Does having kids actually make people less happy?
November 16, 2006 2:30 PM Subscribe
Happiness and children. In your experience, is it true that children actually decrease their parents' overall happiness?
I've heard this before, and it always stuns me - having children actually marginally decreases parents happiness. The reason it stuns me is that I always hear from parents how being a parent is such a wonderful experience, despite the hassle and hard work. I don't have kids, but definitely want them in the future, although the thought of being a parent does sound exhausting. But I think that life without children would be somewhat hollow (for me), especially as I get older and my friends all have kids, and my interests are still essentially self-focused.
What's prompting this post is an article I just read from CNN - "The Truth About Happiness May Surprise You." http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/conditions/11/10/happiness.overview/index.html.
The quote that got me was:
"Our genes hardwire us to reproduce, but children have a small negative effect on happiness, research shows. If you're a parent reading this, you're most likely shaking your head. But Gilbert said the findings are clear when parents are asked about their level of happiness in the moment."
"When you follow people throughout their days, as they're going about their normal activities, people are about as happy interacting with their children, on average, as when they're doing housework. They're much less happy than when they're exercising, sleeping, grocery shopping, hanging out with friends," Gilbert said. "Now, that doesn't mean they don't occasionally create these transcendent moments of joy that we remember as filling our days with happiness."
Anecdotally, do you think this is true? One reason I ask is that it seems like it's incredibly shameful to admit that you don't take joy in having children, so I wonder if the blase attitude isn't underreported. The other reason I ask is that I find it very hard to believe that having kids isn't an overall net positive in terms of happiness. But I'm willing to listen.