In the last decade much has been written about the stress-filled, overworked plight of parents. Researchers and the media have painted the picture that the childfree by choice are happier than their parenting counterparts. A new study published in Psychological Science says that these assertions are overblown. However, on a closer look it’s clear that the jury is still out. And for good reason…
It is way too complicated to make a blanket statement either way! There are a tremendous amount of variables that can affect parental happiness including money, age of parents, age of children, size of support network, religious or spiritual affiliation, and so on.
For example, parents with a greater local support network are going to experience less stress than parents who live thousands of miles away from any family or friends. This complexity makes it impossible to ever deliver a general statement that either the childfree by choice or parents are happier.
Parent groups with clear evidence for LESS happiness and satisfaction:
- Young parents (aged 17-25) – young parents are less happy and satisfied than young adults without children
- Single parents – single parents are less happy and satisfied than singles without children
- New parents – new parents experience a decrease in life satisfaction during the first several months after childbirth
Parent groups with clear evidence for INCREASED happiness and satisfaction:
- Fathers – the only clear winner in parenthood is fathers. Parenthood was associated with increased satisfaction and happiness only among fathers. Interestingly, motherhood is not clearly linked to increased satisfaction and happiness across scientific studies. Perhaps the increased workload balances out the joys of motherhood
So what is linked to happiness and satisfaction in life?
The bottom line is that either having or not having children were not predictable indicators of happiness and satisfaction. Being in a stable relationship, however, is a reliable predictor. The study found that married parents did not differ in satisfaction or happiness from childfree by choice couples.
What is clear is that the quality of one’s marriage is more central to happiness and satisfaction in life than whether or not people are raising children.
Should I have a baby? What does this mean for me?
If you are trying to decide whether or not to have children, these studies are of little guidance. Yes, they are very interesting and I will continue to post these studies on The Baby Question blog. But the decision to have children or remain childfree by choice needs to come from within you.
When deciding to have a baby, consider what makes you happy. Does being around people and constantly being on the go make you happy? Or do you enjoy quiet reflection and a slower pace of life? Are you easily upset and prone to anxiety or anger? Understanding yourself (and your relationship, if you are in one) is the key foundation to making the decision to have or not to have kids.
Also don’t assume that having children will make you happy and satisfied! Having children in order to make you happier and more satisfied may not work. Whatever emotional baggage you have is not going to disappear when you have a baby. In fact, it might get worse! Don’t give your baby a job before he/she is even born- meaning it’s not a child’s purpose to make you feel happier or more loved.
Just know that either choice is absolutely OK. Be clear on who you are and what makes you happy and satisfied. Make a well thought out decision and BE HAPPY!