Research shows that having children doesn’t make you happier.
Many parents refer to their children as “pride and joy.” However, research shows that having kids doesn’t make you happier.
Jennifer Glass, a professor of sociology at Texas at Austin and a demographer who studies how parents and well-being relate, states that most parents believe their children are very important sources of life satisfaction.
Being a parent is an exciting rollercoaster ride.
Research has shown that babies experience a “happiness bump” right after they are born. Glass claims this happiness tends to fade throughout one year.
The happiness levels of parents and children gradually decline after that point, with nonparents generally becoming happier over time.
Although it’s not that parents are reluctant to bring a baby into the family, child-rearing can be difficult.
Glass states that parents tend to reflect on their lives by focusing on the loving, positive moments with their children. She says, “And thank God for that because those same marvellous little creatures can put you into the abyssal of despair if something goes wrong.”
Happiness can be described as a complex concept. It includes life satisfaction, which describes how happy you are about your life and well-being and how you feel in each moment.
Although having children can increase your happiness and quality of life, there is also much responsibility and stress. It can lead to a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows throughout their parenting experience.
A study by Princeton University and Stonybrook University showed that parents and children have similar levels of life satisfaction. However, parents experience more joy and less stress than their non-parents.
Parents deal with “constant low-level stressors.”
Parents face many low-level stressors, such as remote learning and getting up at night to care for a sick child. Actively parenting adults tend to have higher levels of anxiety and depression.
It doesn’t mean that stress disappears when children become independent and mature. A 2019 study showed that parents who have had their children leave are happier than those who remain.
Glass says that the price of strong emotional bonds with your children is a lot of worries.
The “price” for having children has increased during the pandemic. This is because millions of mothers with children were forced out of the workforce by higher demands at home.
According to an American Psychological Association survey, 75% of parents of children under 18 years old felt they could have received more emotional support during a pandemic. 48% of parents stated that their stress levels had increased since then.
Children are costly, and Americans don’t get much help.
The main factor that influences parental happiness is money. Researchers found that having children increased happiness when financial problems were removed.
In 2015, the average cost of raising a child in the U.S. was more than $233,000 (according to the most recent Consumer Expenditures Survey data by the USDA). In January, It estimated the average American household with children spends approximately $11,000 annually in direct and indirect child-care costs.
Additionally, the United States has a social structure that makes parenthood extremely difficult.
In 2017, a study showed that parents in the U.S. were less happy than those in developed countries that have more generous family policies such as paid parental leaves. For example, parents who give birth in Finland receive a box of baby products and 164 days of paid leave.
Most of the time, childfree adults, those who have made a clear and deliberate choice to leave parenthood, may be able to have more freedom, money, and time to pursue activities that are fulfilling.
Nonparents can spend their money in ways that have been proven to increase happiness. This includes putting money towards personal growth and connecting with others.
People who choose to be childless by choice tend to give more money to causes they care about and plan for their old age.
Many of us can save money for retirement because we aren’t spending our money raising children.
It’s more than just happiness.
There are many positive aspects to having a family.
Even though parents may not find the moment-to-moment happiness, they desire, having children gives meaning, satisfaction, and connection to their lives.
If we had to rank the importance of our relationships to our children, it would be at the top, above our relationships with partners.
There are many nuanced reasons people have children that go beyond their happiness.