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October 26th, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Women: Does Equality Equal Happiness?

busWomanUsually, I offer opinions on the show or here on the blog, but today I am full of questions. I’m probably just chicken to weigh in to women about women! But either way, I have to say, I was so intrigued by a couple of reports that came out last week supposedly detailing the state of today’s American women at work and at home, so I wanted to blog with you about them.

Time magazine had a long cover story on women’s economic progress, which was based on its in-depth survey of women around the country. Coincidentally, NBC News had all of its news programs devote air time last week to the release of another study of American women called “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” that had been put together by the Center for American Progress and A Woman’s Nation founder, Maria Shriver.

Some of it was pretty tedious, technical, (boring) reading, but embedded in the studies were some very interesting “conclusions.” I put that in quotes because there is always a degree of subjectivity when it comes to interpreting such information, so it is one step beyond just reporting the data. As near as I can tell, here is what the research concluded:

* It’s expected that by the end of the year, for the first time in history, the majority of workers in the U.S. will be women — an extraordinary change in a single generation.

* Mothers are now the major breadwinners in 40 percent of American families — perhaps an even more extraordinary statistic in such a short time span.

* In 1972, seven percent of students playing high school sports were girls. That number is now six times as high.

* College campuses used to be almost 60-40 male. Now, the ratio has reversed.

* Close to half of law and medical degrees now go to women, up from fewer than 10 percent in 1970.

* We have a female Speaker of the House and a female Secretary of State.

* A female Supreme Court judge was recently appointed, the third woman in history to sit on the high court.

* Thirty-two women have served as governors. Thirty-eight have served as senators.

* Four out of eight Ivy League presidents are women.

* And for the first time, five women have won Nobel Prizes in the same year (for Medicine, Chemistry, Economics and Literature).

scalesPersonally, I am thrilled that so many women are in the workforce these days because they constitute an incredible talent pool. I would be lost without the women of the Dr. Phil staff. Probably more than 90 percent of our 300-plus team at the Dr. Phil show is female, and that includes our top positions of executive producer, all of our supervising producers, the majority of our producers, our legal counsel, our head of public relations, our Web director, and I could go on and on. They are the engine that makes the Dr. Phil show run, they are my “feminine side,” but they are also so much more. Their instincts and skill sets are invaluable. Many are mothers, some married, some not. They are smart, dedicated and relentlessly committed to creating quality shows. They can be tough as well as compassionate, and they are supremely confident. I know it, because I live it. (By the way, we have great men on the team as well, but today, I’m talking about the ladies.)

Despite undeniable economic progress, there are still major areas where women are under-represented and underpaid. Corporate boardrooms and whole swaths of professions like, say, hedge-fund management, remain predominantly male. On top of that, in most job categories, women continue to earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. They are also charged higher premiums for health insurance, yet still have greater out-of-pocket expenses for things as basic as contraception and maternity care. And last year, during the economic downturn, women’s earnings fell two percent, twice as much as men’s.

I probably haven’t told you much you don’t already know, but here’s the something I found most interesting: Despite the advances of women in so many areas, according to several studies, including the General Social Survey, which has been tracking the moods and social attitudes of Americans since 1972, women reportedly have not gotten any happier over the last four decades — while men have. And factors such as marital status, income, ethnic background and whether children are involved don’t seem to matter. Women, in general, are reported to be no happier despite professional advances. Does that mean those economic achievements don’t define happiness for the group surveyed? I suppose there is no reason why we should equate better success in the workplace with happiness, but I do wonder why the results are what they are.

Most research is based on samples of a larger group of people, and then generalizations are made that sometimes can be just flat wrong. So, what do you think? Are you surprised by these results? Are they right, or do you think they are all wet?

How about your life? Are you no happier, or even becoming less happy? If so, what are the obstacles to becoming happier? Too many demands? Too much stress to actually feel happier? Too much juggling of everything you need to do between career and home, which zaps the energy and joy?

And what about you women who do not work outside the home? Are you becoming more or less happy as the years go by? Are the obstacles, if there are any, different than for women in the workplace? A colleague told me about a study that concluded that stay-at-home moms work the equivalent of two full-time jobs. So obviously, there’s no rest in or outside of the ol’ homestead!

Some social scientists (not me!) claim that women are just hormonally more complicated than men, and furthermore, are harder on themselves; hence, they experience less feelings of satisfaction. A few suggest that the reason men are getting happier might be because they now have the luxury of relying on more and more working spouses who help bring home the bacon.

That all seems over simplified to me, and I do NOT subscribe to the hormone theory. But what do you think? Today I’m asking not telling! And how do you define “happiness” anyway?

So let me hear from you. I’m thinking about doing a show to explore all of this.

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134 Responses to “Women: Does Equality Equal Happiness?”

  1. Luisa Castro says:

    Does equality means happiness! I would think it helps since right now woman are working, but have to look after the home, the kids… socialize …. and what the husband does are favors to his wife… I would think if the equality was real… which will never happen because man and woman are different.. women can d 5 things at once and men can not…. women can be sick andlook after her family, men get a cold and they are out for the count jijijiji
    I will think happiness is on the eye of the beholder… if you look for the best of your life you will find it in the darkest of time…
    I had a father that was not a great father, but I remember and miss him with love a cherish my good memories of him everyday…
    My childhood has not a happy childhood in other eyes but I remember my mom always made it better, gave it magic, love, and alwaya was there…
    Now My husband and I are working through a lot of financial problems which sometimes gets in to our problems, but we love each other as we are and for what we are so I think we are happy most of the time….
    Today I got depressed because I am not the mother I hoped I´ll be… but tonight my two kids hodl me and kiss me and said they loved me… and I was happy again.
    I will just workharder to be a better mom tomorrow…
    Good LUck!

  2. Tamara Riggs says:

    Unfortunately, I have known that I am a trader to females. As a 42 year old my thoughts are out of place. I have told friends for years that I believe our nation is in the trouble it is today because women had to enter the work force at war time and didn’t go back home. Priorities and definitions of happiness ensue. I find it sad that millions of people are missing out on what a responsibility it is to raise a future adult. We all seem to know everything our parents did wrong, so we would not ever be like that. In avoiding the negativity we shunned the responsibility. @airllusion on twitter. Keep up the GREAT work, Dr. McGraw. “The Doctors” is genius and should have been on 20 years ago!

  3. Paradoxis says:

    I don’t see any link between economic success and happiness myself. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can buy a sense of financial security – illusiory though that may be.

    How many people enjoy their work? Careers and professions – you’d think that if you’ve chosen them, surely you’d enjoy them.

    But this whole idea of happiness. I don’t get it. Never have. To me, “happiness” is like any other emotion – it comes and it goes. Like “sadness”, or “joy”.

    Me, I don’t look for this magical thing called “happiness” because it just makes no sense to me. What I want and strive for in life isn’t a “good job” or “financial security”, but a deep feeling of inner peace and contentment with who I am and what I do, regardless of whether that involves paid work or not.

    Lightheartedness is not something easy to find in this stressed out, fast paced world. Maybe it’s balance that we all look for? When our lives are in balance we get a feeling of wellbeing. That’s happiness, isn’t it?

    I just don’t think it’s realistic for society as a whole to focus on the quest for “Happiness” like it’s some goal or something. That’s what I don’t understand on any level.

    Anyway, just a few wandering thoughts. Not sure they’d make any sense to anyone else. LOL.

  4. Paradoxis says:

    Oh, and on the whole “equality” thing. To me, equality means that no one is less or more worthy or of value than anybody else.

    By that definition, I don’t think there’s much chance of equality for *anybody* when I see that the majority of people are still so incredibly judgemental of each other.

  5. Maddilion says:

    I can tell you are going to have fun with this one, and it will run and run. I admire career women for knowing exactly where they are going and go-gettin’ in, because I am still yet to truly find my calling. I’m 34 you’d think I would have found it by now, but no. But I am happy. I have a good life; it’s a small life, but a good one. I work, I come home, I exercise, I am building up my circle of friends after emigrating, I love my husband dearly and we are planning to try for children next year.

    But having worked in the Civil Service in the UK and also for a Private Equity fund in the City of London, I can also see where women can rise to, but then get stuck. Not once when the guys in the PE company were working on a deal would they leave their desks before 10pm, if not pull all nighters on occasion, they would also be in by 8am. Most were married and had children, and barely saw their children at all. Some men in the office did see their children through the week, but they weren’t at the coal face of completing £10s of million deals. Women while they did work in the office, we were mostly support staff. One of the men I looked after said his best holiday was when he dropped his BlackBerry in the sea and had to call into the office for updates. He couldn’t be contacted at all, but a week earlier when I’d asked him to give me his BB as he was going on holiday, he looked at me like I was mad, ‘I need it to keep in contact with the office!’ It is expected now that we are in contact with everyone all the time, and while men can do that it is simply because they rely on women to run around like mad things in the background.

    Another one of the men in the office took his children to school one day, but took them to the wrong one, as they had moved from the infant campus to junior school campus. The girls thought it was funny that Daddy went to the wrong place; he was mortified he hadn’t taken them to school in over 3 years.

    Women juggle things all the time, and a lot of the work around the house falls on our shoulders, simply because a few short generations ago that is what we did. Men went out to work, women ran the house, children were seen but not heard. While your life/work balance should mean delegation and discussion, for a lot of families, it is the assumption that it will get done, by the woman. And while everything is getting done by the woman and she is being a martyr about it all and not asking for help, people won’t help her because they don’t know what strain and stress she is under until she goes *pop*

    While I am all for equality, it comes at a price. People used to buy what they could afford, only having a mortgage and maybe a car on HP, now everything is on HP, the latest TV/game console/sound system etc. And every child seems to think it is owed an iPod, TV, DVD (the list is endless) in their room as their right. Whereas sometimes a Mum would have a little part time job for pin money or rainy day or holiday money, or to get some adult company. Now women have to work, then have children and have to return to work practically straight away as the family can’t afford to not have them working as people spend what they earn, sometimes more causing the GFC because we didn’t know when to stop and say ‘enough’.

    Somewhere along the line, having 2 incomes has stretched this world to breaking point with people spending money they don’t have, shored up by figures on a job contract, but using credit and store cards to pay for everything, then juggling figures to make ends meet monthly.

    Women all over the world, I salute you, we are wonderful creatures, and I love that we are slowly getting equal status in the boardroom and more and more of us are getting better educated. But all the time we women have to have the babies to procreate, we will never be totally equal as we need to take care of ourselves and our children – we can’t have both. If you, as Dr Phil recommends, take care of yourself first above all else, you will see that you can’t run a house, run a family, have a job, have it all like was mooted by Shirley Conran et al. There simply isn’t time, and while I may not know what my true calling is yet, I know when I get to my death-bed I am never going to wish I stayed behind and worked that bit more, I am going to be glad I spent more time with my family. So that is the basis for my life, myself, my family. Everything else is a bonus, it is not the be all and end all.

    Now I have put the cat amongst the pigeons, I will close for now. But this is a great topic!

  6. Paradoxis says:

    I reckon if you *need* something in order to be happy, then you’re missing the point.

    Is happiness a feeling of fulfillment? Does it require externals? Or do all those good feelings come from inside, instead of outside?

    On a good day, I’m happy with my life. On a bad day, unhappy with my life. What’s changed? Only me.

  7. Crystal says:

    I am happy with my level of equality in my life. As a female that has played almost every competitive sport (including being on an all male football team for 3 years in high school – yes, football on the gridiron – and I am still playing on a women basketball team), I taught computer and medical-related courses for five years, and I am now working on my Masters Degree in Psychology, I can definitely say that YES I AM 100% HAPPY WITH THE OPPORTUNITIES AND EXPERIENCES I HAVE HAD! Were the opportunities and experiences fair or easy? Hell no! I had to (and still do have to) bust my butt to be able to do those things, but I am grateful because it has helped me grow and become a strong, confident woman that invites challenges and new experiences and stand up for myself. I am happiest with my life when I don’t hold myself back because at times I can seem to be my greatest obstacle. Will I still feel this way when I am 50 or 60? Who knows? This is just my experience so far.

  8. Jennifer Dana says:

    Dr Phil,

    I am not as happy as I was in my youth or even my early 30s. This has nothing to do with economics and material possessions. It has everything to do with my health and the stress of being ill. What are the barriers to my being happy? Well I have a set of lungs that needs reworking…so some good medical care would be awsome. Other than that… I *am* happy. I loved my life and my work. To be sure I will again. :)

    I am surprised at some of the statistics you presented in your blog. I am happy to see in black and white the gains women have made in my lifetime. An although we have more work to do in terms of equality we cannot deny the vast accomplishments we have made. Its hard to think that women have had the vote less than 100 years. A few decades ago my Grandmother was made a neighborhood and family parriah for going off and getting her masters degree to help support her family. This was the late 50s early 60s. Never mind that this was a necessity for the family.

    Back to happy….No equality doesnt equal happiness. It has everything to do with opportunity. As a woman I have more opportunity than past generations. What I choose to do with that…thats what made me happy. My neices will look out at the world and see more opportunity than I had. I hope they never forget that with those choices come responsibility.

    Regards,
    Jenn

  9. Rachel says:

    It does equal happiness if the equality isn’t just given because of self pity and obligation, but because someone has realised you as a woman are truly intelligent and capable of many things that men are

  10. Edith says:

    Hmmm. Hormones should not be ruled out, but neither should women use that as an excuse. There are quite a few women out there who do in fact have messed up hormones.

    I used to be really unhappy and unjoyful. I have learned that happiness is more outwardly and circumstancial, but it can also go up or down according to compliments and/or harsh remarks. I’m a supersensitive woman so my happiness goes up and down as I hear different comments but that (un)happiness does not last long. Joy, on the other hand, comes from deep inside. I can be joyful in the midst of hard times. I have been a Christian for a long time, and since I became a Christian I have definitely been much happier, but just over a year ago I had an “aha” moment – God loved ME enough to die on the cross for me. So with such a powerful love on my side I have nothing to fear! My personal and intimate (I mean personal and intimate like with a best friend) relationship with my Lord and Savior is deepening as I learn more and more. I have many health issues, I am in debt, my jobs have been “low-end” like waitressing, baby-sitting, working in grouphomes, and cashier, yet, my joyful disposition is commented on by friends and strangers alike. I like to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty, and when my health is bad and I suffer so much pain I tell myself that “when you’re on the bottom the only way to go is up.” I could fret about still being single, but I’d rather not waste my energy on negative thinking.

    For me happiness can come and go, but my Everlasting Joy is here to stay. I thank my Savior for dying for me when I was the one who left Him. I look forward to praising Him throughout eternity – without any pain!

  11. Lauren says:

    In South Africa at least it still seems to be mainly a male dominated working environment. And I think that people hanging on to the past can also slow down improvement and enforce a negative mindset even when things are looking up. It all depends on your own perspective and how you choose to view life.

    I will speak for myself in terms of happiness etc – I think that personality types play a role as well in how people feel/act/react etc [everyone should do the meyer briggs personality test to see who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand why they react certain ways, to develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses etc].

    I am 22 years old, a workaholic – for now I a sales consultant by day, dj at night, and host and play in foosball tournaments. I have big dreams in the working industry that go way beyond these jobs but these jobs assist in my attaining those goals and unfortunately now is not the season for running my own business [a business that will help a lot of young people to get good jobs - I can't wait].
    I have a broker [another thing people seem to stay away from thanks to a bad stigma and especially at my age - I think everyone should get financial advice from people studied in the field - my money is going to the right places and its so liberating knowing I never have to worry about money [provided that I put in the work required for it- I am working hard now so as to sort myself out as soon as possible and not worry later]. The broker and I are drawing up my business plans and getting sponsors, investors, and I am confident that I am going to make it in the business world, and help as many people as possible along the way.

    Life is what you make of it, and I firmly believe that if you work on yourself as a person – get balance – physically, emotionally [esp emotionally - too many peoples' downfalls are their emotional side unfortunately - thanks to the lack of emotional education and the bad stigmas attached to getting help], spiritually [I cannot speak for this part as I do not know what I believe - but I believe in working on myself and helping others along the way - and if there is a God, hopefully he will have mercy and look at my heart and what I've done - instead of whether I've said a prayer admitting i'm a sinner and saying that Jesus died on a cross and rose again - no offense intended to anyone - I went to Bible School for two years, I do respect each religion and do believe that you should believe what you need to get you through life as long as it is benefiting/helping you and churches are awesome institutions for development in various areas].

    It’s all in your head. Think positive, surround yourself with positive people that stimulate you to better yourself, people wiser than you, learn constantly, take a step back and analyze yourself and work on your issues, diet if you’re unhappy with your weight – I’ve lost over 15kgs in the last few months and am going to gym – i have an accountability friend too which helps A LOT. Give! If everyone looked out for everyone, everyone would be okay. I hate how self seeking human beings can be, but I also realize that this can be due to deep rooted issues/insecurities. I wish it was as easy as microwave popcorn to fix, but alas its really not. The world needs to open its eyes and reassess what they’re investing in to – peoples futures/development should be priority.
    Its so unfair that a poor person is set up to fail starting with lack of education, no funding to pursue further studies, and no connections to get anywhere [yes, who you know definitely plays a role in life sometimes - get to know people]. Also things like go back to nature, appreciate the simple things, do things that inspire/motivate/challenge you, don’t settle for the status quo and become complacent. You determine how far you go.

    You choose the environment you live in. And unfortunately I’ve found too that, some people like to live in negativity – whether consciously or subconsciously.

    Get secure [a lifelong process], be real, be yourself – because if you’re projecting an image you think will make you happy/accepted/etc. then you will need to work on maintaining that image in order to stay “happy” and then its not real.

    i love my life. and i wish everyone would see life the way i do – an opportunity, a learning process… your perception is your reality.

    I’m always happy – but this doesn’t mean I don’t have bad moments – it’s called life – but you can choose whether to grow through it or live in it. I like the bad seasons because that is when character is developed and emotions are dealt with – it hurts – and unfortunately in life we cannot choose our bad experiences – but at the end we learn so much, and can in turn assist others going through it. Also, do not react emotionally – easier said than done, but also easier with time.

    I could continue but I think I’ve written more than enough.

  12. Leslie Blue says:

    All I can tell you, Dr. Phil, is that happiness for me in this life — being 55, single, never married, and no kids — seems to become a bit more elusive with the passing of each day that I continue to spend alone and lonely. :-( Having lived alone since the age of 18, I was never at all lonely up until about the time my much adored Dad died more than seven years ago. And even tho I am satisfied and happy with me just being ME, I’m sure I would register much higher on the happiness scale, if I had a great guy to spend time with, in sharing those many, mostly simple, special things with. After all, I did not work so hard my entire adult life to acquire all of those things that I wanted to make me happy – just so that I could have it all now in order to keep it to myself!!!

  13. John Pollard says:

    The result makes perfect sense, even on it’s surface. Men are happier, of course!! Just generation ago men were responsible, mostly, for making things happen and supporting the family. They can now share a great deal of that burden with women. Women now, because they have demanded it for years, are on a more equal footing with men. As a result, they also have many of the same responsibilities and pressures that men have endured in the past. Be careful what you ask for!! Welcome aboard ladies, glad to have ya!! Women also have a propensity to complain anyway. How many TV shows are filled with female audiences, dealing with female issues that cause women to be unhappy? Weight, make-up, pregnancy, finding just the right jeans, and the list goes on and on. Now, how many TV shows have an audience full of men discussing men’s issues? I cannot think of one!! Man, does that sound sexist? Yep! I think men seek happiness, and are generally more content by nature. When we can share some of life’s responsibilities we get even happier. As women take on more responsibility they, of course, would be more burdened and less happy.
    I can’t wait for the day when they are opening my door for me, and sending ME roses on Valentines Day!!! Oh, happy day!!!! Gooooooooooo Ladies!!!

  14. crazyinlove0276 says:

    There are more important issues that most women are forgetting. Equality that women longs for will never happen (be it at work and at home). There will always be the Alpha male and the submissive and subservient women….that is nature. That is our role.

    I believe that to find true happiness, we don’t need to strive for equality, but rather strive to have an element of individuality and a sense of purpose. When you know as an individual you are fulfulling your duty (professionally, personally, spiritiually) and your purpose in this life is clear and you are exercising the true essence of being a woman which equates to happiness and contentment. What else do we need to prove? Let’s not get hang up on superficiality, titles etc etc

  15. Shawna O'Steen says:

    I know so much has changed with woman over the past 50 years. But it seems that one thing hasn’t changed “Womans Minds”. Woman have taken on so much more, like careers,Housework,Dinner,Workouts,Lawn Work,PTO,Car pool,Grocery store runs,Ect. But one thing that seems to remain the same, one thing has yet to be “bread out” of a woman. Its this Primal Instinct that we can do it all. That we must do it all, That a MOM is not a MOM unless we are Super Woman. We always say we want help and there is a lot of husbands out there that i think do try to help there wives, but for some reason it doesnt matter to us because only Us (MOMS) know how to do it right, or in our minds WE need to do it. And it seems no matter how much we run ourselves dry there is still some kind of strange pleasure in our minds that tells us “YES” I did it. I got throught today. I can do it again. But unless and untill we can let go and let someone help us and be happy with the way they did it, even if its not the way we would do it, if we could just let go of the control, and let go of the thought that if we dont do everything we arent good enough.Then we will truely become better woman and better parents.Its also seems to me that alot of moms are doing whatever there children say or want at any given time. I know alot of things i do for my children i look back and i say to myself my mother didnt do this for me..but i still think shes the most wonderful thing ever. So sometimes we just do too much for our kids and it makes them feel intitled. So its just time that we slow down a bit and pull back a little.Giving ourselves time to breath does make us better parents.

  16. Cassie says:

    I’m a SAHM of 3 and I agree with the statement that men are happier because some of the financial pressure is being taken off of them with women working. I know my husband feels a lot of pressure to provide financially for us, but in the same respect I feel that it is my responsibility to make sure that the money he can bring home stretches to cover what we need.

    I also think that habing women in the workplace not only benefits the work environment, but our country as a whole. Men tend to be more logical and practical and to have women who are more emotional there to put some of their talents and ideas in to balance the men out is definitely a good thing. Although I feel this way, I also feel that it is extremely important to have mom or dad home when there are children in the house. Some people feel that if their child is a teenager than they are old enough to be home after school alone for a few hours, but in reality the teenagers need a parent there just as much as they did when they were 2 years old. For me as a teenager to have my mom home meant everthing to me. I always knew that when something happened in school she would be there to listen to me complain or cry.

  17. Chantale Carrière says:

    I can say that yes, woman are less happy. Whatever is happening threw the world today affects all areas of our lives. I’m a SAHM, and I would have loved to live in the “old” days, where women stayed home, had a bunch of kids, and her job was to care for them and her “man”. Yes, I’m old fashioned for my 37 years, and I don not condemn those that are working, but it’s not for me.
    Because of economic times, I cannot have as many children as I wish I could have. We just can’t afford them, and it’s scary bringing children into this crazy world we have today. Life was so much simpler back then. Let’s go back 60-70 years in time, and I would be happy!

  18. motheroftwo says:

    Being a stay at home mom of two girls who are 22months apart. My oldest is 2.5yrs so needless to say my days are packed with stress and crazyiness. I will say thoughtthat working outside the home did have many challanges. I was active duty in the Coast Guard and if you were the same rank as someone you were suppose to be considered equal. Where I was that was primarly true give or take times. I don’t believe that equality can make you completly happy. I think that everyone has it in them to be happy you just have to choose so and stay positive. I have many reasons where I can sit around and be unhappy but I figure there is always someone who has it worse than me. My husband is active duty and even with him being gone half the month staying at work, his schedule is broken up over the month but anyway my point is that at least he isn’t overseas.

    I think some women need the sense of equality in order to be happy and feel like they have just as much of a part as the man they work with but I truly feel that it comes down to you being in control of your own happiness and just deciding to be happy and knowing that you are only one person and can only do so much. Believe me though, I do have my own days where I am unhappy at home due to stress, challages, and events but like I said before I try to tell myself there is always someone who has it worse than I do and my life is good,its busy but its good and each day is a new day to work on being happy with it.

  19. Elia says:

    Happiness in my opinion does not come from what you have, it comes from what you want. If you are a stay at home mom, modest income and that satisfies you, you will likely be happy. If you are rich and have many things, but feel lacking still in something, you won’t be happy. Its quite a complex thing. I think it is a mix of societal pressures and expectations as well as emotional stability/maturity.

    Personally, I feel 80% happy. I have 2 university degrees, a wonderful husband, new baby boy, I am not rich but live relatively well…have big screen tv and can do pretty much anything, but I haven’t fufilled my personal career goals and have a few persoanl issues I feel I haven’t conquered yet. So until then, I will remain mostly happy, but not completely fulfilled.

  20. Charlotte Whitten says:

    Happiness is acceptance and contentment with your station in life, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is fleeting. I have certainly experienced it in my 52 years on earth, but life happens…death, divorce, illness, job loss, destructive weather, 9/11, recession. We find ourselves constantly having to make adjustments for things that we absolutely have no control over. Perhaps, the meaning of life is a perpetual search for happiness. I can probably count the times I have been truly happy on my 10 fingers. The older I get, I feel the less chance of experiencing true happiness. Certainly more obstacles will present themselves and I will continue to cope as always. I am not happy now….but I know it will come again…enventually…even though it will not last. Back to the question? Equality is in the eye of the beholder… as is superiority. It does not equal happiness.

  21. Mary says:

    I have given up on my pursuit of happiness. Let’s face it the struggle to just be content is hard enough to do when you’re disabled. When you’re not “visibally” disabled it’s even harder. We are judged every day by others who don’t walk in our shoes. There are people who still think we can just “get over it”. Well, we can’t.
    Remember when you were a child and your families and friends asked you what you wanted to be? Did you say you wanted to be disabled? Niether did I. I didn’t ask to be this way. I did nothing to make myself this way! I didn’t want to be in an every day struggle just to survive but I am.You may say “join the club” at that comment. I can’t. My disability wont let me.You see what “normal” people see as mole hills I see as mountains. Happiness for me would be to just jump a couple of mole hills in this miserable exhistance of mine!

  22. Susan says:

    For me, having equality does equal happiness, and I would never want to go back to the times when women were treated as second or even third-class citizens. I don’t work at present, but that is by circumstance, not by choice.

    When I was a working woman, I really enjoyed my work, the freedom of financial independence and not having to be dependent on anyone else for money or a place to live. As long as I was working and making my own money, and getting more skills for higher-paying jobs, I was completely control of what went on in my life. For me, it didn’t get better than that.

    Moreover, I believe it is important for us to decide for OURSELVES what we want in life, and not cave in to the demands of those who say we “should” do this or that. Whether it is to be a mother, a stay home mom, have two or three kids instead of stopping at one, or anything else for that matter, there always seem to be those who believe one “should” do things a certain way–THEIR way. I think many women give their personal power to others when they listen to the guilt peddlers and make choices that they may later regret. I’ve tried to avoid listening to the guilt peddlers as much as possible, and that has worked well for me.

    The only wish I have at this point is to be able to go back to school, with classes that are offered during the hours when my son is also at school, so I could obtain a profession, rather than just a job. Does anyone know anything about Pell Grants? :)

  23. FosterBoys says:

    I haven’t looked at the study, but if it’s true that women aren’t achieving happiness at the same rate as men, I have some theories. Men aren’t judged negatively for being successful. Women are. Success for a man is determined by whether or not he provides for his family. Success for a woman is determined by how well she cares for her children OR by how much she provides for her family. NEVER BOTH. She can’t have both and still be happy — our society will not allow it. She must feel guilty, selfish, uncaring, etc., if she has the nerve to live a man’s life.

    But now that my interest is piqued, I’ll go look at the study.

  24. Hi Dr. Phil,
    I’ve found that the whole “women can have it all” mentality is a lie. I, personally, can’t be a good mother and work a full-time job. Once I committed to staying at home, I can honestly say that I became ridiculously happy.

  25. Confession time…I have to admit at times I wonder if I would be more happier if I was self employed at times.
    But reality hit in that when someone is self employed or starting up there own business. One paycheck isn’t on a regular base.
    We have bills and responsibly to meet.

    I played three roles. I been a stay at home mom, self-employed, and out in the work force.
    All three of them have there avenged and disavanged

    But I would have to say in general I’m happy person because I believe I can find something good in all things in life.

  26. Cindy says:

    I think generally men are the nouns and women are the verbs. Men come up with the idea, and women take the action to make everything come together and the glue that KEEPs it all together.
    Obviously that is not ALWAYS the case, but in my experience it has been.
    I think the only way to be happy is to have a balance in your life. Unfortunately it’s hard to balance a job, a family, and financial responsibilities if you don’t have a partner who is willing to take half of all of it.
    Women who stay home with the kids are working two full time jobs and women who work outside the home and have children also have two full time jobs.
    Men tend to have one job and when they come home they think it’s over. If you have kids, it’s not over until they are sleeping sweetly in their beds.
    Maybe women would be happier if they could get off at 5 or 6 pm and have the whole evening to relax while their partner cooked,cleaned, and bathed the kids and got them to bed. Or better yet, HELP get it all done so you can both relax!

  27. Jules says:

    I wish so much that Dr. Phil would do a show about whether the ongoing brutality and violence against women is because many men feel threatened by the increase in power women now have economically and otherwise?

    I find it difficult to be happy when every single day I turn on the news and there are yet more stories of women and girls disappearing into thin air.

    Four women PER DAY are murdered in America by their significant other and their children are often murdered along with them.

    Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten and/or raped.

    The leading cause of death among pregnant women is being murdered
    by the baby’s father.

    Jane Valez-Mitchell was recently on the Dr. Phil show and she’s the ONLY person on TV who’s talking about the “War Against Women” and I wish so much that Dr. Phil would have her back on his show to talk about this.

    Dr. Phil, why do so many men around the world seem to be Addicted to war and violence?

    Dr. Phil, why do the problem solving skills of so many men seem to consist only of “destroy it or kill it”?

    Dr. Phil, why are there so few men who stand up to other men who are violent?

    A long time ago Oprah did a show about some men who formed an organization that speaks out about stopping violence against women but I haven’t heard about them since and I wish Dr. Phil would have these men on his show.

    Thank You.

  28. Wendi says:

    I define happiness as a personal feeling of well-being, success, contentment and wholeness. It is not circumstance based as it is an internally derived feeling based on thoughts. I think people can be miserable in the best of circumstances and joyous in the worst.

    Based on that I do think that women are becoming more circumstantially successful but that doesn’t dictate inner thoughts and feelings. I think in our society women work towards gaining more societal strides and forget to focus on themselves. Men seem to have a lot more down time than women and when they have down time they seem to be able to shut down and truly decompress. Women seem to be so focused on others and society’s impressions of them that they never really stop to decompress. They may do a relaxing activity but ultimately their brains are going 100 mph. That doesn’t relax us or help us to feel happy. When judging ourselves we deplete our happiness. When comparing to others we deplete our happiness. Women are so community based that we sometimes forget to be individuals in need of time for ourselves. Without that time to refill our happiness tanks it just doesn’t work. I am a sahm with four children and a granson living here. My husband works full time and I am in the starting phases of creating a new business. We are very busy and have been struggling in this economy with lots of stress. The weird thing is that I am happier than I have ever been because I am changing my negative thought pattern, taking time for myself, letting go of the guilt and seeing the world in a whole new light. Thanks for exploring this very important topic.

  29. Jewel says:

    Happiness is a decision . . . Benjamin Franklin once said “Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.” I tend to agree. I am 33, single, no kids, no mortgage, love my career . . . so why am I not happy at times? Because I allow myself to think I need a man in my life, or I don’t have many years left to become a mommy (outward circumstances) . . . but I believe in my heart (inward disposition of the mind) that there are those who are meant to be single, meant to be in a position, as I, where there is nothing holding me in one spot, no strings attached. I am blessed, therefore I am happy.

  30. AM says:

    I wanted to add one more thing: Definition of happiness. That’s a tough one and extremely subjective. For me happiness = contentment. As someone who’s family has slid from firmly middle-class to tipping into the poverty threshold, (in monetary/technical terms) in the last three years, I’ve come to know what I suspected; contentment has nothing to do with having more stuff. My level of contentment/happiness does seem to be directly affected by how well I feel I can maintain things, (whether that’s good or bad I don’t know). So, when I have more to maintain and I can’t keep up with it, (whether it’s because of time or money) I’m not very happy. In fact, because of this recession and the loss of my job I have found more contentment at times because we were forced to scale back to keep our heads above the water. Less to maintain = more contentment for me. I feel I can do a better job at what I’m doing.

    The second factor for me was actually a definition in the Paradox study: “Happiness is a function of personality and a reaction to life events”. I really do believe that those who can draw meaning from suffering are more resilient, (reaction to life events). I have also found that my personal happiness is very much affected by my personality. Someone mentioned the Myers Briggs test in an earlier comment. Now, I don’t know what I think about categorizing people but if it helps you understand yourself then it’s a good thing. Here’s a practical example of what I mean. I fall closest to an ENTP. That means I’m probably most content in situations where I am around people, (extrovert) can analyze concepts (intuitive thinker) and leave my options open (perceiver). Being a stay at home mom is sometimes a huge stretch for me and contributes to a lot stress that often exhausts me. I’ve found that the parts I love about parenting and being home, (exploring/experimenting with my kids, teaching them, figuring out the best and most effective discipline techniques, helping them to think independently and critically) are just extensions of my personality strengths. These things leave me feeling alive and energized. The things I have trouble with, (the necessary but unending routine, lack of social time with other adults, the inability to think through any conceptual idea because of constant distractions) are just reflections of my personality limitations. These are the things that leave me feeling exhausted. I could talk to another woman and she might say the mirror opposite. Parenting happens to be one of those jobs that requires more than one person could ever be, (it takes a village).

    So for me, it’s easiest to be happy/content when I feel like I can maintain what I have, (again, whether it be my home, car, job, parenting, marriage…) and I can put my personality preferences/strengths into use on a regular basis. This could be and has been a number of scenarios for me. Income, time working or home, ages of kids…that all fluctuates but those two things seem to be solid predictors of my personal happiness.

    Ok, that’s enough of me avoiding the unending but predictable routine of cleaning so that I can take some time to think through a conceptual idea. :)

  31. Cassie says:

    Happiness can only come from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I know there are so many people that don’t believe in our almighty God and that hurts me, but it is what it is. It’s really sad so we that believe in the Lord shall go on and share this with other’s. This is where I find happiness! I look to God, my husband, and then my children. Yes working is something God blesses us with and even being a stay at home parent is a blessing! I do both and to me it is a job! A job with rewards and many rewards! My husband is a student and works full time so we don’t get a lot of time with him and we do not have much money. We have three children. God blesses us though in ways you wouldn’t believe. We are able to go on mission trips that are not funded by us (since we could never afford it.) We have never been on a honeymoon or a vacation but we love each other and we trust that in the end we will be where we need to be (where God wants us to be.) We must have faith to have happiness, Dr. Phil! I know you and your family have it! You have the choice to be happy and I believe that it is a blessing to be a woman and I have the right and the oppurtunity to do what anyone else can! We are truly blessed to work outside of the home or inside the home whether we are sahm’s or not! I choose to be happy! I choose to not let worldly things get to me!

  32. Linda says:

    I think one explanation for the fact that men are happier is that a man can think of himself first and foremost in a way that a woman can not without anyone trying to make him feel guilty about it. There might be biological differences, I guess there are, but women are also brought up that way. I have just been working at the same callcentre for almost 11 years. I live alone with my two cats. I am neither happy or unhappy I guess.

  33. Kendall says:

    Hmm, let’s see…Despite being told our entire lives that everything is A-ok now because we can vote and be a CEO, and any inequality we feel is all in our silly little heads, women who live in an extraordinarily misogynist society are STILL unhappy? Big shocker.

    One in six women will be raped (at the very least, according to stats). Women still make around 30% less than men (and not because we “naturally pick low paying jobs” or choose to become mommies). The government and society still doesn’t trust us to make medical and reproductive decisions for ourselves (anti-choice groups are currently trying to pass laws in 30 states that would outlaw abortion AND contraception – seriously!). I still can’t walk down the street without some dude whistling, saying something lewd, leering, or grabbing me (no, it’s NOT a compliment – it’s a sexual threat meant to punish women for daring to leave the home and feeling entitled to occupy public space). There are very few, if any, healthy, complete, robust, interesting representations of women in the media – probably because there are very few mainstream women writers, directors, producers, etc. (no woman director has ever won an Oscar – only 3 have ever been nominated). And don’t EVEN get me started on the way we discuss female sexuality (women can either be virginal children that need to be protected or they can be sl*ts, but there’s really no room for a healthy, humanized view of women and sex).

    We are second-class citizens, and we always feel it (even if we don’t always know it). And yes, women can be misogynists too. Sexism is ingrained since birth, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to shake, even if you’re a member of the group it’s oppressing. It’s not easy to go against the grain and point out inequality that people don’t want to see – do you know how many horrible, nasty things have been said to me because I’m a feminist and believe, simply, that women should be treated like human beings? For most women, accepting and perpetuating misogyny is purely a survival mechanism.

    And if you think I’m being crazy about all of this, just look at the comments. Someone up there actually wrote: “Equality that women longs for will never happen (be it at work and at home). There will always be the Alpha male and the submissive and subservient women….that is nature. That is our role.” And I’m sure many people agree. One question though: if you replaced “women” with “people of color” and “male” with “white people,” would everybody still agree (or at least be silent)? I didn’t think so. When you have to reply on something as silly as a pe**s (or, for that matter, skin color) to assert your “natural” biological superiority, something is really, really awry.

    Look, equality, responsibility, and success doesn’t make women unhappy – clawing for all of those things in a patriarchal society does. Period.

  34. insomniac_cat says:

    Some women are not happy with their lives simply because they think that only if they could achieve this single goal at the moment, they would be happy. For example, obese women often think that if they only reach their goal weight, it would be a happy ending. However and in reality, there are several factors that make us feel happy. Happiness does not come from a single success or achievement or pleasure in a given moment. It is rather a blend of an accumulated feeling about inner self as well as outside world around us over time.

  35. Judi Armstrong says:

    Speaking only for myself, this is the happiest time of my life. I am 61, at the top of my profession, earning the highest salary in my life and living in London UK. My home is on the west coast but this is my 5th year teaching in London. I can afford to live in a comfortable flat, at 60 in the UK transportation becomes a free benefit, I have a group of friends who accompany me to plays, concerts, tours or the occasional visit to the pub. It is a charming life and an incredible way to end my career. I will return to the west coast but my heart will always be in London.

    Isn’t it all down to our view of life? Optomist vs pessimist? I think my good luck has come because I look for the positive and have lived by the philosophy that you make the right decision or make the decision right. Lemons to lemonade if you please.

  36. Linda says:

    I would like to find another job but I dont know what kind of job. And I feel like I should support my sister, who is a single mother, so I don´t dare to take any risks myself.

  37. Glynis says:

    Happiness is definitely a choice. You are as happy as you choose or choose not to be. I am happier today than I was 10 years ago. A lot of it has to do with the fact I’m with a wonderful man, I feel more comfortable in my own skin, and I see the glass as half full rather than half empty. I feel more spirtually & physically better than I did when I was younger. I think journaling, music, exercising, working, etc. contributes to that, as well as feeling connected with my husband. There have been some trying times in my life, but I have always had the love & support of good friends & family. Although I am private about my spiritual beliefs, I also believe there is a higher power, so we are never truly alone.

  38. M. Williams says:

    Happiness is not something that can be defined by equality, money and people. Happiness is not a word that can be understood by looking it up in the dictionary It takes going through and coming through. It takes knowing that in this society a decision has to be made that no matter what I WILL BE HAPPY and NO ONE can take that away from you. Yes, is it nice to have money, things, job and a family but at the end of the day will that stop you from being happy. To me happiness comes when you wake up everyday, knowing you are doing the best you can in your situation.

    Most of all it takes believing in MY LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.

  39. Susan says:

    To Cassie (10/27, 10:31am),

    I strongly DISAGREE with your statement that one “must” believe in a god, follow a religion or attend a church to have happiness in their lives. It is simply NOT true. Over 20 years ago, I was happily able to kick the endless and burdensome rules of religions and churches out my door, and life got better for me that very day. From that day to the present, I have made my OWN choices in all matters, and the last time I checked, rejecting religion isn’t against the law in the United States.

    If your religious faith makes YOU happy, that’s great. Just please keep in mind that those of us who choose NOT to follow religions or attend churches are just as happy without them.

  40. Equality? No, equality alone doesn’t equal happiness, not in my opinion. Economic stability? Yes, to a certain extent for men and women…its a lot easier to be happy when all the bills are easily paid and worries are kept at bay. But, happiness is a fleeting thing I think. Much more attainable is the ability to be content, in the moment, content with what I’ve been able to achieve for myself. And I’m not talking about needing a house with a swimming pool and tennis courts or whatever to feel content, but, feeling satisfied and enjoying what we do have. A roof over my head, a hot cup of chocolate, all the bills paid, warm feet, clean clothes, that sort of thing. I have been clinically depressed all of my life. I’ve often said I was born without the happiness gene. Sometimes I see people being giddy and jovial (happy) and I just don’t get it. I can’t relate to what they feel. And yet, I do feel happy when I’m able to give something (either tangible or of myself) to another person. It makes me happy to bring some joy to someone else. Maybe that’s why women aren’t any happier? Maybe there’s just too much making it on their own for their own monetary and professional success and not enough touching others in a very personal one-on-one way, giving time or experience, enriching another person’s life, bringing some little joy to that person. I did something recently that I won’t write about, gave something I had to a young person, a total stranger who expressed a desire for this particular item. And for that moment, I was very happy, seeing how excited and happy she was at the gift. I didn’t give the item away thinking how it might make me happy, I just wanted this girl to have the item because she would benefit from it. The joy it brought me was an unexpected gift. I was happy :)

  41. Alexis says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all of the comments, thoughts and opinons. Incredibly well thought out and even the knee jerk reactions held water. :) Great question Dr. Phil.

  42. lifeflows says:

    Defining happiness. In order to compare women’s happiness to men’s happiness, you need to define what men’s happiness is, and then see how women rate on the same scale.

    I say that because you said Dr. Phil, that men have been rated as happier, but on what scale is that? How is happiness being defined for the men?

    I would venture to guess as a woman, that men value different things than women. But I would like to see a scale showing how men’s happiness is defined first.

    Having said that however, coming from another angle, men are far more self-centred than women in my experience and observation. Men have this way of getting women to take care of chores and details that they could or should do too. Women have more demands on them as wives, mothers, housekeepers, hostesses and career women. If there’s a divorce, women often end up with the childcare, and all that goes with that. Whereas, men often don’t end up with the childcare, even if they’re paying child support.

    In university I learned of studies that said that men’s income increases after a divorce, and women’s income decreases signifigantly after a divorce. Men are often getting more personal freedom after a divorce too. There are a lot of little details that women will put their time and energy into that men would just never do, and that adds up on the time too.

    In order to discuss whether women or men are happy, you need to define happiness first. Without providing a definition that can be used as a guide, you cannot say whether a woman is happier, or not. So perhaps you might want to discuss the definition of happiness first. But you must also provide a definition of happiness for men in this discussion.

    Happiness for me is having all my chores done (but I’m old and well beaten by life) and that has not happened in too long. Happiness for me is having my health and counting my blessings. Happiness for me is being in situations tha are not stressful, or situations where I’ve learned good coping mechanisms so that the stress doesn’t bother me too much.

    Other than that, I like the quiet. I like to hear the birds sing. I like a peaceful and beautiful environment when I can get it. Other women may define happiness differently.

  43. For all the feminist rhetoric we’ve heard over the past thirty years, it seems to me that in general, modern women are not that much happier. I think the root of the problem is that for all their advances, the biggest battle women are fighting are their desire to climb the corporate ladder vs. their inborn desire to be wives and mothers. To me that explains why some women are desperate to get married at any price, even if their potential mates are less than desirable, as was discussed a couple weeks ago. When it’s all said and done, I think true happiness for women (and men), boils down to a warm, stable home, food on the table, and enough mloney to pay the bills and go out on date nights once in a while. At least it does for me!

  44. Lorraine Ryan says:

    Well, I think every life has its own ups and downs. People have losses and times of great joy. I have had times where I’ve been so blessed with the people that were around me. Other times, especially with losses like divorce and death have had a profound negative effect on life. What would make me happy today would be being in a loving relationship with my husband and having a healthy family, including my pets. In my career as a teacher, reaching students and touching their lives makes me happy. Having friends who will continue to stand by me through good and bad times. We all want the same things. Being respected for what we do, who we are, and how we treat people makes ALL of us happy. My husband is permanently disabled so I am the main provider of out income. He made is clear from the start that I had a choice to be part of his life. I love him and can’t imagine my life without him. People have to live with the choices they make and learn to find their way in life to create their own happiness. That’s just my take on this topic.
    Lorraine Ryan

  45. Debby McKenna says:

    I would hate to think the only way a woman could be happy is equality in the workplace. How limiting. I think the only way to be happy, man or woman, is to be happy with you. It starts there.

  46. PsyKey says:

    I am SO much happier than I was 30 years ago. I am going to be 57 in less than a week, and I enjoy and cherish every single day. I’m also working harder now than I ever have–three part-time jobs, single mom of three boys 24, 20, and 16 currently all living at home, and in school working on my PhD.

    I think my sense of happiness comes from knowing who I am, being comfortable with (even liking!) her, having the resources to achieve goals, but mostly I have to attribute it to living every day with two essential attitudes: gratitude and humor. I don’t go through a single day without being grateful for something–my GREAT kids, my jobs, my friends, my family, my church…the list just goes on and on. The fact that there is a list is something to be grateful for!! I also laugh every day. Sometimes a little inappropriately, which gets me in trouble, but I can talk fast enough to keep it from coming to blows.

    I don’t know that the steps toward equality brought about by the women’s movements have necessarily played into the sense of happiness that I have. I was the rebel in school who wasn’t going to be held down or back because of gender. Being the baby sister of two older, overachieving brothers just might have had something to do with that! I am grateful for the opportunities I have had that my mother and grandmother didn’t–and I am thrilled for the next generation. They have so much to enjoy that generations of women have helped to prepare for them.

    Ultimately, happiness is a choice. If I choose to be happy based on circumstances (who I’m with, what I’m doing, how much money I have in the bank), than a change in those circumstances will affect my happiness. If I choose to base my happiness on what I can find to be grateful for and find humor in, than I have no excuse not to be happy.

  47. Janet Davies says:

    Ahaha! Women are taking over the world! When do we start putting all men in cages?

  48. Angela says:

    I don’t know much about equality in the corporate world. In my line of work, women are the majority. I am a nurse and a mom of 4. I am a fulltime sahm m-f and a nurse on sat and sun. My job never ends! Some days I am happy and some days I just want to run away! I love my children and my husband, but sometimes I yearn to be me again! I think men are happier because they do not carry the burdens that we do. We have make sure all members of the family have the things they need. My husband goes to work each morning and doesn’t think twice about what the kids are doing for lunch or what we are gonna have for dinner or if they are gonna get to take a shower today. These are all things that the moms of the world have to think about daily. Of course the men are happier! I can’t be happy because o don’t have time for that, I have too much to do and I am exhausted! For the past 10 years I have been mom 24/7. As moms sometimes we forget who we were before we had children. We forget how to socialize with adults, we forget how to be sexy and how to be spontaneous. Men have more freedom because the wife is taking care of the kids, no worries. It’s hard to be happy when you have to ask your husband or someone else for the privilage to go shopping without children. So, no we are not equal and never will be.

  49. Linda RH says:

    I agree with many of the opinions here, too many women suffer from guilt stemming from feelings of not doing our best for whatever reasons.
    I was not capable of effective motherhood while working, and likewise I was not as effective at work when I became a mother. I’m not saying someone else couldn’t do both and do them well, I’m saying I couldn’t.
    When I quit working being a full-time stay-at-home mother wasn’t easy either, but the guilt went away. My husband tried to make me feel guilty for not contributing financially, but that was his problem to work out. With 3 kids, all I was doing was working to pay the day care and taxes, there was nothing left. It was insanity!
    Dr Phil, I’m glad you said you were not convinced of the “hormonal theory.” I’ve always eyed those that put down women because of PMS as clueless. Men go through hormonal surges 7 times every day, whereas women have them 7 times a month, so who is more likely to succumb to hormonal imbalances?

  50. FosterBoys says:

    Dr. Phil,

    I’m not sure how I feel about the statistics you quoted about the advancements made by women over the years. Sure, we’ve made great strides, but until women see their proportionate representation in those things, we remain unequal.

    Should we happy that we now have members is some once all-male bastions? Maybe. I am. The road for me was paved by women who had more courage than I ever will. But that happiness shouldn’t be an excuse to rest on our laurels and not continue to be the best person we are capable of. Thanks to those courageous women, the sky really is the limit.

    But remember, the glass ceiling wasn’t shattered, it was only punctured. You will get cut on your way through.

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