Do we undervalue routine?

The always-interesting Gretchen Rubin offers up this one-minute movie.  I take the point to be that we under-appreciate the routine time we spend with our family and friends.  Cherishing this time would give us better lives, it would seem.  But why is this time so hard to cherish properly?  Don’t we want better lives?  Are we passing up a free lunch?

In the movie the little girl says that she loved that time with her mother, namely doing the routines of taking the bus.  The routines are an investment in later good memories.

Are our memories determined by the value of the average bus trip, or by the value of the marginal bus trip?  (Of course to some extent it is a weighted average of both.)  I suspect the fun of the marginal trip weighs fairly heavily in our backward-looking assessment of our routines.  Most of the bus trips don’t get noticed or perhaps they are even a drag.  But whenever the pressures of the day occasionally slacked off, and the mother had more time with her daughter, that time seemed so wonderful.

So if you want good memories, should you make sure you don’t spend too much time with your kids?  If I ate chicken in mole sauce every day my memories of it wouldn’t be so special.  (Perhaps we measure peaks rather than computing the area under the integral?)  But now the making and tasting of the mole stands as an occasion to remember.  High total value equals low marginal value and perhaps poor memories.  Low total value equals high marginal value and better memories.  Of course if your total time with your kids is truly low, they will hate you and your marginal time with your kids will be crummy as well.


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