I haven't had any babies of my own, but everyone tells me that having two is exponentially harder than having one. Like, you've got one poop-covered screaming potato thing to deal with, and then all of a sudden YOU'VE GOT TWO. I missed the baby years with my stepdaughters, but even so, I've learned that when you have kids, you're always outnumbered. More kids, worse odds.
I started to ask my fiance if having his second baby was harder than the first, and he yelled "FUCK YEAH!!!" before I could even finish the question. "I knew I really wanted more than one kid," he said, "and I wanted them to be close in age, so once [REDACTED] was born I did the math and I was like, 'Okay. Can I do something that's twice as hard as this?' And apparently I forgot to carry a one or something, because that three months when they were BOTH in diapers? OH MY GOD. It's not twice as hard. It's incalculable." (For more of his poop-related parenting advice, click here.)
And statistics show that that exponential drain affects moms even more than dads. Heather Krause at FiveThirtyEight crunched some data and found that significantly more women than men reported a decrease in happiness after the birth of their second child.
When it comes to overall happiness, the short-term impact of the first child is about the same for men and women. Sixty percent of parents experience a significant change in happiness in the year or two after their first child is born.2 Of the 60 percent, half are likely to be happier, and other half are likely to be less happy.
When it comes to the second child, however, men and women appear to have different experiences. Again, looking at the subset of parents who experience a change in happiness, 40 percent of men but 65 percent of women are likely to be less happy in the first year or two after the birth of their second child. This is a significant difference. It means that women are much more likely than men to experience a drop in happiness with the birth of their second child. For women, the short-term impact of the second kid is harder than the short-term impact of the first.
Interestingly (though perhaps not surprisingly), when it comes to satisfaction in the relationship after a second child, men were disproportionately unhappier than women. Yeah, bro, maybe your wife doesn't have as much time to pay attention to you now that she's elbow-deep in twice as much shit. Men also report more unhappiness with their financial situation than women do after having a second baby.
But babies aren't all doom and gloom! It's important to note that this data only refers to the first year or two after the kid is born, and a majority of parents reported either no change or an increase in short-term happiness with the birth of a second child. And long-term happiness is another story altogether. Here's Krause again:
I've focused on short-term effects of children on parental happiness, but there is a lot of good research examining the long-term effects. Take this longitudinal study out of Britain, which finds that when you control for socio-demographics of households, children seem to make married people happier over time, and moms even happier than dads. This study finds single people's level of happiness is not significantly affected by whether or not they have children.
Moral of the story, I guess: Have kids, or don't! Everything is hard, and there's no magic formula for happiness. And let's all try and pay attention to gendered divisions of domestic labor! Huzzah!
Image via Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock.