Sheesh, did they really have to do research to figure out this one?
Any mom can answer this question without doing all that
number-crunching: of course kids do not make you happy. For the simple reason
that children are not supposed to make you happy. Making parents happy is not
Thank God for all of us. Kids
today have life hard enough as it is.
As for parents, I don’t know a single person who woke up one day and
said: boy, I’m unhappy, I think I will have a few kids to make me feel better.
The way parenthood usually unfolds is A) we crave babies or B) we crave the sex
that makes them. True, some of us get pretty crazy in our attempts to have
children, going the IVF, adoption or surrogacy route, but that desperation is
not the same as plotting for small savage people to make us happy.
This is exactly what the research showed. When you remove all the variables for wealth,
education, health, job satisfaction and other factors that impact a person’s
general happiness, whether or not a person is a parent doesn’t make a
measurable difference in terms of happiness.
No surprise there.
One measurable difference the survey did reveal: although parents are
about as happy as non-parents, those of us with children report greater highs
and deeper lows vs. adults without kids.
Children may not increase our happiness levels, but they sure do turn us
inside out and upside down. I have never
been so filled with joy – or fury– as I have since becoming a mom.
Additionally, childfree adults report having better relationships with
their partners. Duh! What do couples
without kids have to fight about? Whether to watch one or two more Breaking Bad
episodes at 11:30 at night? Where to go on vacation?
Of course they have better relationships!
But my favorite tidbit about the happiness of modern day couples comes
from another study.
It’s the answer parents gave to this question: who is the most important person
in your life?
Moms said their children.
Dads said their partners.
This disconnect sums up just about every relationship conflict and
marriage dissolution I’ve witnessed since having kids. Most women I know, especially the ones who
waited until their 30s to have babies, are infatuated with their children,
overcome by deep and boundless love (interspersed with deep and boundless
exhaustion and frustration). Most of their husbands, it seems, even though they
love their children, constantly seem to want the moms to sneak off with them or
at the very least hide in the bedroom with the door locked for an hour or two
— without the kids.
These disjointed answers explain, to me at least, why some mothers go
overboard with the nurturing “give give give” of motherhood, and end up staying
for too in marriages that don’t meet their needs but provide stability for
their children. It also explains in part
why some dads feel frustrated and neglected once they have children. I see men
who try in vain to compartmentalize kid vs. wife time, which is seldom
realistic and can lead to great conflict. Then too many dads find a private
solution to avoid the chaos at home, spending more time at work, out with the
guys, in their man-caves, or tragically in the company of other (childless)
Finally, I think the majority of dads aren’t being completely honest
here. Most men I know, if pressed to be truthful when asked who is the most
important person in their life, would pause and say, “Umm…Myself.”
I never thought I needed a man or kids in my life in order to be
happy. I still believe I’d survive without my husband, even though he is a
Yet paradoxically, now that I have three kids in my house, I’d be
miserable without them. I’d wither and die if anything happened to them. Go
Now that’s something to study.
No research study needed to answer that one.