Parenting And Unhappiness

By now you’ve heard about or maybe read the New York Magazine article about parenting and happiness. If not, surely you’ve heard of all of the studies that say parents are less happy than their childless peers. I think such articles and studies should come with a big asterisk.

*Many parents believe parenting is hard work and that it is the toughest job they have ever had. These parents say they wouldn’t change a thing about their experience. In short, our research shows, these parents love parenting. These parents are not represented in this study.

Parenting is about problem-solving, and I enjoy finding solutions. I clearly remember thinking I would dislike parenting. I had heard parents bemoan all of the work. A few weeks after Simone arrived, I wondered what all the fussing was about. But you have a good baby, I was told. That was not true. I just adapted. I think parenting requires a certain personality. Some folks are thrown off balance by very small changes. Parenting isn’t for those kinds of people. No two days are ever the same around here. There is often no time to talk about how to address issues. We just roll with whatever is coming.

I’ve learned — and am still learning — how to have a sense of humor. I have to laugh when a child decides to disrobe in the middle of the grocery store, throws up at the restaurant, or says something so embarrassing or inappropriate I can’t even write it on a parenting blog. I don’t laugh in the moment, but I do chuckle at the end of the day.

It helps to know where you come from. I figure if my parents and grandparents raised kids with little more than love and a whole lot of values I can certainly do it. I also like to think parenting is different when you decide to have kids because you really want to have children — not because it’s the next step, or all your friends or doing it, or your parents won’t give you any peace about their empty arms.

Our lives are certainly different. Ken and I haven’t taken a trip overseas since Simone and Nadia came into our lives. I know we will again and that we will take the girls with us. I want us to show them as much as we can. We may even leave them with their grandparents when they are older while we explore another part of the world.

But are we less happy? No. Sometimes I reflect on the days when Ken and I didn’t have Simone and Nadia and I ask myself what we did with all of that free time? The answer: Not a whole bunch.

So, what do you say? What do you think about articles and studies that report parents are unhappy?

  • Melissa

    I don’t think one can ever be entirely prepared for being a parent. There are just too many variations of it to even begin to know what to expect. I always have to laugh when people who (pre-parenthood) adamantly claim that “no child of mine will ever _____ (fill in the blank), because often once they have kids, that is exactly what their child does.

    As for a parenting personality, age and experience has taught me that being a parent is such a life changing event that it also can have similar effect on a woman’s (or man’s) basic personality too. I’ve known some very self-involved girls who have made complete turn-arounds and become wonderful, selfless mothers.

    I also think “happiness” is a relative term. Maybe parents don’t get to party and travel like they did when they were single, but they do get to snuggle with and enjoy the giggles of a little child of their very own. No comparison, in my book.

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