I’m late on this post, because I heard about said study, declaring parenting decreases your happiness on Mother’s Day. And I was at home—ensuring my mother’s complete and unfettered misery for the sheer fact that she had me. My sister joined in the fun.
What the study says is that kids decrease parental happiness. Marriage? Increases your happiness on that nebulous Happiness-O-Meter. Kids? Decrease it. And if you feel differently—you just don’t know any better, says the Harvard professor.
Now happiness is clearly not the same to him as it is to me. I’m sure I should be at my very happiest right now. (Well, not quite. These studies, including this one, consistently say Married Folks are happier, better off, have more and better sex, are prettier, or more handsome, and the women never worry that their thighs look fat. They don’t say that last part, but I’ll tell you—I spend my days reading up on the Happiness of Married Folks and I’ve almost had it. But back to the topic at hand.)
If a lack of responsibility and the ability to sip lattes without concern for tiny grasping hands who want some too—or want your attention—or don’t, but now they are climbing up on the counter—constitutes happiness, then sure, kids really do detract from that.
In life, when I’m at a loss because I’ve just heard something that is clearly patently ridiculous and yet received media attention in spite of that, I like to refer to one of four movies: Anne of Green Gables, The Sound of Music, A Christmas Carol or When Harry Met Sally. All always hold wisdom, but in this particular case, I’ll turn to When Harry Met Sally. There’s a scene where Sally describes her carefree, vibrant, oh-so-wonderful life without children in her relationship with Joe. They break up. Sally explains to Harry:
When Joe and I started seeing each other, we wanted exactly the same thing. We wanted to live together, but we didn’t want to get married because every time anyone we knew got married, it ruined their relationship. … And Joe and I used to talk about it, and we’d say we were so lucky we have this wonderful relationship; we can have sex on the kitchen floor and not worry about the kids walking in. We can fly off to Rome on a moment’s notice. And then one day I was taking Alice’s little girl for the afternoon because I’d promised to take her to the circus, and we were in the cab playing “I Spy” – I spy a mailbox, I spy a lamp-post – and she looked out the window and she saw this man and this woman with these two little kids. And the man had one of the little kids on his shoulders, and she said, “I spy a family.” And I started to cry. You know, I just started crying. And I went home, and I said, “The thing is, Joe, we never do fly off to Rome on a moment’s notice.”
Harry: And the kitchen floor?
Sally: Not once. It’s this very cold, hard Mexican ceramic tile.
I wonder about the professor who does that kind of research in the first place. “Kids—I’m going to be late tonight. Got a really big one on the go, oh yes, I’m proving why everyone should spend more time in the office…”
Brigitte would like to reassure Andrea: married women still worry about their thighs (and other assorted bits that tend to sag or droop or expand when left unattended). At least, I do. That’s why I’m off to karate right about nowish…
Tanya agrees with the results of the study: Well, partially. Stay with me on this one.
Note that the article compared children to Armani socks. For someone so narcissistic as to go around telling everyone he paid $85 for his socks, children would definitely put a damper on his mood.
Perhaps this study is more about how self-centered our society is, and less about what level of happiness we can achieve out of being parents.
Rebecca thinks of the future of the species: Anyone who pays $85 for a pair of socks is doing society a huge favour by not reproducing.