My oldest recently celebrated his tenth birthday (Happy Birthday, Bubba), which means that I’ve been in this parenting business for an even decade now. So perhaps it’s time to reflect on that experience for a moment. Because, after all, it’s all about me.
So, as a result of being a parent for the last ten years, am I happier? The question, raised most recently in an editorial in the Charlotte Observer, is one that pops up from time to time in the media, and also in the minds of veteran parents. A number of studies, including those cited in the article, have answered the question “Are parents happier than their childless peers?” with a resounding “no.”
My wife and I spent many years together reading newspapers on Sundays, going to movies without animated characters, and generally trying to figure out what to do with all the disposable income, so I get it. Since then, I’ve had my share of kids power vomiting on airline flights, producing blowout diapers in carseats, injuring themselves, and generally worrying the hell out of me, but would I really be happier if I were childless?
No, but I’m not sure that’s inconsistent with the studies.
The problem with these studies is that they depend on self-reporting, and it’s tough for any one person to both be a parent and childless in a given moment to decide which makes them happier. And how can we be sure that the impulse to remain childless is not linked with the tendency to self-report happiness?
Are there any twin studies out there comparing the childless twin to a parent twin?
And, as an imagination exercise, what would your childless twin look like? Maybe a little skinnier and better rested, but happier?
For me, I don’t think that there is an alternative. I am who I am. Not being a parent means not being me. Happier or not happier seems irrelevant. If I were not a parent, I would be less myself.
Besides that, I’m happy (bonus), thanks in large part to my kids. Starting with my oldest. Almost exactly a decade ago.
What do you think of these studies?