21 August, 2015

The happiest times of our lives

Some time ago, Jamie wrote a post about mothers who are certain they’ll look back on the time with their children as the happiest in their lives.

Whilst I might have a counter to that – that mothers probably feel they have to say that or the world will judge them harshly, and that it is also probably the most stressful time of their lives (when I think about mothers I know, or follow) – I guess mothers do, in general, look back on the time with their children and remember the good times, and their love for the children.

“What do childless people look back on?” Jamie wondered. (Apologies to Jamie – I can’t find the post right now).

I thought that was a good question, and – given my advanced years - decided I wanted to answer it, from my perspective.
  1. I look back on my school years. I was achieving well, and the world was my oyster. Yes, it was painful, as our teenage years are often filled with emotional angst, cliques at school, pressure to perform. But overall, I have very good memories of my school years.

  2. My AFS year in Bangkok when I was 17-18. Though I wouldn’t say it was the happiest time of my life, it was the most extraordinary year, the most life-changing year, and one I have many happy memories from.

  3. My years as a diplomat in Thailand ten years later, with my husband, when we explored Thailand and Southeast Asia together, gave me wonderful personal and professional experiences.

  4. I would also look back on my volunteering days. I was healing after loss, and coming to terms with childlessness, learning contentment and mindfulness, and knowing I was helping people. It was a time of growth and insight and friendship, and was very rewarding. It was completely unselfish – well, apart from the good feelings I got from doing it – unlike looking after my own nuclear family would have been, and that also makes it a very special time.

  5. My travelling years – which overlapped with some of the worst times of my life – started in earnest in the late 1990s. In fact, last year was the first year we haven’t been overseas since … I think … about 1996! We loved travel, we could finally afford it (unlike now), and there were so many places to go. We would go on a trip, and while we were away, we’d often start thinking about where we wanted to go next! I have such great memories from our travels, even the trip to Vanuatu between our two IVF attempts, when we went snorkelling, and attempted sailing on a small catamaran but didn’t know how to turn it around! Even when I was sad because I was recovering from a lost pregnancy (our France trip), or cancelled IVF (Vanuatu), or my father’s death (Queensland), I have fond memories of each place. Perhaps in some ways, the memories of those places are special because of the sadness, and are worth keeping too.
So just because I don’t have children, I still have plenty of times that I can think of that I was happy. I may not have one period of 20 years that I can say were the happiest of my life. But perhaps that’s a bonus – I can look at my life as a whole, and say I had many happiest times of my life. Sure, it has had ups and downs, but much more happiness than sadness. And I’ve still got retirement (provided we can save enough money for it) to look forward to!

What would be your happiest times?


  1. I love this! It's so easy to slip into forgetting all of the good because of the bad. What a wonderful reminder.

  2. How I love the concept of many happiest times of your life!

    My happiest times (so far):
    - getting a cousin when I was 7. I was honoured by choosing name for her. She was my joy in life also during troubled teenage years.
    - working as an Au-pair for three months in Dublin (when 17) and two months in London (when 18)
    - having dream first job for four years(that included lots of business trips to beautiful German cities, including spending one month in Hannover).
    - honeymoon USA & Canada
    - one month travelling in Argentina
    - three weeks of California & Nevada
    - beautiful (almost) seven years spent with my beloved Wolf. I still miss him.

    Cheers to many new happiest times of my life! And cheers to many your new happiest times!

  3. What a great topic and question. I hadn't ever really thought about this until I read your post (which as always is an inspiring read).

    The happiest moment in my life (even if it does sound a bit cheesy) was the night my husband proposed to me. Even if we don't end up ever having children, the fact that I have him makes me happy and feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

    After that would be our trip to New Zealand, Canada and Japan. Those were trips made before we even started trying to conceive so back then, we were still filled with hope but most importantly, it was just the two of us against the world and I'll always treasure those memories.

  4. I remember being in high school and hearing "these are the best days of your life." The whole time I was thinking "really? I hope not." And so far that's been very true.

    Yes, I love parenting my kids and treasure the moments I have with them. But there are so many other moments and memories I have outside of them: my trip to Montreal, my honeymoon with Grey, hikes and adventures together and even moving across the country after college.

    I agree that there's this mentality of viewing children as the center of one's world. For some this is truly the case. But often, there are so many more opportunities and moments to be happy. Thanks for this beautiful post demonstrating that.

  5. I love this! I hope that I have many "happiest times of my life," even though the "est" makes you feel you have to choose just one, the tops. I don't have kids yet, and I kind of feel like I want to add to my happy times, not eclipse the happiest for now with others. I want more than just one! :) I love your list. So many things to be happy about, to look back on with joy. I feel like the days surrounding my wedding to Bryce were among the happiest, even if that sounds cliche-y, and when I finally figured out that teaching was my passion in practice, and those moments where a student clicks. I had a really nice visit from a former student last year, and that was pretty darn happy. I think you're right, mothers do feel that guilt that they have to say kids first, but there's room for more happiness than children. And Cristy, I totally agree -- high school was NOT the best days of my life, either, which was such a relief!

  6. Agreed -- definitely NOT high school, lol (although it did have its moments). My mother promised me that university would be better -- and it was. Hands down, I had more fun in my four years of undergrad than any other time before or since. ;) That said, I think every period of our lives will have its ups & downs, good & bad days. Sometime in higher concentrations than others, which make those eras memorable one way or another. Also, I suspect that time tends to soften the bad memories & amplify the good. ;)

  7. This is a fascinating question and I'd never really thought about it. As of right now, it's nearly impossible for me to answer as the past 5-6 years have had so many ups & downs. But, I'm sure as more time passes I'll think of some.

    I do find it weird when people say that the years as mother were the "best". It seems to me that it devalues all the other things women do in their lives!

  8. Thank you, Mali, for writing this post and answering my question from a post long ago. I have looked forward to your answer and you have provided wonderful insights. I like that you reflected on many happiest times in your life. I suppose, if we are fortunate to have lived another day, there is a wealth of opportunity to have another best time that is no less special than the other highlights of our life at that time. They are each unique and hold true with our past selves. Thank you.