I am late to blog about the article in Newsweek about recent studies showing that having kids does not make you happy. But after I read it I had to think about it for a bit.
According to the article:
Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers,” says Florida State University’s Robin Simon, a sociology professor who’s conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. “In fact, no group of parentsâ€”married, single, step or even empty nestâ€”reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children.”
That sounds pretty definitive, doesn’t it? I mean, I think if I didn’t already have a daughter and I read this I’d have second thoughts about having children.
Of course the mom in me immediately jumps up to argue with these findings. The joy I experience when I see my daughter run to me when I pick her up from school is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life, however happy I might have been. The pride that I feel watching my daughter twirl around without falling at her ballet recital is greater than any I’d felt before for any of my own achievements. Running around our back yard with my husband and daughter, pretending to play soccer (yes, we can pick up the ball mama, if we want to, it’s still soccer! she says), makes my mouth stretch into the widest of smiles.
But yes, I do see the other side of the research. I am much more stressed and anxious and worried now that I am a mom. Juggling work, life and being a mom is challenging on best days and borderline impossible on worst. I haven’t slept more than 5 hours a night in 4 years, not since before my daughter was born, and things like “taking time for myself” seem like a distant memory. Being a parent is really tough for me, the anal plan-loving perfectionist, and I am working really hard to learn to be more flexible and laid back. (My husband is laughing really hard right now at the “laid back” part.)
I think happiness is a very fluid, very personal, very difficult concept to define. I also think of happiness as less of a state of being and more a fleeting moment here and there. So perhaps that’s it — being a parent allows us to have the deepest, more rewarding happy moments that we can’t have as non-parents, but it also comes with stress, anxiety, and exhaustion that deliver many difficult and unhappy moments as well.
What do you think? Would you ever admit that becoming a parent has made you less happy? How do you react to these research findings?