Last year I wrote a post sharing my thoughts on an internal debate I was having; should I have children, or not? In the back of my mind I've always wanted to have kids, but I hadn't found anyone who instilled in me a burning desire to become a mother. I know so many older females who are childless by choice that I'm confident I will die happy should my life take a similar path. Now, I'm definitely in favor of birthing some babies, but I'm scared shitless.
I've lectured on child development for years, I've read more parenting books then most parents have, and I've been around kids as a nanny and volunteer since my first job at a childcare agency when I was 16. I know having kids is rough, but lately I feel like every time I get on facebook or check twitter someone is sharing an article on how horrific it really is to be a mother.
Here's the cliche; a new mom is at her wits end after going on 2 hours of sleep. She's covered in baby piss, too tired to shower, surrounded by a dirty house, can't remember the last adult conversation she had, and alternates between moments of depression and extreme baby-heaven bliss.
I'm sure having a kid is hard. Really, really, hard. But, is it actually that bad? I mean, if I start breeding sometime soon and I'm working from home on the blog/freelance writing, will I be so overwhelmed with a new baby that I can't even shower regularly or fold laundry? Forgive my ignorance but I just don't get it. I really don't. Is it the lack of sleep that makes things difficult? The sudden change of lifestyle? Or is it the new sleep & sex deprived marital stress that makes surviving day-to-day life so difficult? Articles like these, which I assumed are intending to be comical, make me angry at how they perpetuate the 'parenting sucks' mentality:
10 Ways We are Tortured By Our Babies (including genital mutilation, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement.)
In graduate school I remember taking a Social Psych class where we got into a huge debate on the topic of having children. One of the articles we read basically stated that the idea that kids will bring you happiness is a myth perpetuated by our culture to ensure the survival of our species. That parents try to convince non-parents to have kids because they are secretly (or maybe outspokenly) miserable, and want others to suffer as they have.
One of the best articles I read on this topic came from Time magazine. Results of their meta-analysis (analyzing the data from lots of studies) showed:
Certain types of parents (e.g., young parents and parents with small children) are particularly unhappy, while other types (e.g., fathers, married parents, and empty nesters) report especially high life satisfaction, happiness, or meaning. In other words, whether or not children go hand in hand with happiness depends on many factors, including our age, marital status, income and social support, as well as whether our children live with us and have difficult temperaments. Children give our lives purpose, infuse fun and pride into our lives, and enrich our identities. At the same time, they are also vectors for worry, anger, and disappointment; they deprive us of energy and sleep; and they strain our finances and our marriages. Not surprisingly, research suggests that the downsides of parenting are more evident when kids are very young or teenagers, and when we lack the resources (monetary, social, developmental) to manage them.
It sounds like if children are in the future for me I've waited until a perfect time to have them. I'm mature (at least more mature than I was in my early-mid 20's!) I've reached my educational goals, I'm somewhat financially stable (would be more so if I was married, which I'd like to be before having children), I've traveled and I feel like I'm ready for my next phase in life.
Most research I've read on parenting and happiness boils down to this; adults without kids are happier, but adults with kids experience more satisfaction with life.
I think I'm ready to be satisfied.
[Tweet "Does having kids suck? Musings from a non-parent."]
If you have kids what's the worst thing about parenting? The best? If you don't have kids what are your biggest fears about parenting?