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Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Happiness and having or not having kids

A columnist recently wrote about recent research showing that people who have children are less happy than those that are childfree. Here article can be found here

I thought her article was fairly balanced - many of the comments to the article less so!

She quotes from the research saying:

"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 parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It's such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they're not."

The columnist goes on to say:

Parents may openly lament their lack of sleep, hectic schedules and difficulty in dealing with their surly teens, but rarely will they cop to feeling depressed due to the everyday rigors of child rearing. "If you admit that kids and parenthood aren't making you happy, it's basically blasphemy," says Jen Singer, a stay-at-home mother of two from New Jersey who runs the popular parenting blog "From baby-lotion commercials that make motherhood look happy and well rested, to commercials for Disney World where you're supposed to feel like a kid because you're there with your kids, we've made parenthood out to be one blissful moment after another, and it's disappointing when you find out it's not.....

For the childless, all this research must certainly feel redeeming. As for those of us with kids, well, the news isn't all bad. Parents still report feeling a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives than those who've never had kids. And there are other rewarding aspects of parenting that are impossible to quantify....Perhaps it just comes down to how you see the candy dish—half empty or half full. Or at least as a parent, that's what I'll keep telling myself.'


Tara@From Dawn Till Rusk said...

All utter rot! How can you lump all parents into one corner and all those people without children in the other? I know some very happy childless couples and I know some very miserable childless couples. And I know an awful lot of mums who really struggle with the daily grind of parenting and openly admit to sometimes feeling like they want a hole to open up in the ground so they can disappear for a week. But I can't think of one of them who, despite the heartache, stress and feelings of total inadequacy, would ever say they wish they had never had children.
I just don't think you can pigeonhole people like that - well researched article or not.

Thepeteo said...

Utter rot, Tara? Utter rot because you believe that the views voiced by the relatively small number of people who gave you their opinion are more significant than proper subjective scientific research based on hundreds of thousands of people over a quarter century? The difference between those few people who spoke to you and those many thousands who took part in the research is that those taking part in the research were anonymous and were free to voice their true opinions without being subjected to judgement either way. You've just displayed your opinion of those people who took part in the survey, you claim that their opinions about their own wellbeing are 'utter rot', if I knew you personally and knew I'd receive that response from you, I probably wouldn't tell you to your face how I truly felt about the issues of child-rearing because it'd be simpler and less confrontational in the long run to tell you what you wanted to hear. You have kids, you've staked your claim on what you believe the "right" way to live is and in my experience nobody is more vociferous on this point and less prepared to understand the conflicting views of others than the parent. I don't bother telling my friends who're parents that I don't want children any more, they don't understand my reasoning and I'm always in receipt of the same responses: "Why? But you'd make a great dad!" or, patronisingly, "You'll come round!" or "That's so sad, it's probably because of your own childhood!" etc etc. I've given the subject a lot of thought and am even now in serious danger of losing the most wonderful partner I've ever had because I don't want children and she does. I've told her from the start that I didn't want kids, she wasn't particularly happy about it but seemed to understand and said that she would rather have our relationship than bearing children with someone else, now, sixteen months on she's beginning to realise that her feelings are as inflexible as mine and that it's probably our relationship that'll give. A tragedy really because I've thought long and hard about the matter and have reached my decision through much antagonising, she's merely assumed that one day it would happen to her and has built her mindset on that without fairly considering any other opinion, if she ever does have kids I'm pretty sure it'll be a major shock to her that life's not like the adverts. I like kids and am good with them but the prospect of living with one or more 24-7 and having to provide for their needs, wants and desires leaves me cold. Whilst I respect the decision of couples to procreate if they mutually desire it, I often don't feel that they extend the same respect for my decision not to and healthy, happy children are not borne of relationships where only one parent wants them, fact, I know that from scientific research coupled with my own childhood experiences. My closing point: proper research as displayed here is pigeonholing nobody, perhaps you should be more open-minded when confronted with scientifically proven facts and less so when drawing conclusions from the possibly biased opinions of those relative few people that you know.