This was the question Ann Landers asked in her famous survey. With shocking results.
In one of my recent articles I quoted the Ann Landers survey. You may or may not be aware that Ann Landers (you can do a search on her) was a popular advice columnist who wrote a regular column in the 1970’s. She wrote it for over 20 years, however one of her most famous articles was the one where she published the results of the question above. At the time I searched for the survey in its entirety but could only find references to it. When one of my commentators asked me if I knew where she could lay hands on the survey I started searching again, without much success. And then I stumbled across a link to Happily Childfree and amazingly, there was the Ann Landers survey!
It makes such interesting reading that I thought I would reference it again and share it with you here.
As has been noted – YES, it was done in the 70’s. BUT, many of the observations made by parents who wrote to Ann are, in my opinion, just as relevant today. In fact, today it seems even more difficult than ever to be a parent. And, as HCF points out, this was not a scientific survey. It didn’t need to be.
The point it makes is very simple.
Many people do not enjoy parenthood but they will only admit it under the cover of anonymity.
The fact that such a huge number felt they would not have children if they had to do it again (a shocking 70%) may boggle the mind at first, but when I think of it, I (and I would guess many childfree people) probably shouldn’t be that surprised. Or should we? Some of the reasons the respondents gave were the very reasons that I decided I didn’t want to have children. Still, 70%!! Ann admitted that the number shocked even her. And she thought she’d seen and heard everything.
No, what is more shocking (even today) is the fact that the dirty little secret is covered up, complete with a conspiracy of silence by parents, while women are continually advised that they need to have children in order to be “real women” derided if they decide not to, and badgered into believing that parenthood is, or should be, their ultimate wonderful goal and that without children they aren’t really a “family”. For some, I don’t doubt parenthood is wonderful. But for everyone? Clearly it is not.
As Ann mentioned in her article and I quote:
“If it is true that a large percentage of the parents in this country are sorry they had children, why don’t we hear more from them? Because such an admission goes against the grain of what we have been taught is human nature. Parents are supposed to love their children no matter what. To speak disparagingly of one’s offspring is socially hazardous.
Trouble with a husband, on the other hand, is a common topic over teacups, luncheon tables, bridge hands and telephones. By the same token, a battle with the little woman is discussed candidly at bars and clubs—wherever men meet. Plain talk about marital problems is a national sport, because everyone knows no marriage is perfect. But parents who have trouble with their children are inclined to keep their mouths shut—unless their troubles have been in the newspapers, or the parents happen to be in the company of other parents who they know are having trouble with their children”.
I hope you enjoy reading the survey as much as I did. Thanks to Happily Childfree (who has a great site by the way and is listed in my Blogroll) for posting the survey.