A couple of weeks ago, New York Magazine published a story entitled “All Joy and No Fun.” In it, the author looks at the theory that parents are made less happy for having had children. She starts with her own life experience and goes through several different studies conducted by various universities and government organizations. All of the evidence showed parents who preferred any number of activities, including housework, to some of the messier sides of parenting. The studies all pointed to people who became parents are consistently less happy then their friends who did not choose parenthood. Further, mothers are less happy than fathers and single mothers are the least happy of all.
What does this all mean, and could these results possibly be right?
As a parent, I don’t want them to be. Having children makes us miserable? Being a parent is less fun than doing the laundry? Well, yes, if I am truthful with myself, I have to admit that sometimes it is. I can remember telling my husband that splitting the care of our children by doing the dishes for me when he got home from work wasn’t really helpful at all. I’d spent the day home from work with the kids, and was looking forward to taking care of something that wasn’t going to whine or talk back to me. All I wanted to do was turn the kids over to him and mindlessly wash the dishes or do the laundry, or clean the toilet. Anything for a bit of a break.
Did that mean I was less happy than before I had my two little angels?
Thinking back on those days when I was single and then a newlywed, I must say that I was happy and I definitely had more time to myself. Now adays, the hours spent reading, painting, drawing, watching mindless TV are hard to come by at best. Does that mean I am less happy?
I guess it all depends on happiness and its definition to you. Do you need things to “make” you happy? Or do you understand that, in truth, happiness is all about choice. I believe that your point of view makes all the difference in happiness versus sadness. You can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. You can choose to look at how things aren’t or how things are. I don’t mean to trivialize things like clinical depression or anxiety or a host of other things that lead to overwhelming sadness. I am meaning simply this. You have something bad happen, what do you do? Do you look at that bad thing and focus only on it, or do you look at how much brighter the good things you have shine in contrast to that bad thing?
The closing of the article even pointed out that, in the end, it is the things we didn’t do that we regret, not the things we did.
For me, I went into motherhood with eyes wide open. I traveled overseas with my husband, took art classes at the local community college, read, drew, learned many things I had always wanted to before having my children. When I was ready for children, I didn’t go into motherhood thinking that babies would always smell wonderful and grow into smiling, easy-going children. Actually, it was all quite the opposite. For most of my life, I didn’t really think having children was for me. I saw how very much work it was to be a mother and wasn’t sure that was for me. My poor mother used to hand babies to me in the hopes that some hormone would go off somewhere making me *have* to have children. It never worked. I knew kids were a heck of a lot of work, and I knew there were things I wanted to do with my life, for me, before giving it all up for children. Wanting to have children came much later.
I do not resent my children. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for them. I truly consider it to be my honor to bring them into the world and share with them what I know and what I’ve yet to learn. I also know that by giving up a large part of the me time I used to have, I am run down from time to time, and that can frame one’s mood. So, I am trying to find the little bits of time for me as well as time for them.
I can’t imagine my life without my son or my daughter. The moments with them have been much more meaningful and filled with more joy than anything that came before. Just like marriage and going to college and really anything of value, raising children takes a lot of hard work. Does having them in my life make me happy?
by Rocket Science Mom
Photo graciously provided by Britt-Marie Sohlström, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved