Happiness as parents
When I first became a mother 22 years ago I was filled with much joy and increased happiness, not for a few days but from the first day onwards. It didn’t mean that there haven’t been days of sadness, anxiety, heartbreak and stress, fatigue from sleepless nights, anger at my child’s stupidity and disappointments when things didn’t go as planned. When I became a mother, I also understood that I would have to focus my time on another human being and therefore had to become less selfish "it wasn't all about me". But it hasn’t reduced my overall level of happiness, my children are precious gifts from God.
The other day I was reading an article “All joy and no fun” by Jennifer Senior and I found some it quite worrying but perhaps it sums up our modern day society:
“most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research show that parents are not happier that their childless peers, and in many cases are less so . . . As a rule, most studies show that mothers are less happy than fathers, that single parents are less happy sill, that babies and toddlers are the hardest and that each successive child produces diminishing returns”.
It appears from a range of studies that children do not make parents less happy - but their happiness does not increase with having children. Through various studies, researchers have found that parents are not happy with:
- loosing their perceived freedom, giving up activities that they did prior to having children
- increased stresses and anxiety that are inevitable when having children
- the cost of parenting (often parents will “over-pamper” their children as a way of buying “love” when they can’t spend as much time with them as they would like)
- the invariably reduction in marital satisfaction (not willing to make compromises now that there are children in the family)
Interestedly, the more money a couple have the greater their dissatisfaction even though they have a greater purchasing power to buy childcare. In countries with a strong welfare system (as in Scandinavia), parents are happier than in those countries with poor access to welfare - Sweden, for example, has very affordable childcare - so are parents happier because they can access cheaper childcare? Yes, it would appear so. Happier when they can have someone else look after their child?
Perhaps the drive to “keep up with the Jones”, the need to have the larger TV, to buy a flashier car, the desire for a bigger house (all those things that are now considered the "must haves") has led society to need the double income family and as a result parents are now working longer hours, come home exhausted and have to face children who are becoming increasingly demanding. Just getting through the day is as much as they can manage and happiness is something that is now just a dream (or an illusion). To make matters worse, the extended family (i.e. grandparents) are now also too busy to lend a hand in many families so they struggle in isolation. All very tragic really.
For Christian mothers, motherhood is a gift and miracle from God and should not been seen as drudgery, mothers (and fathers) should delight in their children and be thankful for them, even on the hardest of days. Mothers should pray without ceasing for guidance and strength, her happiness should be for the Lord, He did not give her children to be burdens but as precious gifts to nurture and love.
I will leave you with this quote from the article — what is society creating?
"Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you . . . but all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time . . children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed. . . economically worthless but emotionally priceless"
Society and its desire to have more is leading us down a very unhappy path — what will these children be like when they have children of they own — who have been their role models?