Friday, May 11, 2007

Why NOT to have kids: Late-in-life happiness

There were several things in this study summary that surprised me. Mainly, that women with children are no more or less happy in their late years than women who never married and had kids. So many grandparents I know talk about how their grandchildren fill up their lives and how empty they'd be without them. Perhaps yes, but apparently they wouldn't be unhappy with what they're missing.

I also found it surprising that among women having children before age 19, between 19-25 or after age 25, the latter group reported the highest satisfaction rating with their lives. The study group was women who had their children in the 1950's, when the norm was having kids in your early 20s. I assumed the 19-25 group would be most satisfied given they were doing what was typical in their day. Not so.

Both these points subtly reveal the darker, less-discussed side of parenting. It is hard-assed freakin' work AND one perhaps best undertaken from either an altruistic or an obligation point of view. If you're in it for the kicks and fun ride, you may well be disappointed. If you're doing it for the good of your children or because "that's what parents do," then you may be more realistic in your expectations.

That's not to say children don't expand one's universe in ways that can only be seen in hindsight. They do. And of course there are moments of overwhelming bliss.

But any given day, your kids are probably kicking your butt one way or another. The study seems to say that getting out and living one's own life for a while before reproducing makes the work of parenting easier to take.

And in the end, when your kids have fledged the nest and it's back to you or you and your partner, you're not going to be any happier -- wiser, yes; happier, no -- for the journey than those who never took it.

Isn't that somehow hard to believe?



Blogger Diane said...

I find that interesting since I really believe I'm a different person due to my children. My children made me grow into a person I never thought I could be: strong, caring, able to stand up to anyone on behalf to speak for my kids when they couldn't advocate for themselves.

8:52 AM  
Blogger doulicia said...


I agree. It surprised me, too. Maybe having children changes us but doesn't necessarily change us into happier people...?

8:40 AM  

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