Monday, July 19, 2010

Do kids make us happy?

I just read this article

Basically, it hypothesizes that parents are less happy than those without children while they are in the throws of parenting, but are more nostalgic and fulfilled in retrospect. It doesn't delve whether those without kids are without kids by choice or due to infertility, and I think this is a very important distinction since infertility is, from what I hear, really hard. The article spends quite a bit of time discussing why parents hate parenting and although I can see their points I do find some holes in the article.

First, I don't think you should have kids in order to make yourself happy. Of course you don't want having kids to make you unhappy, but kids are not meant to fulfill their parents. This article seemed to be getting at this when it talked about how much pressure American parents put on themselves to raise perfect kids, rather than shooting for good kids. It would be exhausting to try and sculpt a kid into a perfect, all-star, straight-A, Ivy League Doctor or whatever, especially since they actually have a say in the matter and will ultimately do what they want. All parents can do is try and give them stability, love and guidance not turn them into superheros. I can understand wanting the best for your kids and I tend to think that Luthien is the smartest little baby that has ever existed, but I try to remember that she isn't my little project, but rather a little human that needs my guidance and love.

Another part of the article I object to is the idea that kids make marriages worse. In essence, it says that kids place quite a strain on a marriage, although it only discusses one type of family--one where both the mother and father work outside of the home, and wait until their mid thirties to have their first kid (and possibly last kid). I have only had a kid for a few months, but it is a bit of a shock in the personal freedom department, and I am still learning how to balance my needs and wants with Luthien's. It's been hard figuring out how to be married and how to raise a baby at the same time. I don't see the logic in the article on this point though. Facing and overcoming challenges in a marriage should serve to strengthen it, not weaken it. But this article seems to say that once a couple has children their relationship is only about the kids. I have seen this first hand, but I have also seen marriages that are still awesome and fully functioning with several children. I think couples have to be careful not to let their marriage slide after having kids, rather they need to use the challenges to strengthen and grow their marriage. It reminds me how important it is to make my marriage a priority. I think that because Andy and I will have dealt with this balance between marriage and children from the beginning we will be able to learn the necessary skills to keep both healthy. This isn't to say that couples who have children later can't do this, just that for us it is good to do it early on.

I haven't been a parent for very long, but so far when the parenting gets tough realizing that I am doing something so worth while makes it much more doable. The article stabs at this at the end, but only clumsily so. I would pick meaning and purpose to my life over being a CEO with ample vacation any day.

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