Newsweek wants you know that having children will make you miserable. The article “Does Having Children Make You Happy? False.” cites survey after survey, poll after poll to establish the premise that children lead to “lower levels of emotional well-being” and “less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions”. The author, Lorraine Ali, begins with a story from her childhood about the couple down the street who were childless by choice:
Each time I visited the Sloans, I’d search for signs of insanity, misery or even regret in their superclean home, yet I never seemed to find any. From what I could tell, the Sloans were happy, maybe even happier than my parents, despite the fact that they were (whisper) childless.
Surveys are then cited to prove that the childless couples are well adjusted and “happy” while those with children.
The most recent comprehensive study on the emotional state of those with kids shows us that the term “bundle of joy” may not be the most accurate way to describe our offspring. “Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers,” says Florida State University’s Robin Simon, a sociology professor who’s conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. “In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It’s such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they’re not.”
Ali then tells this that this was not always the case. Back in the dark ages having children was a good thing because they could work the farm, but in this day and age they merely cause lack of sleep and the dreaded dissatisfaction.
What Newsweek doesn’t say in its analysis is that we are having fewer children than ever before. In some European countries, the birth rates are at half replacement rates. So never before has a society been less generous toward children while at the same time uniquely unhappy with the few children that we have. Do the math, lack of generosity toward the gift of fecundity equates with lack of happiness with the occasional use of that gift.
“Happiness” and “satisfaction” are subjective terms that are geared toward exalting the narcissistic. Newsweek misses the mark when analyzing the data. The conclusion that I reach from observing this lack of generosity and subsequent morose navel gazing is that we are one of the most self centered and selfish generations to ever walk the planet. Have some children and stop worrying about yourself, then you may realize that it is not all about you. Then maybe, just maybe, you might really be happy.