Friday, July 9, 2010

Is This the Happiest That I Will Be All Day?

Recently, there was a discussion on a blog forum that I belong to about why, if mothers love their kids so much, do they spend so much time blogging and on that very same discussion forum.  As you can imagine this generated some interesting debate. 

Along those same lines, a recent New York magazine had this tantalizing headline, "I Love My Children.  I Hate My Life."  Inside, the title of the article is "All Joy and No Fun:  Why Parents Hate Parenting".  It is a fascinating article, although kind of long, so I'll summarize here:
  • Study after study has shown that parents are not happy.  In one study, women ranked child care 16th in pleasurability out of 19 activities, with housework among the activities that ranked higher.  I don't think that blogging was amongst the 19 activities, but one would suppose that it would rank even higher. 
  • Parents get progressively unhappier with each additional child.  I was the 3rd child out of 4, so this explains a lot.
  • This phenomenon is a relatively recent one.  Parents were a lot happier when their children pulled in a paycheck.  Having your kids work a 14-hour shift down at the smelter was a two-fer:  it contributed to the household income and solved your daycare problems.
The article ends on a more uplifting note, so if you don't have time to read the whole thing and, even if you did, don't care to read about how horrible your life is (if you are single and/or childless, you will definitely want to read it in its entirety), just cut to the last page.  Here we learn that the word "happy" is the problem.  While our moment-to-moment happiness is in the crapper, we are rewarded with longer-term satisfaction and a lack of regret over not having children.  Moral:  if you can gut it out, it's going to look a whole lot better in your rear view mirror.

19 comments:

  1. Saying hi from SITS! I'm so glad you came up above me on the comment list. There aren't too many other bloggers I've found who are about my age. And I also have a child with Asperger's. He's 15 now but from 5th through 8th grade (and still now in high school), it has been a fight and my full time job. And I will admit that as a former full-time high wage-earning professional, I have been unhappy often as a SAHM. But I believe what you allude to in this post is true - I am so very proud of how far my son has come and how much my daughter (usually) appreciates my accessibility as a parent. In the big picture, I am happy that I am doing what's best for my family. Look forward to spending more time reading your blog.

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  2. I hope you don't mind if I say this here but parents of typical kids should just shut the f up about how unhappy they are, you know? Or at least come over here and babysit for me on a Saturday night so I can go to the movies with my husband for the first time in three years.

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  3. That's interesting. I can't say I agree with it in our household, but I can see the argument from here. Interesting.

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  4. @omgyummy: Thanks for stopping by! Small world huh? I once randomly commented after someone with an autistic child on SITS too (hi Dani)

    @j*: I guess it's all relative. If you have no idea what it's like to parent a special needs child, then you probably think parenting typical kids is stressful enough. As I discussed in this post...
    http://www.autismarmymom.com/2010/04/i-take-my-judgment-straight-up-with.html
    ...I think it's human nature to not necessarily be cheered by the fact that someone has it worse than you.

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  5. Extremely astute observations overall
    This made me LOL
    "Moral: if you can gut it out, it's going to look a whole lot better in your rear view mirror."

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  6. This is a VERY interesting thought and really has my brain working! Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks also for stopping by my SITS Friday Potluck Post!
    My maiden name is polish, too, and I love it!

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  7. This is an interesting idea. It doesn't really fit with my life, but I definitely can see it as a cultural trend in our society. Stopping by from Mom Loop and I'm your newest follower! Come check out my blog if you get a chance :)
    http://gruneisenfamily.blogspot.com

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  8. Great post! I wouldn't trade being a SAHM for anything! But am I happy? Not really. This gig isn't fulfilling to me. I miss having a career and some independence. I guess I felt like I sacrificed everything and little appreciation in return. However, I feel very lucky to live in a city like LA and be able to get by on my husband's income. This isn't easy to do anymore! So, I also feel like I have no right to complain about this luxury! LOL!

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  9. Hmmm...at first glance I didn't agree. But then I thought about it. I'm a SAHM to a 10 yo boy with PDD NOS. To date it's been the most rewarding job. But, it is hard (much easier now)and it does consume you. No time for me. I HATE housework and I love blogging, facebook etc. I think over the last few years I found a way to also fulfil my needs without impacting (too much!) on my family. I got more involved with the local school you see, choreographing their panto every year. That was hard on the family at first but now WiiBoy takes part too!! So between that, blogging and facebook I'm too busy for housework ;-) Sorted!! x Jazzy

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  10. Stopping by from mom loop. I think this is interesting it doesn't fit in with my life but I can see their point I guess. I think society puts so much pressure on parents to do everything and be everything not only for our children but somehow we are supposed to do it all, have it all, everything the best and we just stop enjoying life because we are never satisfied! I am a new follower!

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  11. I don't think I'm "unhappy" but the not feeling appreciated bit can get old and definitely lead me to that unhappy feeling. Blogging and social network sites- in my opinion, it's to fill that void of social networking that I had before I was a single mom to two boys, one of which has special needs- because honestly, when I had another adult to count on and my son didn't have all these obstacles he has now, I did still socialize- that has slowly gone downhill.

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  12. Wow, what a sad commentary. I wonder if the constant pressures of the "work" piece were more balanced then perhaps parents would have time to actually enjoy their moments with their children. I've caught myself getting impatient when I'm juggling 100 "necessary" things & my daughter wants my attention. Then I catch myself, drop what I'm doing and meet her where I'm needed. Our babies are only young once but our society is not structured in a way that we can totally take advantage of that time. Sorry, that was lengthy & this is one subject I can go on forever about. Bottom line, I don't believe it's about parenting but more about how much we are expected to do - balance is so key to everything.

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  13. @Hannah: That was another point that the article made...that modern parenting is much more pressurized. They said something like working parents approach their child like a project that will be judged as a success or failure especially re: schooling.
    @jazzygal: you've got it figured out...just find 18 other activities and housework falls to the bottom!
    @Heather: I think that was a major conclusion of the blog forum discussion...social networking is a great antidote to the sometimes isolating job of motherhood.
    I think the whole "more rewarding in retrospect" is even truer for special needs parents for whom the jury may be out as far as what their children's future will look like. Hopefully all of our efforts will be richly rewarded!

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  14. I guess it is all about perspective.

    I have a 4 year old on the autism spectrum, plus two younger boys. I am a SAHM and my husband is a law student. You would think our life is as "unhappy" as it could be, but it really isn't. How could I be unhappy? I love my kids, they love us, I love my husband, he loves me and we are pursuing our dreams.

    It's hard and it's monotonous, but it is fulfilling and heartwarming and wonderful.

    Stopping by from blog frog...

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  15. Hi Lynn (yes, I saw my shout out in the comment up there (^)!!) Just have to say holy fuck (can you say 'holy' here?) we are in trouble if we have to endure all this just to look back in the rear view mirror someday with a little satisfaction.
    Clearly this commentary is quite different for those of us who are raising kids with "issues". It's my instinct to agree with J*'s comment that parents of typical kids should shut the F up about how unhappy they are, but I could so totally have been one of them if I didn't live this difficult life as the mom of a kiddo with special needs. Who knows?

    Truthfully, I think I might be more unhappy than moms of typical kids, but that's because my life is so much harder. However, this struggle has certainly given me the chance to see the bigger picture and gain perspective. You know- not sweating the small stuff and all that. You might be inspiring a new blog post....

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  16. Interesting post, and I need to read the article in full at a later time. My first thought though, parenting is tough, and yes...your last paragraph that speaks to the word happy...how we as individuals define that word probably does have a lot do with how we sense dissatisfaction or not.

    Personally, I have not thought of myself as happy or otherwise in regards to parenting. Mostly, I look at parenting as one of the best rewarding jobs that requires a whole heck of lot out of you...so being tired also comes into play. Still, unhappy...not... happy...sure..at times.

    I really like this... "Moral: if you can gut it out, it's going to look a whole lot better in your rear view mirror". So true, so true! I have a 20 year old son, and let me tell you...it is an amazing and wonderful thing to be a parent of a 20 year old...starting to reap some of the fruit of labor.

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  17. I've heard that parents whose kids are in elementary school are among the happiest. I'm waiting for that to kick in this fall.

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  18. I have caught myself many times asking "is this as good as it gets?" I do love my girls. I just don't like being mom lol. (well most of the time) I do work full time outside of the home as a high school special ed. teacher and am in graduate school (again). I also have a special needs child who requires lots and lots of time and attention, but noone can quite pinpoint what exactly is going on with the exception of LD and SPD. Glad I came over from the mom loop, you definately have a new follower!

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  19. Reading the comments above make me think I am not the norm. I absolutely LOVE being a SAHM. Love it! Do I get angry and frustrated from time to time yes. But when I do my daily affirmations at night and have to pick the best moment of my day it always involves something I did with the kids. Today will be spending an hour at the park and having a lunch picnic. When I am out of the house, not doing work, or house stuff and can just enjoy my boys I am totally fulfilled and happy!

    That being said, I do work from home. So I still have a career, independence, and something for "me."

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