I don’t have a lot of time for “happiness assessment” articles. It seems to me we are so spoiled rotten we just don’t know happiness. We need an introduction. Happiness–hello! Nice to meet you! I’m spoiled, lazy, and overstimulated. We seem to always be seeking an ever diminishing pleasure with ever increasing zeal (CS Lewis paraphrased). We grow bored and we try for a bigger happiness hit. Cocaine, anyone? Now there’s happiness. Is that what science would have us believe?
This article is about how children apparently don’t make you happy. But it also speaks to our prosperity and how that changed the game:
Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time, and once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed. (The Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer describes this transformation of a child’s value in five ruthless words: “Economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”) Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.
Having spent the weekend with my delightful, beautiful nieces while the deserving parents went away, I will not idealize what raising children is. (Drinks of water in the night, soothe baby by singing rounds of Amazing Grace, put older niece back in bed who woke up crying, morning! Make breakfast–chocolate chip pancakes because I am the Auntie and I don’t have to be healthy–get dressed, easier said than done–babies are squirmy–SUNSCREEN!! lots of it, it’s hot out, wait a second, have to dress myself–make that into a game for kids who are ready and raring to go out, get cold drinks, snacks, extra clothes, diaper bag, shoes–not that foot, the other foot, not those shoes, the other shoes–and out the door! I WAS A HERO!)
Parents are indeed heroes. And happiness may not even be the point. As we walked to the park my niece asked me to stop and take a picture of the ants. The ants. She pointed them out with her tiny finger, following them on the pavement. I did, in fact, and we have video footage now. I expect this to be a popular film anytime soon. Ants: A Special Part of Most Every Suburban Neighbourhood.
Happiness may not be the point, but there is happiness in kids, if you take the time to notice it. There are some things academics cannot measure.by