Why I Don't Believe Parents Are Less Happy


Several times over the last few months I have heard a statistic being quoted that parents are not as happy as those who don't have children.

I am not sure why I have been hearing this statistic left and right lately, especially when there is research that suggests the opposite, including a study that measured day-to-day emotions of parents and non-parents.

But the repeated quoting of the more negative statistics bugs me.  I think sometimes when it is shared, it is meant to serve as an encouragement that if you aren't happy now in the midst of new parenthood, it will get better.  Or it might be quoted to make those who choose childlessness feel good about their decision.  I don't know.

I do know that I don't trust that study.  There is a growing anti-child trend in society today, which makes me suspicious.  The fact that there is so much contradictory research makes me suspicious.  My own experience, and the experiences of all the parents I know who wouldn't change a thing about their choice to have children, makes me suspicious.

Yes, kids, especially when they are young, are a lot of work.  They interrupt your sleep.  They add 30+ minutes to the process of getting ready to go somewhere.  They cost money.  They make most tasks that we used to take for granted so much more difficult to accomplish (hence the running joke about not being able to use the bathroom alone as a SAHM).  They take up your time.

But oh, the joy.

When you are handed a squishy newborn and they peek open one little eye to peer at you as they settle into your arms - that tightness in your chest?  That is joy.

When you feed your child a jar of baby food, and it gets everywhere, and they look at you and give a two-toothed grin with mush all over their face, and your heart squeezes a little?  That is joy.

When your toddler is tucked in amidst the fluff of their covers, and they ask you to stay for a minute, and as you sit down, they snuggle in, stick a thumb in their mouth, and you watch them breathing as they drift off to sleep - that soft feeling?  That is joy.

When you chase your preschooler around the living room, snatch them up, and they collapse in a pile of giggles as you tickle their stomach - and they are so giddy that you couldn't keep from laughing if you tried?  That is joy.

There is a difference between happiness and joy.  And joy makes it easier to choose happiness even during the hard times, and it makes happiness deeper.

Yes, children bring work, but so do most of the best things in life.  If some can't see past a little work or inconvenience, I feel sorry for them.  What a superficial way to look at the world.  Yes, children have the ability to break your heart, but you give that power to anyone you let in your life and choose to love.  It doesn't make choosing love any less worth the risk for those that do.

The joy that comes with children has the ability to overflow, and then even the work and stresses of parenthood can be colored with happiness, if you let it. That is why 97-98% of parents think kids are worth the cost and work. When parents think on how life would be without these little souls, it's hard to imagine, and the joy of having them in their lives outshines everything else.

Even some questionable statistic that won't stop being quoted.
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Michelle said...

Love this. needed to be written!! Thank you for a positive word!

Kristel said...

Girl, yessss! I find it so annoying when people pity me because I'm a mom to two young kids and it's SO MUCH WORK blah blah blah. My kids are amazing and I love them and I love being with them and I wouldn't change my life for anything in the world. :-) Totally sharing this!

kelseylynae said...

Very well said. I completely agree. Our 2.5 year old had the flu recently and as she slowly recovered and our evenings became more "normal" with her dancing and singing [and whining… ] and hugging my husband said, "She is like a drug and I was starting to have withdrawals! I'm so glad she's back!" We pray for traits for our children and one of her traits and the meaning of her name is "joy." As she is growing older I am teaching her what these means and if you ask her what joy is she says, "Happy you can't take away!" And children give us that happy you can't take away :)

Unknown said...

Amen! Well said!

Whitney @ Southern Hope said...

SO much joy in parenting!! Love it! I wrote a similar post after reading The Child Free Life from Time Magazine. You can read it here:

Melanie said...

How true!! Couldn't imagine life without Makayla and don't know what we did for fun before we had her!

Natalie@She Builds Her Home said...

Interesting. I have not heard this statistic, but I agree with you. I have never, and I truly mean NEVER been as happy in life as I am now with kids. Sure, they are messy and sometimes frustrating, loud and sometimes slow, but like you said-the joy. Sometimes I think back to life before them and I can barely remember what it was like, and honestly I don't know how I got through that many years of my life without those little loves!

Shawnelle Eliasen said...

One of my very favorite verses - thank you. I truly believe that these years are precious. I've found them to be the happiest, most fulfilling so far. We have five sons, two grown, and the rest are growing quickly. I'm thankful that I still have small ones to hold and to care for. I've seen how quickly it all moves.

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