I have to warn you that visiting this particular post might make you roll your eyes. Or rant. Or a combination of both. It might even annoy you . You’ll have to make up your own mind.
Brightfeather sent me this interesting link (thank you BF!) and of course being the curious person I am I wanted to see what the Happiness Project was all about. And of course I have a view. According to many of the responses to the article (and you know that comments are often the most revealing bit, right?) on The Happiness Project children make you happy. Or do they?
According to some studies – no, they don’t.
Well, even if they do, I’m happy to be childfree. Children would not make me happy. Why do people find that so hard to believe?
In Stumbling on Happiness says Gretchen the blog writer, prominent psychologist Daniel Gilbert argues that children don’t, in fact, make their parents happy. (By the way The link only refers to his book and not to the point made below (I searched for it to no avail) so I’m only linking to him because I thought it fair to mention him. The book does look like an interesting read though. And I have seen his reference before so I am going to check my research links. Meanwhile
“He points to studies that show that marital satisfaction plummets after the birth of the first child and increases after the last child has left home, and to research that shows that a group of women found childcare only slightly more pleasant than housework.
“So why do people think children bring happiness? Gilbert argues that without the successful transmission of that inaccurate belief, society would crash—no one would have kids. Also, he says, when people think about having kids, they imagine the fun and success, but not the inconvenience and anxiety.”
I thought the article was interesting for a number of reasons, not least the fact that almost all the commentators agreed that children make you happy.
As a childfree woman who is told by almost every parent that who discovers I am childfree, that children will bring me
such the ultimate happiness and fulfilment and that my life – well, it just isn’t as “meaningful” since I don’t have kids – when reading some of the comments I thought “now we may know, at least in part, why the childed are convinced that childfree people are selfish. Because they were – and it took children to “knock the selfishness out of them.” So now they are, according to them, perfectly unselfish, leaving that crown to us.
Now, I would not say that children do not in many cases bring happiness. I would say that they can and they often do. However children do not bring happiness in all cases. And I think that many believe children will make them happy and that’s why they have them. I mean, as women we are indoctrinated from the time we can speak to believe that we will never be happy without having a child, and preferably many children. Society is entirely geared to support and enhance at any cost this
myth premise, myth and when the childfree (who obviously by their choice have not needed children to provide them with happiness) disagree with what we seem to have been sold, are roundly shouted down, derided and criticized.
It is heartening that Gilbert believes that children do not bring happiness.
But Gretchen also says that she cannot accept that children do not bring happiness. Why not?
Some children bring their parents nothing but misery. Sometimes it’s the parent’s fault. Often it isn’t the parents fault – they did everything they could and they still ended up with a social misfit or a criminal or simply a rebellious teen who will bring nothing but grief to their parents – and anyone else who chooses not to disown them.
But of course, when the parents meet down at the police station to bail out their delinquent kid (yet again) this is never mentioned – it’s kept very very quiet.
Until they do an Ann Landers survey that is (and yes I know it’s old, but it is still relevant). Then they pour their hearts out, and one of their refrains is that had they known they would never had had children, because they don’t know why, but their children had wrecked their lives. It’s clear that children most certainly do not always bring happiness. Interesting, that by some we are told, “I love my kids, but… you’re wise not to have them).
We just don’t get to hear about it as much as the “kids are wonderful, blah”.
We are not simply talking about expense, about aggravation, about picking up toys, about chaos. The children in the post are obviously still fairly young. But they don’t stay young.
Instead parents will was lyrical about babies – and quote –
“Children are essential to my feeling right. Being a parent, holding your baby in your arms, taking your place in the circle of life…it’s corny but it’s true. Most people just wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t have kids. (Again, I recognize that some people don’t want kids; I’m not tackling the issue of their happiness here.)”
Now, to be fair she isn’t tackling the issue of people who do not want kids – childfree people. So my intention isn’t to slate, because this is her view of how she feels.
And when she says that most people just wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t have kids, I agree with her that many people don’t feel right if they don’t have children. So they feel they must have one. To feel right. This isn’t really a good reason to have them – and it is also a selfish one, if you are not thinking about the child. But we know women buy it because they then tell us that we can’t feel right if we don’t have kids.
One commentator even said that children are a sign to show “look how well they have done..!” I feel that this is part of what fuels the continued stigma (and bingoes) against childfree people. Having children is “right.” By default, not having children is “not right.” As a childfree person who is happy just as she is, is thankful for every childfree day and enjoys life – and knows many childfree people who are equally happy as they are, and do not have the essential need to have children to feel “right” or “happy” I have to shake my head.
And as for taking your place in the circle of life…. by this are we to believe that if you haven’t produced said children you don’t have a place in the “circle of life” or you’ve deserted? For the record I believe it may be true for some, but by no means for all… even some who have had children. But women buy this stuff. It’s pretty powerful.
And then, whether the reality matches the baby dream or not., they lose no time in trying to convince anyone who hasn’t produced progeny to do so – quickly, or they will be left out of it.
Personally I believe that happiness is a state of mind and a by-product of being content with who you are and your being. A state of being. Chasing happiness through having children, thinking that children are going to give you happiness (how fair is that?) is something that thankfully I never needed to do.
And, once again, selfishness implies hurting another person. It’s another myth that having children is unselfish, quite the reverse. And I am still waiting for someone to enlighten me as to just who is hurt if a couple decide to be childfree and enjoy they life they were given to live.
Read the article (if you feel able to) and comments and let me know what you think.