If you read this blog somewhat regularly, you know that I’m just a tiny bit obsessed with the idea of happiness. I’ve written about whether money can buy happiness (maybe), whether feminism has made women happier (probably not), and whether kids make parents happier (the studies seem to be conflicting).
This weekend I was reading an article over at Babble.com, which talked about several conflicting studies about parents and happiness they derive from having kids. According to one widely-discussed study, there was no increase in happiness for people who had kids. In fact, it showed that parents experience less emotional well-being than non-parents. But another recent study demonstrated quite the opposite, showing that parents do experience increased feelings of life satisfaction. These studies seem to contradict each other, but as I thought about them, I realized that they actually make a lot of sense.
Happiness is a really elusive and subject and difficult to describe concept. I think it means something different to each of us. One of the things that I know makes me happy is not feeling stressed out and anxious and exhausted. And it is a fact that after having our daughter my husband and I are more stressed out and anxious and exhausted. So on that measure of happiness, we’re less happy. But if happiness means feeling deeply grateful about having a loving family or feeling an amazing sense of satisfaction at watching our daughter become a kind, warm, funny, great person, of knowing that we have our little family to help each other deal with various unhappy stuff that life throws at us, then we’re happy. Insanely happy, actually.
So I think it makes sense that a study about happiness — emotional well-being, which definitely has to do with stress that comes with parenting — and life satisfaction, as they relate to having kids, will show different results. Having kids is really really really hard work and as the Babble.com article points out, using yet another study (there must be one for everything, right?), while we’re doing hard work, it’s hard to feel cheery and happy. But the feeling of deep satisfaction that parenting brings, especially once we figure out how to get a bit more sleep, is a kind of happiness.
Do you think having kids has made you happier? Do you think it’s increased your life satisfaction? How about the impact on your marriage - positive or negative?