Parenting Makes Dads Happy, Moms Not So Much

Illustration for article titled Parenting Makes Dads Happy, Moms Not So Much

Last week, we learned some depressing news about depressed stay-at-home moms: they're way more likely to spend time feeling sad and angry than employed moms, who are about as emotionally content as working women who don't have children.

Advertisement

Now, a group of psychologists claims there is a psychological benefit of parenting: "parents are happier than non-parents," according to a press release. But the study's title and subtitle are not as cheery: "In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery." Um, yay?

According to the study, women with children aren't happier than women who don't have kids (and, as we said last week, usually they're more depressed). Young parents (under the age of 26) are way less happy than mid-20-somethings without children, and single parents aren't having a blast, either. "Married parents did not differ in satisfaction or happiness from married people without children," the study concluded. So, uh, who is experiencing all the happiness and joy, here?

It turns out that "parenthood is associated with greater satisfaction and happiness only among fathers," and married dads at that, which doesn't surprise anyone, least of all the study's authors, who said the discrepancy "is not unexpected, as the pleasures associated with parenting may be offset by the surge in responsibility and housework that arrives with motherhood." Ahh, perhaps.

In that case, how can the researchers claim that children are associated with more joy than misery? Probably because all parents said they felt "a stronger sense of meaning in life" than did people without kids. Of course, as the researchers noted, there's a difference between "the search for meaning" and "the presence of meaning" — and the study didn't touch upon that weighty subject in the slightest.

"It's unclear whether having children gives our lives meaning, or whether kids just satisfy a preset societal idea about how we ought to be extracting meaning from our lives." writes GOOD's Amanda Hess, adding that "it should give us pause that women report locating meaning in their lives through something that does not actually make them happy. 'What is the meaning of life?' and 'what is the meaning of my life?' are two questions that should not be so easily confused."

Advertisement

The study's authors said they hoped "people may find solace" from their research, which makes it seem like they, too, are not immune from the idea that having children inherently gives life a purpose, regardless of data that proves otherwise.

New Research Says Parenting Makes You Happy-If You're a Dad [GOOD]

Image via Anatoliy Samara/Shutterstock.

DISCUSSION

BananaButt
BananaButt

I feel like I could go on about this topic endlessly. I was raised in a home where my mother was the bread winner and my father did most of the domestic stuff, although he worked as well. I am now married to a man who was raised by a single mother. Those two upbringings do not mix well when trying to figure out who does what.

I definitely do a million times more parenting than my husband does. I do mornings, I do bedtime, dinner time, bath time, conferences, doctors appointment, shopping, gymnastics class, swimming class, soccer practice, etc. On top of that, I am the go-to parent for everything from scrapes to problems with friends to monsters under the bed. After the third knock on the door while I'm trying to use the bathroom, I'm about ready to kill some one most days, and 9 time out of 10 the person I want to kill is my husband! He can be two feet away from them and they'll walk to the other side of the house to get me instead.

At this point I don't know if its because I don't ASK for the help, or because I want things done such a particular way that I see it best to do it myself, if its because I want to feel like I can do it all and do it all alone, if its because my children prefer being comforted by me, or if he's just neglectful... I just don't know. What I DO know is that I love my children like nothing else, but they are the cause of 99% of my stress. I look forward to going to work in the morning because its quiet here. I know exactly what to expect here, no one cries, no one punches anyone else, no one needs me to get them a cup down and pour them some milk TWO SECONDS after I put the milk away and closed the cupboard after gettingtheirsisteraglassofgodD...!!!!

There are moments such as school plays, watching one teach the other something, listening to them tell me a funny story about something that happened at school, peeking out the window as they play together in the yard, or (my personal favorite) gazing at them as they sleep, when my heart swells so big it could explode and it all feels worth it. But motherhood will stress you the FUCK OUT. I could never be a stay at home mother and not go totally insane. Not without drugs, anyway.