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Were You Happier A Decade Ago?

Editorial Team

Back in the 60s an iconic cigarette ad for Virginia Slims proclaimed to women, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
Yet despite all the advances that women have achieved since then, some people think it has been downhill ever since.
One of them is Arianna Huffington, the successful pundit/web entrepreneur who on the surface seems like a poster child for happiness.

“Women around the world are in a funk,” she writes. “It doesn’t matter what their marital status is, how much money they make, whether or not they have children, their ethnic background, or the country they live in.”

Marcus Buckingham, author of the new book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently, says that men and women passed each other midpoint on the graph of life.

“Though women begin their lives more fulfilled than men, as they age, they gradually become less happy” about marriage, money and material goods. Men, in contrast, get happier as they get older,” Buckingham says.

Are you happier than your mother or grandmother were? Does having kids contribute, as some researchers say, to your unhappiness? Put another way, does not having children contribute, as some say, to your happiness?


  1. Debbie

    I find I am definately not happier! Divorce and kids with no college education have left me at 49 feeling hopeless. The truth is, I’m a very smart person who has many gifts and talents but……….we are so focused on “college education” in this society that without it you are not employable in any gainful or meaniful capacity! Tired of it all!

  2. Martha

    I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. I married at 20 to an Air Force officer and had 3 kids. My husband was gone all the time then he was injured in Vietnam. I raised those children and took care of the husband. When husband became capable of taking care of himself after 25 years of marriage I went out to see the world. I started my own business and traveled. I live by myself and owe only for a modest home. I have NO credit card debt and refuse to hand out money to anyone without a contract. I negotiate for a house loan or a car. I save the money if I want something. Last 2 cars I’ve bought new and I paid CASH for both. It feels good to be independent. That was something I learned from my folks who went through the Great Depression. A good lesson to know.

  3. Pamela M Kever

    I am happier with my family right now. I am unhappy that I can not provide for my children by myself and not by government incentives (unemployment money) or by welfare(food stamps).Yet I am not happy at what the future costs is going to end up being. I am not happy about a lack of a careers right now.
    Todays economy makes me sad on how much my children are going to have to pay back every dime of money I had received while being unemployed and they are going to get paid half as much because times have changed for the worst for women. Look at your women you have listed beautiful but I do not see one electro/mechanical female there. I see advertiser, insurance sales persons, paper pushers, women that use social graces and femenine wiles. I am not a female to trick anyone.
    Yet I sure do feel tricked, I had been told I can do anything a man can do and it would pay out eventually. I see where women that had worked men’s role and are now physically incapable to continue such role, due to issues to include fiber myalgia symptoms and myofascial pain
    syndrome. Quoted from “As there is no cure for fibromyalgia, so there is no cure for MPS. The goals of treatment should obviously include pain relief and improvement/restoration of mobility and functionality. It is important to identify any other accompanying conditions, and give treatment to these also. Perhaps most importantly, the patient needs to be educated on how to best manage chronic pain, so that life can be lived as normally as possible.” My character flaw is I a person that the career that put them in that condition in the first place, is the only career that fits my personality or mental ability or my mental disablilities. So whose normal, my normal includes continuing in a career which caused the problem in the first place. My doctor normal is change careers or your symptoms will get worst not better. Yet Social security agents see a treatment not a continued problem. I see a persistent problem because no one will higher me due to my possible continued problems of constant pain therapy needed to continue in my years of experience career.
    Yet when women that are having these issue requesting SSI or Social security Benefits are consider depressed due to the fact they take meds for men that would be consider depression meds instead of pain relief. Women get rejected from benefits even those they can not longer stand up or sit for more than two hours without the burning deep burning pain creeping in and settling in their bodies for the next three days for much less than a simple tasks as of working a cash register standing up or answering phones while solving technical customer concerns even while sitting down where the social security that hard physically worked women paid out is used to pay other government programs and that women where actually expected to receive the mens portion of social security since women live longer than men. Think about all that money that women paid into social security and how many actually get paid back what they themselves (women) had paid in.
    I see a push for women to get back in to being nurses (not the CRNS), retail sales clerks, teachers which I call “helper careers” and all other physical women if capable being pushed to stocking clerks. All these careers I see a max pay about $27,000 a year if that. Now if you want sales go for it women that have that patiences you could make that $140,000 career but for how long until you had you fill of partners leading you into dead deals or cold calls. NOT ME!
    A few year back it was pushed for the technical careers to be ship out to over seas contractors. Some of the careers was typical mens office careers like engineering or technical services that where occasional physical up and down careers with a little travel. Any that are still state side are horded up by men because of the battle to even have a job much less a career. I see a bottle neck that women have been pushed out of and have no way back ins this had been my career. Good old psychology of shipping it over seas.
    I still see when the men social security will still be dominate for the social security paid out if a female is married to a man that has an education and a brain to make more than work force laborer.
    I am tired of being pushed to an older period where female career that pays minimum wage, not the career I had a natural talent man’s world career .The do it or died torchered of a career for the rest of my life, what part of normal living is that. OK writing is not my normal either.

  4. JM

    “I see advertiser, insurance sales persons, paper pushers, women that use social graces and femenine wiles. I am not a female to trick anyone.”
    How incredibly offensive.
    Although these jobs may not be right for you, that doesn’t mean that the people who do them get by on “social graces and femenine wiles”- usually it’s with talent and hard work!

  5. Victoria Forigo

    After 10 years of trying to get out of college debt; the only thing I’m happier about is that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Finacially, I’m still broke, thanks to social housing I have a roof over my head. As for health, poverty has only worsened my health status. As for social, I work a banquet hall where I’m work’n the party not being a participant. As for closer connection with family; I’m more astranged now, than then because no one wants to hang out with someone who’s always broke. (Poverty contaminated)
    Respect; I get from business people cause they know how hard I’m trying to get myself out of the hole, get back to the quality of life I once hand. The Arthris Society, states “Get use to the new norm”, you have to accept that you have a degenerative desease and learn to self manage.
    I’ve been doing that since I was nine years old.

  6. Mandy

    Happiness is a strange thing. I used to think it was dependent on circumstances. The last few years of my life has shown me otherwise. What happened? I experienced happiness for the first time.
    The onslaught of my happiness is because I finally rejected the lie we as women have been told for years. The lie: “we can do it all”. So we try, then our marriages fail, jobs overwhelm us, our children despise us, and our houses look like disaster zones.
    We cannot do it all & do it all well. We have to make choices, sacrifices. Our choices show what matters most. I was on the career path, full speed ahead, willing to sacrifice everything for the identity I had found in my job. Just as I was about to crash it all I was rescued, slapped around a bit, and brought into full view of what I was doing.
    I quit.
    MY job, My career, My daily joy, my PRIDE.
    Deep depression and extreme doubt followed. But I knew I had done the right thing. And eventually my feelings followed. My pride was broken, happiness shone thru like a sunrise after long nights of storminess. The lie was exposed.
    I know now I can do it all – just not at the same time. I have chosen my marriage. At the end of the day, I want to say “I have a happy marriage.” So every day I make choices that will bring me closer to that goal…and I am happier than I have ever been.
    My circumstances haven’t changed that much. I still work full time & still married to the same man. What changed is I now make little, daily, deliberate choices that reflect the big choice – my marriage. So I work a job that pays less and doesn’t have the amazing title or career path but gives me time to be with my husband and make his life better. In turn I’m rewarded with happiness that my choices are matching my purpose.
    I’m not saying my choice should be everyone’s choice. Just be aware, you are making a choice. Be intentional about that choice. We can’t do it all and that is okay.

  7. Anonymous

    Yes the sales talent is a trick either by men or women. Beauty sells ,not hard work. I am talented in electro mechanical and a very very hard worker, not a sales person or a person to sell myself with lies. I am no match to have a photo like these to sell what I am not. I am very upset over this economy versus how careers change over the years. How women convinced other women they can do the same as men but not get the same benefits when times are tuff.
    You say how offensive I am- I see scammers as offensive people that sell stuff that people can not afford is offensive. I see people use their beauty to sell a broken product. Life has changed and it is not for the better.

  8. Norma Lopez - AZ

    I am very happy with my life. I think I have always made time for being happy. I married at 17, I knew College was not for me. I do not for one moment regret not going to College. At age 18, I had my 1st daughter, at 19 our son and at 21 our 2nd daughter. I went to work for Mt Bell at age 20, took time off to deliver my daughter and went back to work when she was 15 days old! Out of the 3, she is the most independent, assertive and just a go-getter.
    I was layed off from Mt Bell in March 1982 when the phone company split. I was hired at our electric company December 1982. I asked for an early retirement package from the electric company in June 2008. Our kids have been grown for a long time, they have college degrees and are very comfortable in their lives.
    About 10 years ago I joined Jafra Cosmetics to purchase my personal products at a discount. Nine years ago I worked my business on a part-time basis. June 2008 I took my business full time. I opened an office outside my home and I am very happy.
    I have absolutely been blessed with great parents (now deceased) great husband, fabulous kids and my life has never felt so good as it does now!
    Has my life had its ups and downs? OF COURSE!
    I’m in the time of my life where I do what I want to do. I have contributed financially to my home, my kids, my grandkids and now it’s time for me! I love what I do and this new career keeps me happy!
    My husband does not care to travel so I earn all our Company trips and have a blast with my friends. We still do vacations with our kids and their families.
    I am very involved with my church which I believe helps keep me grounded!
    I have found that when times get tough, I get tougher!

  9. Susie

    I’d have to agree that women are a lot less happy as they age. For me, I think it has to do with the fact that I had children at a young age and never really developed a sense of my own identity. I was a stay-at-home mom for much of the time and my identity was wrapped up in my family. I was someone’s wife or someone’s mother, but never just myself. I didn’t get an education beyond high school and now, at 55 years old, find myself longing to go back in time and go to college. It’s not necessarily that I want to make more money, it’s more like I want to know if I could have bettered myself. I suppose you could say that I wish I had developed my sense of “ego” and felt better about myself. Men have it easier in that department. Their sense of self is centered on bettering themselves in order to support the family. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and am happy that I stayed at home to raise them. If I had to do it all over again I would have gone to college before I went into the working world. Not only for the money but for my own self gratification.

  10. Susan Kaye

    I was happy up until May of 2003 when I was downsized from a good paying job. For the last 6 years all I have been working underemployed. Everyone knows what this means horrible pay, no benefits, and horrible working conditions. As the economy began to takn I have become very depressed. Since May of this year every day when I come home all I do is cry. All I wish for the job market to change very soon so I can leave this place I work in.

  11. I’m so much happier now than ever. Circumstances do not determine my attitude. As soon as I let that happen I’m done for! Life happens and sometimes the only things you can choose are your response and attitude.
    I choose to be happy.
    Thoughts lead to feelings, which leads to ACTIONS which leads to results. It’s not the other way around.

  12. Amy

    I am much happier now than 10 years ago.. I have a degree (working on a 2nd), a career (not just a job), a good relationship with my family, a great relationship with my boyfriend, I own my home, I own my cars, and my health is better than ever.. I may have less free time, but I’m better able to make the most of and enjoy the free time I do have.. I have learned many things, made many changes, and decided to take control of my life, rather than allowing my life to take control of me.. above all, I’m glad that I’ve always clung to the idea that my measure is not that of my material worth, but that of my character.. I can only hope that the next decade brings me even more fulfillment – mentally, physically and spiritually..

  13. Vanni

    I would have to say I am definitely not happier. Yes, I have my college degree and all that now but having been unemployed for five months, I sometimes think back to my college years when things were easier and less worrysome. Thankfully, I do not have kids nor I am seriously involved with someone. The latter is emotionally tiring as it’s hard to find someone compatible these days, especially in NYC. Ultimately though, I plan to “keep on keeping on” as they say until I get to where I’m supposed to be in life. I truly believe I haven’t arrived yet.

  14. jobseeker

    I am not happier than I was only a few years ago. I have a Master’s degree, a son ready to begin college, and a job I hate because of a toxic work environment and a micro-mangaing boss. I feel trapped and can’t get out, because of the economy and the need for health care. My son has been a challenge to raise, even with a partner who is an EXCELLENT male role model.
    There is SO much age discrimination, that job searching is made all the more difficult. Career changing is supposed to be the norm. I read that a person will change careers, not jobs, but careers, seven times or more in their life. How can this be true when the workplace only values workers from age 26-39? That is only a good 13 years of work life. I am in my 40’s. I thought 50 was the new 30, but no one told the hiring managers that.
    Until the economy turns around and companies hire a variety of aged people to balance the workplace, I don’t see things getting better soon.
    I just saw a poll that people 40-60 are a lot more uncomfortable about the economy and the future than are 18-35. Not sure what 36-40 year olds are thinking.

  15. I am definitly happier. My son is wonderful, my job is better, and I have more time and more money to enjoy with my husband than I had 10 years ago. I just finished my college degree, i was pregnant and couln’t find a good job so, right now, I am really happier than I used to be and I think I’ll be better within 10 more years!!!!

  16. Marisol Rodriguez

    After,13 years at Starbucks, I am no longer with the company. I was a regional director of operations for 95 stores simultaneously working on my MBA. I am 43 years old and new I needed a career change. I was unhappy, and new there there was more to life,though Starbucks gave me many happy years. I recently decided to pursue a P.h.D. in Organizational Behavior with a goal to teach at a reputable research based institution. I am thrilled about my new career path and could not have done it without the support of my family. I have lost a significant amount of income and it is a bit scary. The secret is to stop doing the same old things and re-think how you spend you money daily. In addition, one must not allow fear to stand in the way of happiness nor the perceptions of family or friends. You deserve to be happy and your family deserves to see the best in you. If you won’t do it for you, do it for those loved ones around you who will be inspired by your courage and tenacity. We cannot teach our young if we are not willing to role model.
    Best of luck.


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