If you follow the cacophony of smug celebrity mommas, you might think that having children is the key to satisfaction. But a new study shows that parents might be less happy than their childless counterparts. Florida State sociology professor Robin Simon tells Newsweek, "Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers." Simon believes that the upswell of negativity in parents is due to two major factors.
One, societal expectations which imply that having children is an innately joyful endeavor. In fact, parents are often afraid to admit when they're unhappy because "it runs so counter to our cultural beliefs that children make you happy," Simon notes in an interview with NPR. And two, there aren't as many support networks in place for parents as there used to be.
Newsweek's Lorraine Ali says, "The majority of American parents now work outside the home, have less support from extended family and face a deteriorating education and health-care system, so raising children has not only become more complicated-it has become more expensive." But honestly, these sociological studies of "happiness" always feel essentially empty to me. Because what is happiness and how is it quantifiable in any real way? It's not surprising that people who are so easily swayed by societal expectations that they have children they don't really want are unhappy; but who's to say that they wouldn't have followed other damaging "societal expectations" as they're clearly so out of touch with what they want and who they are?
It's setting yourself up for disaster if you expect any life event to make you instantaneously, cartoonishly happy. But I can tell you this: I was hanging out with my mother a few months ago. We were perched on an escalator and she kept staring at our reflection in the mirrored walls adjacent to the moving staircase. She went silent for a second, and then said to me, "Sometimes the love you have for your children is so overwhelming that you are dumbstruck by it."