion reserved for those who have an easy life? Right now I have a child who thinks happiness is a life without math fact drill pages.

And, he’s onto something that misery is dragging one’s feet and taking three hours to do what should take one three minutes. However, cause and effect might be different than his perception.

The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but liking what one has to do. — J.M. Barrie

math doodles
math doodling

And do I not take three hours to do what should take me three minutes, too? I can be amused by or frustrated with the reluctant, petulant child who is inflicting his misery on himself, until I realize I do the same thing.

It’s easy to tell him, “Look, this same sheet took you 5 minutes last week. You’re being ridiculous. Just do it instead of complaining about it and you’ll be done.”

Yet I go around the house, seeing piles of stuff to deal with, laundry to be folded, a basket of random stuff I don’t want to think about, a cupboard that I am afraid to open for fear of the avalanche of papers and pencils and random bits, the crumbs and spills left in drawers, the crumbs and spills left on the floor. I see all that I could or should do, and instead of doing something, stare out the window (or at the computer screen) and feel sorry for myself. I, too, wallow instead of getting down to business.

math doodle

I know that if I spend 15 minutes, I could make significant progress in any one of those areas that bother me. But, I have excuses. Some valid, some not. I know I have the newborn “get out of housework-guilt free” card.

I don’t feel guilty for not doing the things that I have to do, I feel persecuted that I have things to do.

The pesky homekeeping tasks should just all evaporate and leave me be, leave me to do whatever I want, whatever I feel like, all day. Stupid housework. Down with housework! Up with play! Housework is boring.

Yes, I can roll my eyes at my recalcitrant child, but then I’m looking right at myself.


So, I need to hear myself what I told him and what his father told him, “Look, you are choosing a bad attitude. If you choose to focus and get this done in even 15 minutes, 15 minutes is not a long time and then you’ll be done. And once you’re done you’ll realize it wasn’t so bad.” I can do anything for 15 minutes, even mop a floor. And then, on the other side of a clean floor, I realize that mopping isn’t so hard – it’s getting off my rear-end that’s hard. Mopping, laundry, putting things away, is never as onerous as my procrastinating imagination makes it out to be.

I can choose to wallow in my imagination and in my pity party, or I can choose to ignore my perception that my intellect knows is false. It is a choice, regardless of how inevitable it feels. This is obvious when it’s someone else’s woes, like taking 3 hours over simple addition and subtraction, but less clear when it is one’s own woes.

The next day my son woke up saying, “I have a better plan for today: Actually doing my schoolwork.”

So, I, too, have a better plan for today.


  1. My children draw similar pictures on their worksheets. I have found, usually, they are wanting to spend some time with me and if I work one on one with them things improve dramatically. Other times I have to be the mean mom and just make them slog through. And yes, the next day they usually have a totally different attitude. I’m not going to talk about myself though, because the rest of your post hit too close to home. :)

    1. Julie, thanks for that insight! We have had more than usual school difficulties lately. I was attributing it to just resistance after so long a break, but giving them all more one-on-one attention would probably help that transition a lot.

  2. Mystie, this was such a good reminder for me. Thank you for your honesty. My biggest New Year’s Resolution is discipline. Now I need more of this in MANY areas, so I’m trying to be careful not to shoot so high I fall completely, but we’re getting there.

    1. Heather, that’s been on my resolutions list for 5 years now at least. :) I think I’ve finally figured out it’s made up of the little things and not a one-time big decision.

      You know that grief, temporary home, and short-notice homeschooling are all get out of housework-guilt free cards, right? It’s not really in your power to make life easy right now. You’ll make it and life will settle back down after you’ve been back to Iowa for awhile.

      1. Ha! You cut to the chase, don’t you! I am not so stressed about the housework — mainly about getting certain subjects sufficiently covered in case they go back next year. . . and we are behind. There will be some schooling summer for at least one, I’m afraid:(

  3. what a great post. thank you! I always feel like having children is like standing in front of a mirror continually.

  4. Great post. I love the Barrie quote. We just have so much trouble obeying. Well said! (And a good reason to have a bit of mercy on these poor persecuted children :)

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