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Does having kids make you happy?

Sunday, April 10, 2011 Leave a Comment

Didja see this TED talk? Didja make it to #4?

I was just saying the same thing to my husband, the day before the ER... One of the biggest lies of parenthood is that kids make you happy. The reality is that you have a few moments of transcendental happiness, where you feel a joy that reaches the upper limits of human capability. The rest of the time is pretty much pure stress.

Studies have shown that, while marriage makes us happier, having kids does not. At least, not until they leave for college.

Somehow, this little nugget of knowledge has made me feel a heck of a lot better-- especially after a week where I had to pack and get ready for a vacation that didn't happen because my boy ended up in the ER... and after a winter where the entire family caught every sickness that went around including strep, the flu, the croup, and 2 bouts with ear/sinus infections. I think I have been on antibiotics more in the last two years than in my entire life.

Don't get me wrong: I love my kids more than it seems humanly possible to love. I can't imagine my life without them. I wouldn't trade them for the world. I'm just saying -- if there's a happiness chart, we've got a few more years of being in the dip before our overall happiness starts rising again.  But after that, it's smooth sailing.

More fun reading:

  • Is Happiness Overrated?

    Study Finds Physical Benefits to Some (Not All) Good Feelings

    Surveys have shown the typical person usually feels more positive than neutral, yet it isn't clear he or she needs to be any happier, Dr. Diener says. But there is such a thing as too much focus on happiness. Ruminating too much about oneself can become a vicious cycle. Fixating on being happy "in itself can become a psychological burden," Dr. Ryff says.

    Being happy doesn't mean feeling elated all the time. Deep stress is bad, but the "I don't have enough time" stress that many people feel while balancing work, family and other demands may not be so bad, Dr. Diener says. To improve feelings of happiness and eudaimonia, focus on relationships and work that you love, Dr. Diener says, adding, "Quit sitting around worrying about yourself and get focused on your goals."


    From WSJ/Essay: The Breeders' Cup

    Social science may suggest that kids drain their parents' happiness, but there's evidence that good parenting is less work and more fun than people think. Bryan Caplan makes the case for having more children.


    So - how happy are you?