Recent research on the topic of parental happiness hasn't really painted having children in the best light. In fact, it's found that those who choose to have tiny versions of themselves that demand 24/7 care and attention turn out to be more miserable and have unhappier marriages than those who choose not to reproduce. Well, forget what you've heard because there's happy news for those of you who were worried that your kids were going to ruin your lives: two new studies have found fault with the earlier research and instead suggest that mommies and daddies might actually be happier than their non-reproducing friends.
One of the studies, which used longitudinal data from British and German parents, concluded that "the overall net effect of having children is positive." The happiness levels people experienced after becoming parents were higher when compared against their own happiness levels prior to having kids. That's nice, though the study also found that things like age make a difference in how happy you end up. For instance, those who had kids at a younger age had a "downward happiness trend," which sounds positively doom and gloom. Those who waited and had kids later, however, were happier after giving birth. Feel free to adjust your life plans accordingly.
The second study relied on nationally representative surveys of 120,000 adults taken between 1972-2008. It found that parents were not as happy as non-parents between 1985 and 1995, but between 1995 and 2008, things got better for parents, and they were happier than the non-parents. Why? Well, Chris Herbst, co-author of this study, says it's because happiness among non-parents went down—meaning the parents just looked happier in comparison. Whatever, take what you can get, moms and dads.
While it can't necessarily be concluded from this research that parenting is 100 percent guaranteed to fill your life with joy and make it worth living, both studies presented evidence that the previous research in this area had serious faults. So, as you lie awake because your child is yelling at you from the next room for refusing to read him a 32nd bedtime story, remember that, at worst, your life would suck just as much if you were able to fall asleep without harassment each night. And, in fact, that unpredictable creature with the tiny footed pajamas might actually be bringing you some lasting happiness, even if at the moment he seems like he was spawned from the devil himself.
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