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I remember the moment I became a mother.  It was like lightening and thunder inside my body, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a delightful soft and smooth swoosh.  And there she was.

Like every mother, I wanted my child to be happy.  That was 24 years ago, and instinctively, I knew that happiness was more than just a feeling, but I was not entirely clear what else it was.

The Ecological Footprint for USA from the Global Footprint Network

I did know it had something to do with our tie to the planet. It seemed so unfair to me that the ecological footprint of the average American was seven times greater than most of the rest of the world. That was why I decided to have only one child. Today -24 years later- we Americans are still using more natural resources than any other nation in the world and Mother Nature is running out of her supply.

Gross Domestic Product for USA from The World Bank

When my daughter was born, in 1988, the average American income was about $33,400 (adjusted for inflation).  By the time she was 20, nothing had changed- except for the richest 1%; their income had risen by 33%.  However, the gross domestic product (sum of all goods and services produced in a year) has increased almost three fold, from 5 billion in 1988 to 14.6 billion in 2010.  When she graduated from college, unemployment rates were up from 7% to 9.6% and today, my daughter, a dean’s medalist, can’t find a job so she volunteers to create the job experience she needs. She volunteers long hours, and more often than not, she is sleep deprived.  When I see her, I just want to hold her and sing her to sleep like when she was a baby.  She has no health care, no dream of a secure future. She is not alone.

I still want my daughter to be happy.  The difference between then and now is that I have a clear idea of what I mean, and today, I am doing all I can to help change the future so she, and all our children, can be really happy.

I am the executive director of a project called the Happiness Initiative. We are working on the transformation of a world run by money and greed to one based on true happiness.  Now that my daughter is full grown, this is my life’s work.   It’s also, in a way, the fulfillment of who I am as a mother

So what does it mean to be happy? I want my daughter to live in a world where she is not faced with the choice of taking a vow of poverty to follow her dream or compromising her soul to make ends meet. I want her to know that the food she is eating will not expose her to increased rates of cancer.  I want her to be able to go to a doctor or dentist whenever she needs it, and not have to worry that she can’t afford it. I want her to live in a world where she can truly fulfill her potential. That is why I had her, and what I raised her to do.

But that is not the way the world is right not.  The Happiness Initiative is part of a movement to change all that. We are bringing a new measure for our governments, businesses, campuses and our own lives to guide us towards real happiness – well-being, quality of life and sustainability.  It starts with a simple self-assessment of your own well-being; a survey you can take here.  Our project is based on the Gross National Happiness Movement started by Bhutan.  On April 2nd, we will be joining other people and organizations from around the world at the United Nations headquarters in New York for a conference held by the UN and Bhutan to create a new world system for our planet’s wellbeing.  This is exciting, but not as exciting as the idea of a future where happiness – real happiness- is possible for your child, and mine.

This is the first of a series of posts I intend to write for Momsrising about my journey as a mother and grandmother in the role of executive director of the happiness initiative.  In the next post, I intend to explain more about how the Happiness Initiative can make a difference.  In the meantime, I ask you- what do you really mean when you say you just want your child to be happy?


The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of MomsRising.org

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