Childfree By Choice or Parents: Who is Happier?

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…

childfree by choice

Image by D Sharon Pruitt

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:

  1. Young parents (aged 17-25) – young parents are less happy and satisfied than young adults without children
  2. Single parents – single parents are less happy and satisfied than singles without children
  3. 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:

  1. 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!

How Old Is Too Old To Have A Baby? Pros and Cons

Ever growing numbers of women are choosing to delay motherhood. There are a lot of factors influencing this trend such as flat wages, higher costs associated with raising children including college tuition, and greater career opportunities for women. The average family size has been decreasing over the last century across most populations in the US and most of the westernized world.

This increase in women having children later in life is causing many to ask, how old is too old to have a baby? Are there benefits to children of older mothers? What health risks are associated with pregnancy later in life? What are the other things I should know when making this decision?

how old is too old to have a baby

By Chefranden

Today 1 in 5 women are postponing having children to 35 years or older. The number of women having children in their 40’s has doubled in the last twenty years. With medical interventions continuing to push the motherhood age envelope, many are debating this very sensitive topic. If you find yourself asking am I too old to have a baby look at the list of pros and cons below. Let’s start with the good news.

Pros of late motherhood

  • More disposable income
  • Benefits to child development such as language development
  • Greater access to healthcare
  • Wisdom that comes with age
  • More stable lifestyle
  • Feeling more ready for motherhood
  • Less regrets from missing out on things like career, single life, or leisure pursuits
  • Stronger identity – the parents know who they are
  • Many older parents report being calmer and more able to deal with turmoil

Cons of late motherhood

  • Lower energy to play with or chase children
  • Not being able to see children’s lives beyond early adulthood
  • Missing knowing and helping raise your grandchildren
  • Some children report being embarrassed by having older parents
  • Social stigmas – (although this is sure to change with the rising number of older parents at the playground and PTA meetings)
  • May not be able to conceive or may take longer to conceive naturally; chances of getting pregnant in any given month at age 30 are about 20%, by 40 years old this chance drops to only 5%. That means that you only have a quarter of the chance to get pregnant in any given month when you are 40 years old compared to 30 years old. That is a really significant change in fertility throughout the 30’s.

how old is too old to have a baby

Risks of Pregnancy After 35 

  • Possibly risky to mother’s health – an older mother is more likely to have health problems such as high cholesterol, obesity, or high blood pressure
  • Increased risk of miscarriage is 25% in women age 35 to 39, and 50% in women 40 to 45 years old
  • Increased risk of Down Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormality – after 45 years old, rates of Down Syndrome are 1 in 12, between 40 to 44 years old the rate is 1 in 30 (compared to the rate of 1 in 1,400 in the 20’s)
  • May have to use expensive IVF treatments – keep in mind that fertility drugs carry their own risks and pregnancy is not guaranteed. At 39 years old, the percentage of births when using the mother’s eggs was approximately 22%. After 43 years old, the percentage drops to less than 10%. The majority of IVF success in late motherhood is due to using egg donors.

 How Old Is Too Old To Have A Baby? – Bottom line

There is no universal age or deadline for when you become too old to have a baby. Only you can know this answer for yourself. The key is to

  1. Understand the risks and benefits of both average aged and late motherhood
  2. Make a well informed decision
  3. Have a clear plan

It’s up to you what works in your life! The oldest woman to give birth was 72 years old as of 2016. And yes, she received treatment from a fertility clinic. Who knows how far age boundary of motherhood can be pushed.

However, for the  best results, television host and F.O.O (friend of Oprah) Dr. Oz recommends moving “decisions about your fertility to the top of your priority list by the time you are at age 30.” This strategy avoids the most common pitfall associated with delaying motherhood, women not being aware of the risks (especially the risk that they may not be able to get pregnant).

If you understand and are willing to take the risks associated with having children later in life, then that is great. THE most important part of bringing a child into this world at any age is that the child is loved and wanted!

At what age do you think is too old to have a baby? Please comment below.

Do Confessional Mommy Blogs Affect Parenthood Fence Sitters?

In the last decade there has been a proliferation of confessional mommy blogs depicting the often less than idyllic realities of motherhood. The rise of personal blogs has allowed mothers to be frank, vulnerable, and often hilarious to a global audience.

confessional mommy blogs

photo credit: Daniela Vladimirova via photopin cc

Confessional mommy blogs such as Scary Mommy, Motherlode, The Bloggess, and  Mommy Wants Vodka tell the truth about the highs and lows of modern parenthood. These sites have fostered online communities of both mothers and fathers that share their own parenthood triumphs and challenges in a supportive environment. And that’s awesome, but what unintended side effects are these confessional mommy blogs having?

 

Here are some anonymously posted confessions from the confessional at Scary Mommy:

“I pretended to be looking for DD’s pacifier under the bed so I could lay in floor with my face hidden for 2 minutes.”

“I just told my 3yo son to get out of my face.”

“I’m so sick of my life and being poor. Can’t even get my kids new shoes for school. DS starts a new school tomorrow, dear god please don’t let them little assholes make fun of him. He deserves so much better.”

Yikes! I can’t help but wonder what effect these voices are having on men and women’s decisions to have children. Could these discussions in some part be driving choices to be childfree or childless by choice?

Are confessional mommy blogs causing people to question their desire to have children?

Confessional mommy blogs have affected me and my decision-making process in two ways.

1. I feel like a more informed consumer. Like I’ve read Consumer Reports and countless product reviews about what it’s like to be pregnant, give birth, breastfeed, have no sleep, or deal with a crying baby.

2. Increased confusion. My indecision and ambivalence were already bad enough by themselves. Confessional mommy blogs were like crack and I was glued to them hoping for a moment of enlightenment that would make deciding to have a baby or not easier. Unfortunately, the diverse opinions only added to the chorus of confusion in my head.

Have confessional mommy blogs depicting the negative aspects of parenthood effected your decision? What effect do you see these sources having on others?

 

Equal Parenting Responsibilities a Myth?

It should be no surprise that raising children requires a tremendous amount of work and responsibility. However, new parents often seem shocked by the sheer magnitude of the task. Until you’ve experienced it yourself, you just have NO CLUE!

One of the main reasons people put off or completely abstain from having children is the huge amount of work required. And to make matters more confusing, it seems that mothers get the majority of the responsibility.

I recently came across a very honest forum post in which a father wrote,

“I had two kids and love them to death but if I had it to do over again, I’d reject it as an irrational proposition. Lots of grueling work for an uncertain outcome and appreciation. Also in my experience we dudes have a much more casual attachment to kids and parenting than women do. I am quite close to my stepson, closer than to my own son. But as upset as I’d be if something happened to him, I know who would be way more devastated … my wife.”

This forum post got me thinking. Why do women seem to take on the majority of child raising duties? Are equal parenting responsibilities even possible?

Statistics about Equal Parenting Responsibilities         

equal parenting responsibilities

photo credit: Mike Babcock via photopin cc

According to a 2013 study released by Pew Research Center, mothers devote twice as much time than fathers to child care (7 hours per week for fathers vs. 14 hours per week for mothers). Even though mothers are still spending twice as much time caring for their children, there is some good news. Fathers have nearly tripled their time with children since 1965. Go Dads!!!

Even in the modern era of parenthood, mothers take on double the responsibility. Perhaps sharing equal parenting responsibilities isn’t possible and if so, why is that? Could it be some deep biological force evolved through millions of years? Or cultural conditioning?

A Matter of Biology?

Women become pregnant, deliver babies, and breastfeed. Is it this physical bond that explains the difference in mothers and fathers’ roles? Recent research showed that women’s brains respond to crying babies more than male brains. Perhaps there is a biological basis to disparities in child rearing.

Cultural Norms?

In the past it was a woman’s duty to raise her children. Now there is more focus on equality. Even though, cultural norms take several generations to change.

Researchers asked the question “Are women naturally better suited to be parents?” 57% of mothers stated that they were more naturally suited to raise children then their partners. Mothers also give themselves somewhat higher ratings than fathers: 73% of mothers say they are doing an excellent or very good job as a parent, compared with 64% of fathers.

Talk about Equal Parenting Responsibilities Before Baby comes!    

Or for that matter, talk about unequal parenting responsibilities. Just talk! What matters is that you have an agreement. One of the leading causes for divorce is differences in attitudes about raising children. Having children often leads to a decrease in marital satisfaction. The antidote- COMMUNICATION!

How do you see the division of labor working? Will you be flexible in your roles? Will you continue to invest in your relationship?

Talk, talk, and talk some more about your expectations. And once baby arrives, talk some more!

What do you think about equal parenting responsibilities?

Deciding to be a Childfree Couple

Here is a well made, interesting 10 minute documentary showing four couples exploring their decision to remain as a childfree couple. I also love hearing the opposite perspective of the mothers who can’t “fathom not wanting children”. What a wonderfully diverse and interesting world we live in!

Would you consider being a childfree couple?

When you watch the video do you find yourself agreeing with the childfree couple or the mothers in the park?