Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do children really make you happier? I really think that depends on you.

Do children really make you happier? Mother-of-three PENNY MARSHALL investigates... | Mail Online

There have been a couple of these big studies done recently that "reveal" that parents aren't any happier than non-parents, and this is supposed to be a bombshell. First of all, can I just point out some obvious points? One: The studies were done in the UK and US, and whaddya know, they really are free societies. People really do live the lives they choose. So it would follow that most people made the choice that made them happiest. It does not follow that if you switch people from one group to another, they'd feel the same way. Two: I always wonder at the motivation of people who do these studies, or more specifically, the people who report on them. The title "Do Children Really Make You Happier" reveals an obnoxious bias, the insinuation being that maybe, just maybe, you shouldn't have children because you won't "be happier". Why write that? Because you want to dig at people who have kids (look, someone's gotta do it, and if you really think it's not worth it, at least be charitable)? Because you're not sure about your decision not to have them? Because you regret having them? What is the author's issue here?

But most important would be point number three of mine, which is this, I think the modern parent needs a MAJOR attitude adjustment. Do you know how many people congratulated me on being pregnant the first time? Less then five. If you think you were one of them... heh... re-examine your memory. Nearly everyone said, "Oooh, you think you're ready?" Or "You think you've had sleep deprivation before!" Or "I guess they're worth it." Maybe people thought they were being funny, but when I joke like that, I'm being a jerk. (And yes, I usually mock these negative comments to pregnant ladies. And yes, I'm being a jerk to anyone and everyone who's ever uttered such a thing.) The one truly nice thing anyone said to us was a father of ten, who said to my husband, "Oh, you're going to have fun! We had so much fun with our kids, we would've had more if we could." Meaning no disrespect to the family whatsoever, their kids are no cuter or more angelic or more brilliant than countless others we know. What was so refreshing there was the father's attitude. Why not say something nice to an expectant parent? Why make some lame brain crack about how awful it all is?

Because you're going to live the life you set up for yourself with your expectations. If the first thing out of your mouth is a complaint, you're going to have a lot to complain about, and that'll be true no matter how many kids you have, or how alone and childless you are. Can I just say, for the record, that I love being a mother? I love having a child and I look forward to having another. Yeah, it's hard work, blah, blah, blah. So was law school. So's starting my own business. So's figuring out a budget so I could move abroad and selling a house in a recession. Who has time to complain about all this stuff??? Why waste it when you could be playing with your kids instead? Is my apartment a total mess? Sure. Do I deal with more tantrums now than before I had children? Yes (and that is a very good thing, really). Is it terrifying to live with my heart outside of my body now, loving something so little and so fragile so much? Absolutely. Would I trade it for anything? I already answered that question when I elected to have a child!

So is it any mystery that people with kids don't claim to be any happier as a result? It isn't to me. Not given all the whining I've heard. Now, as a disclaimer I should note that our current ward at church has been a breath of fresh air. No one's whined or carried on one bit about the burden of having children. The little ones running around all seem to be cherished and enjoyed. Really, there's no other way to do this. Life, no matter how we choose to live it, should be making you happier and happier with each choice we make, and the number one choice that we make, is whether to complain, or whether to count our blessings.

Speaking of which, one of mine is being far too quiet at the moment. I need to go check that out...


  1. I hope I was one that congratulated you. Someday my foot will need to be surgically removed from my mouth...I try to just accept that as an inevitability and move on.
    Personally, I think a person's capacity for happiness increases with children. But, so does stress, and anxiety, as you realizes that this new human being is dependent completely on you. The humbling effect is like a punch in the gut. So, are you happier? Yes...happier than a person without kids will EVER comprehend. But, on the flip it insanely stressful and maddening? Of course.
    They get the Merry Go Round happy. Parents get the Roller Coaster happy. get some highs on a Carousel as your horse moves up and down. But it is NOTHING compared to the dizzying heights on the Roller Coaster.
    Nothing can turn me into a pile of mush, or a raving lunatic, more effectively than my children. I wouldn't trade the insane ride for anything.

  2. No, no you were just surprised that I'd finally gotten pregnant after all those years, and then we talked about your fourth pregnancy and you made some comment about how it came a little more easily for you, and then a screaming Davenport interrupted everyone (we were in the foyer at the stake center.) But yes, your quote from the movie Parenthood is right on (love that movie!!!)

  3. Make that a Devenport. The couch was rather quiet in contrast.

  4. Well, CONGRATULATIONS then. :)
    I think I was resting my giant gut...and hiding from the rest of my kids out there in the hall. Moroni is a challenge on any Sunday that deviates from the norm. My particular fave was screaming/kicking/hitting fit in the hall at a Utah chapel where TWO of the Twelve walked by. I started crying. While I'm sure they were sending nothing but positive vibes, I still felt like a failure as a mother. (This was BEFORE Moroni's diagnosis)

  5. Oh no! We had a certain incident where a certain child who might be ours slapped the bishop in church.

    No one could, by any stretch of the imagination, see you as a failure as a mother. Your kids won the lottery with you!