My wife and I are giving serious thought to starting a family, and now I’m having second thoughts. The idea of being responsible for a child is daunting enough. But I read a recent report suggesting that parenting often leads to unhappiness. What’s your perspective?
Answer: Scientists love to examine the happiness quotient of parents. Year after year studies either find how miserable parents are or how much joy and satisfaction children bring to their parents’ lives. One of our staff researchers studied these varied findings and concluded that the reason for the disparity lies in how we define happiness.
Parenthood can be exhausting – no doubt about it. It’s a huge investment of time, money and energy. Couples with young children endure sleep deprivation, and a teenager’s backtalk can work that last nerve. Still, there’s a reason why the happy announcement – “We’re pregnant!” – is met with celebration.
At some level, we understand that happiness isn’t measured by the many things parents sacrifice. There’s a deeper satisfaction that comes from living to benefit others and from loving our children well. There’s a joy that fills the soul when you see your daughter selflessly serving others or see your son’s face light up after he discovers something new and that “aha!” moment strikes. Moments like these make sacrifices worth it. This type of transcendent love causes us to look beyond ourselves and become the people our children need us to be.
As you weigh the prospects of parenting, make sure your definition of happiness lines up with a long-term perspective. If you do, you’ll see that bringing a new life into this world and then loving and guiding him or her along the way offers meaningfulness and joy unmatched by any other human endeavour.
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