Responsibility Trumps Happiness

By Lindy Earl

I had a conversation recently about what parents want for their children.  The gentleman with whom I spoke commented that all parents want their children to be happy.  He told me this after I told him that my children’s happiness was my second goal for my sweet cherubs.

I had just told this gent that my goal for my children is that they be able to afford the lifestyle they desire, or manage to live on the income that they manage to generate.  All my children are in their twenties at this moment.  They are making slow progress in their professional process.  There seems to be some resentment, not just with mine but with students with whom I come into contact, about education, entitlement, work ethic, and the ladder to success.

In my day, I recall that, as students, we tolerated some classes as Gen Ed requirements.  Others we enjoyed.  Some we suffered through.  We were after an education, and realized that the classes were there to achieve our goal. It seems that today, however, too many students just want the degree, with or without the education. Some seem to graduate believing that they already know what they need, and some expect to step instantly into that million dollar career.

Back to my conversation about my children.  I believe it is more important for my children to be functional members of society, able to provide for themselves and any children they choose to bring into this world, than to be happy.  Of course I want them to be happy, but better to be able to pay their bills and be unhappy, than to be happy and leaching off society or others within that society.

I realize this may be an odd statement in today’s socioeconomic culture.  In today’s world, even more than I remember from my limited years in the ‘60’s and the hippy culture, it seems to be about getting what you want, even at the expense of others.  Back then if you didn’t like the war, you left the country.  If you didn’t like the status quo, you blamed the establishment.  I am not here to comment on our country as a whole, or on the millennials or other generations.

Parents have a responsibility to raise children to be self-sufficient, hard-working, successful members of society – their work society, social society, whatever society.  People should be raised to give back.  For instance, elementary schools are dependent on a plethora of volunteers in order to keep things running smoothly.  In addition, volunteers keep costs down.  Having been a home room mom, who organized parties, to a library volunteer, where I spent my time re-shelving books so the paid techs could use their time for other tasks, we all know the importance of volunteers. We need to teach our children that they have a responsibility to give back, just as people gave to them.

The same giving back concept applies at churches, in neighborhoods, and in civic organizations.  The good news is that these organizations often offer social events, camaraderie, and friendships.  So, it’s really a win-win system for the people who put time into it. If, however, we teach our children that their happiness, their wants and desires, are more important than responsibility, and doing unto others and for others, is more important, then volunteers will fall away, and good organizations will cease to exist.

          I would rather have my children grow up to be self-reliant and productive members of society, even if they aren’t always happy, rather than be happy and dependent on others or on the government. Be a giver, not a taker.

Lindy is a Speaker, Writer, and Consultant.  Please contact her at