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The Secret To Happy Relationships: Don’t Have Kids?

cake!A brand new study involving interviews and surveys with more than 5,000 people of all ages, statuses and sexual orientations over a two-year period, discovered that couples who reported being happiest of all are… those without kids. This finding doesn’t surprise me too much. I would say I was probably happier in my marriage before having a kid. That is NOT to say that I am unhappy by any means. And I am certainly more fulfilled and feel connected to Drew in a different way now that we have a child together. In many ways, our relationship is stronger and better and more satisfying and fulfilling. But happier? Eh, I wouldn’t say that. Drew might. He probably would, actually. But for me personally, I equate “happiness” partly with feeling carefree — like, how you feel when you’re on vacation or when you sleep in until 10:30 on a Saturday morning and don’t have anything you HAVE to do that day — and that is something I definitely DON’T feel as the mother of a young child who has to plan — sometimes weeks in advance — just to go out to dinner with my husband.

Actually, it’s a bit of a relief to hear that the way I feel is the norm. This is something you don’t hear couples talk about very often, if at all. Who wants to admit feeling less happy in a relationship after having kids? Women, especially, rarely talk about this. Occasionally, you’ll hear men quip about how they never have sex anymore or their wives never pay attention to them now that they have kids. And mostly, that’s a meme that pops up on tired network sitcoms, not real life.

In my real life, and in my relationship in particular, there is true, genuine happiness. But there’s also a sense of loss I’m still not fully adjusted to. Or, maybe I AM adjusted to it, but I’m still not HAPPY with it all the time. I love who Drew and I are as parents and I love who we are together, but I also miss the couple we were before parenthood, when most of our time and focus could be devoted to each other. But I also know in the great scheme of things, that if we are lucky enough to have a 50- or 60-year marriage, then ten or fifteen years of parenting a young child/children is just a fraction. And, hell, it gives you something to DO for a while. Fifty or sixty years is a LONG time. As Drew says, there are only so many vacations you can take and movies you can go see and bars you can sit and drink in before it all gets a little boring. Having kids breaks it up a little — gives you a different kind of adventure for a while. But it doesn’t mean that, while you’re in the throes of it, you don’t long for a break from the break.

Anyway, my point is, I’m not surprised by the study findings. Being a parent is really hard work. It’s rewarding work, but that doesn’t take away from the enormous amount of effort that goes into it (especially if it’s done well and thoughtfully and lovingly) and mathematically, you can’t put a huge percentage of your energy into something without sacrificing it from somewhere else. It’s just mathematics that a lot of effort and energy couples put into their relationships gets re-funneled into parenthood once kids come. And if it doesn’t, then you’re probably a shitty parent.

There’s more to the picture, though. In addition to finding that couples are generally less happy together after having kids, the study also discovered that women are actually happier as individuals once they have children. Their relationships may not be as happy, but they, as women, are. Not surprisingly, when asked if they are happier as individuals, men said they wish they were still having as much sex as they used to. Maybe those tired network sitcoms are right after all…

[via The Guardian]

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{ 63 comments… add one }

katie katie January 14, 2014, 2:48 pm

wow. actually this kind of terrifies me…? haha, i feel like wendy is the epitome of a “balanced mother” – she talks all the time about taking trips, with and without jackson, with and without drew, still has date nights, still goes to parties, ect- and so if she isnt happy… well i feel fucked from the get go! haha

avatar bethany January 14, 2014, 3:03 pm

I don’t think it’s fair to measure anyone’s happiness when a 2 year old lives in your house! That said, the article also said this “But researchers also discovered that women without children were the least happy with life overall, whereas mothers were happier than any other group, even if their relationships faltered.”

Dear Wendy Wendy January 14, 2014, 3:06 pm

I didn’t say I wasn’t happy! I actually said that I AM happy. The study and my post arespecifically talking about happiness in a relationship, not overall happiness. I DO have good balance in my life, especially considering I am part-time SAHM to a 2-year-old. But early parenthood is very hard on a relationship and I’m just being honest about the effect it has had on my own. I am certainly not UNhappy by any means. But my marriage was much more spontaneous and the happiness felt more… I don’t know, immediate and right on the surface.

katie katie January 14, 2014, 5:24 pm

oh yea, i was talking about the happiness in a relationship part

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 2:49 pm

This is pretty interesting to me since I didn’t have a relationship before kids. I sat and thought for a minute about whether I was happier before kids to be sure of my answer, and it hasn’t changed – I am happier with my kid. But I also was not happy before her, nor was I happy in a relationship. And since I can’t imagine my relationship now without my kid, I guess I can’t answer that entirely. But I (and my boyfriend) have admitted we don’t think we’d be together still if it wasn’t for her, for many reasons. I’m curious to see how we end up after she grows up and is out of the house.

katie katie January 14, 2014, 3:03 pm

i want to know more about you almost breaking up but staying because of lil.

iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson January 14, 2014, 3:04 pm

Ditto.

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 3:10 pm

haha. We didn’t almost break up but stay together because of her. I guess I worded that funny. We just said we aren’t exactly sure (ok fine, we both don’t think) we’d be together if it wasn’t for her. The reasons? Mostly dumb ones like I probably would’ve taken a different path. For example, we got closer because I was stuck at home alone all the time and he’d come keep me company. That never would’ve happened if I wasn’t stuck home with Lil. I think I’d be a very different person if not for her and I know one of the reasons Peter like-liked me (haha) was because of how I was with her and how he admired my independence relating to her (doing it alone I guess?). So none of those things would exist without her. And frankly, I’d probably be a total loser if she didn’t force me to get my shit together.

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 3:12 pm

Just to add – I do worry if we’ll last after her. We’ve never NOT had her around to know how we are without her. Maybe that’s not super healthy?

GatorGirl GatorGirl January 14, 2014, 3:17 pm

IDK if it’s a healthy worry or not, but I know my mom feels the same way. When she married my stepdad I was 8 so they’ve always had a kid in the house. My brother is graduating high school this year, and she said they have to figure out how to just be the two of them next year when he goes off to college. It’s a pretty big change for a relationship (kids leaving home), and I imagine it’s akin to the growing pains that happen when there is a long period of time with no kids and then one comes into the picture.

ApresMoi ApresMoi January 14, 2014, 3:29 pm

My parents got married very young, right after they found out they were pregnant with me. 3 more kids, and 27 years later they still have a few more years before the youngest leaves home. My mom is starting to worry what she’ll do with herself when there are no more kids around. I hope that they will be able to find a way to enjoy each other’s company like they’ve never been able to do in their marriage.

GatorGirl GatorGirl January 14, 2014, 3:37 pm

It’s such an interesting challenge to think about, you know? Like GGuy and I have already had 6 years of dating and closing in on a year of marriage to “figure us out”. I’m sure after kids are gone, there will be another figuring out period, but parents like ours didn’t have that time to be married and childless. My parents have started doing things that they have never done (simple things like going out to dinner every Sunday, and little projects around the home). It’s cool to watch their relationship change.

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 3:40 pm

Oof, I can’t even imagine what my mom will do with no kids. She’s had young children at home for like 35 years now. Crazy!

avatar RangerChic January 14, 2014, 4:04 pm

I’m in the same boat. I had my oldest at 19 and so my husband and I have never been a couple without children (he came into my life when my daughter was almost 2). We have another daughter as well who will be 14 this month. Mostly, we look forward to having no kids in the house and I haven’t really worried about us “growing apart” or anything because I feel we’ve grown so much together in the last few years. But it will still be strange to not have kids living in the house!

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 4:12 pm

Oh, I’d love to pick your brain some time! Do you guys spend a lot of time without the kids around? I haven’t even gone on vacation with just my boyfriend! We have a good time during dinners out alone and whatever, but still. Do you guys have a list of things you’ll do once they are all out? I feel like that’d be a cool idea.

avatar Christy January 14, 2014, 2:51 pm

Wendy, I love this:

“But I also know in the great scheme of things, that if we are lucky enough to have a 50 or 60-year marriage, then ten or fifteen years of parenting a young child/children is just a fraction. And, hell, it gives you something to DO for a while. Fifty or sixty years is a LONG time. As Drew says, there are only so many vacations you can take and movies you can go see and bars you can sit and drink in before it all gets a little boring. Having kids breaks it up a little — gives you a different kind of adventure for a while. But it doesn’t mean that while you’re in the throes of it, you don’t long for a break from the break.”

Because sometimes I think about the idea of kids being this huge, huge sacrifice that I’m not willing to make in my relationship. But it’s just (well, not *just*) something to break up the monotony of “the rest of our lives.” Definitely something to think about – I sent this article to gf to see what she thinks as well.

avatar csp January 14, 2014, 4:08 pm

So I have seen all my friends have kids. So they have the newborn and they are tired but I see them. Then I lose them to this black hole of motherhood for about a year. In that year they see other mothers but are stuck in this vortex. Finally, they emerge and have more freedom when the child can express themselves. So really, it isn’t forever. You hear these people say, “you never sleep again.” But in truth, your kids grow and then you go back to normal.

bittergaymark Bittergaymark January 14, 2014, 3:04 pm

Everybody ALWAYS discounts my anecdotal evidence — but I must say… that I, too, am so NOT surprised. ;)

That said it seems there is a study like this every week. I suppose next we’ll hear all about how aging, childless, gay men who have hopelessly failed at ALL of their careers are truly the most happy. Um, sure. Whatever.

Yeah. I don’t exactly have much faith in studies such as these.

avatar TECH January 14, 2014, 3:12 pm

Ok, so if you’re a parent to a young child, you will at times be understandably stressed, your marriage will change, and your life will become less spontaneous and carefree. All of that makes sense. So I guess in a sense you could say you’re less “happy” because you do less pleasurable things sometimes.
But on the other hand, if you’re married and childless, who is to say that over time, your marriage becomes less happy? In other words, infertility struggles (ie. not having kids) place a strain on a marriage. Or maybe you don’t have kids by choice, but something unpredictable happens and your marriage goes to shit.
I just think there are so many different variables when it comes to happiness. It’s a fluid thing that changes over time. So one could say they’re “happy” they had kids while another could say they’re “happy” they didn’t have kids, but you’ll never really know because you only get one life, and there’s so many things that can happen along the way that affect the outcome.
Was that too confusing? I feel like I didn’t express myself very well there.

Dear Wendy Wendy January 14, 2014, 3:16 pm

True that!

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 3:17 pm

Yea I wonder how much this study changes as the age of the child changes. I feel like parenting gets easier every day (obviously that was different when she was 2 every day, haha).

avatar TECH January 14, 2014, 3:24 pm

Right. It’s also so unique for each kid. For instance, even though parents with special needs children love their kids, their lives are a lot tougher. Maybe even less “happy”. There’s a lot of variables with the individual children and their temperments as well.

avatar kerrycontrary January 14, 2014, 3:29 pm

Depends on the kid and the family. I see a lot of parents of 18-22 yr olds who are having a tougher time parenting now than they did when the child was 3 or 4. It causes a lot more emotional strain on them if their child is having trouble becoming an adult, choosing a path, getting into drugs, being reckless, etc….So I think the challenges are different at different points. Perhaps it takes a physical and emotional toll when they’re younger, but it’s takes a big emotional toll to raise teenagers.

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 3:30 pm

Great point. Let’s hope it stays “easy” for me. haha. Right now I like being ignorant enough to think it will :)

avatar kerrycontrary January 14, 2014, 3:37 pm

yeh I just talked to this lady whose kids are 26 and 29 and she said she just hit the sweet spot of parenting/life. I guess you’re always a parent.

avatar TechieRed January 14, 2014, 3:34 pm

You mean, you can’t compare your happiness between having and not having kids, because you don’t know what the road not travelled held, right? Like, the study measures it in general, but for each individual person, there’s no way to tell. Because if you hadn’t had kids, maybe you and your husband would have grown apart for some reason and divorced and you’d be sad, but that didn’t happen because you had kids. Or maybe if you’d had them, they would have driven you apart and you divorced, but that didn’t happen because you didn’t have them.

Alright, maybe I didn’t express myself well either. But I think I get what you’re saying, it’s interesting to think about.

avatar bethany January 14, 2014, 3:19 pm

I think something like happiness in a relationship changes so often and so quickly, that it’s really hard to compare it. For example, I’m way happier in my relationship over the spring and summer when both of us can be outside, doing our own thing after work and on the weekends. I’m sure that when we have a baby and I’m exhausted and the laundry is piling up and he’s made mac and cheese for dinner 3 nights in a row it’s going to be a lot harder to feel “Happy” in that moment.

avatar Christy January 14, 2014, 3:28 pm

Yeah, gf and I are generally least happy during the December to March range, and even into May. I get SAD, which doesn’t help things, and gf has her own reasons (shockingly, I actually respect her privacy pretty well on some things). But, yeah, we’re much happier, overall, in summer and into early fall.

This year, I’m busy doing theatre through all of February, and I’m hoping it helps us both deal with winter. I’m also going to Florida in late January, which will break it up too. I’m hoping that the alone time will help her, but I guess we’ll find out in March, huh.

avatar kerrycontrary January 14, 2014, 3:36 pm

Have you tried vitamin D supplements? I was all pissy last winter and my fiance finally said something, and the vitamin D helped a lot. We’re struggling with cabin fever right now since it’s been raining/ice/snow more often than normal this winter. I think we’re happier when we can be outside a lot.

avatar Christy January 14, 2014, 5:18 pm

Oh, I haven’t! I’m actually being good about taking my medicine (not for SAD or anything, but hormone-related) and so far I’ve been good. So I’ll add that to my medicine routine!

(Also, therapy has helped, just in general, with everything.)

avatar kerrycontrary January 14, 2014, 5:53 pm

Yeh I’m not religious about it, but I keep it at my desk at work and take it when I remember.

avatar TechieRed January 14, 2014, 3:29 pm

I love how Wendy brought up the fact that having kids “breaks it up” a bit. That’s actually the main thing that pushed my husband and I into finally having one. Maybe it sounds bad, but we were both at a point in our lives where it was like, what’s next? Our careers were both great, we didn’t lack for material possessions or money to do fun things like restaurants and travel. But we got to the point where playing the next new video game, or seeing the next new movie, or going on a trip, or whatever, just seemed kind of empty. That’s when we decided to try and see what happened, and what happened was our son.

It’s really hard, I agree. The freedom’s gone, but I look forward to the years to come, and seeing him grow and learn and become a person. A few months ago a local “brainy” toystore left a flyer in our mailbox, and I got super excited about the science labs and microscopes and programmable toys that they have. Can’t wait to have a weekly science night with him! Or play with Lego and Meccano again! Also, we went to see Les Mis and in front of us was a couple with an 8 or 9 year old boy. Just watching him take it all in was great, and I can’t wait to have that kind of experience with my own son. :)

Dear Wendy Wendy January 14, 2014, 3:38 pm

I agree — that stuff is really fun. I’m looking forward to experiencing more of that.

avatar kerrycontrary January 14, 2014, 3:34 pm

Something I read about often is achieving meaningfulness in your life rather than just happiness. People are a little happy-obsessed in recent years (just as a literature/psychological trend) and they haven’t been. But a lot of people who are most satisfied with their lives find meaningfulness through activities like raising children, volunteering as a fireman, service projects with their church, etc….I.E. they make a difference. Meaningfulness is found in self-less activities where happiness is often rooted in selfish activities. Selfish isn’t bad, it just means it’s self serving. So even if you think your relationship is less immediately happy now, you probably have a lot more meaning in your life now.

avatar TechieRed January 14, 2014, 3:37 pm

But doesn’t being selfless make you happy? :) That’s part of why people do it, because it makes them feel good about themselves. “There’s no such thing as a completely selfless act” and all that. So really it’s just deciding how to make yourself happy, and I agree with you, selfless acts probably make you happier in the long run.

avatar Sara January 14, 2014, 3:42 pm

The next paragraph in the short article is really interesting: “But researchers also discovered that women without children were the least happy with life overall, whereas mothers were happier than any other group, even if their relationships faltered.” I guess it’s good to remember that romantic relationships aren’t the be-all, end-all of happiness.

avatar lemongrass January 14, 2014, 3:45 pm

I can get on board with this. Overall I am happier than I was pre-kid, I am happier with him, much happier with myself and less happy with my marriage. That doesn’t mean I am unhappy in my marriage though, Mr. Grass is a great husband and I really love the times we get alone. I just require more alone time than I did before. I used to want to spend all my spare time with him but now I want time to myself, time to exercise or do hobbies or whatever. I don’t think that is bad at all, I like myself better now. Suddenly my marriage isn’t the #1 thing in my life and balancing it all is more important than giving 100% to everything. It’s not that I don’t care about my marriage as much, I’m just not focusing on it as much. But overall I am much happier with my life, along with more fulfilled and secure with myself. Having a kid actually increased my self esteem.

avatar jlyfsh January 14, 2014, 3:52 pm

This is so interesting to me. I think the most interesting thing is that the definition of happiness is so different person to person. Which is why it’s so hard to compare happiness and to say that any one road leads to the most happiness. I also think it’s hard to compare happiness during different life stages. I was extremely happy in college, I loved being in school. But, then when I started my second job and had a roommate I liked and was single and enjoying that part of life I would have said I was the happiest I had ever been. And now in my current place in life I feel like I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. However, if you had asked me say in college what I thought happiness would look like at this point in my life it would definitely not be where I ended up. So kind of like Tech was ruminating on above happiness is so fluid and so dependent on so many factors in our lives.

avatar Banana January 14, 2014, 3:54 pm

There was that article in The Atlantic a while back that explored the idea of a life spent pursuing meaning rather than a life spent pursuing happiness, and how the people who sought the “meaningful life” wound up feeling more satisfaction in the long run. I think parenting firmly fits into the “meaningful but not necessarily happy all the time” path.

What’s neither meaningful nor happy is my job right now, but that’s another story. I just have to survive until yoga tonight…

avatar csp January 14, 2014, 4:21 pm

http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volkman_let_s_talk_parenting_taboos.html

Here is a great Ted Talk about this.

avatar csp January 14, 2014, 5:02 pm

I am late to this party but I had one bone of contention with this piece. So – as stated in other threads, I am dealing with infertility and am sensitive to parent complaints. However, I feel like people talk about just how hard parenthood is all the time. The site STFU Parents, countless blogs, and facebook are nonstop parent comments about crazy times, illness, and poop stories. I think that parents lament so much that it makes many women question parenthood at all. Anyone else see this?

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 5:08 pm

I feel like parents NEVER talk about how hard the realities of parenting can be, which is why I love when Wendy writes about it. I’m surprised you see it that way. Even stfu parents I thought was about parentbragging, not complaining.

I also think its GOOD if women (and men) question parenthood. Really, really good.

Dear Wendy Wendy January 14, 2014, 5:21 pm

I can only assume that this site is included in the “countless blogs” that are “nonstop parent comments about crazy times, illness, and poop stories,” and, I, too am surprised she sees it that way. I don’t think I’ve actually shared many poop stories at all — or stories about illnesses or crazy times, for that matter — but I could be wrong. I do talk about how hard parenting is, but I didn’t realize that “hard” = bad. Lots of wonderful things are hard. Making a lasagna is hard and labor-intensive, but it’s generally worth it. And if you know going into it that it’s going to be a 3-hour cooking affair, you can plan for that and make sure you have the right ingredients and a good recipe, etc. I thought by sharing my perspective I could help prospective parents adjust their expectations and help current parents maybe feel less alone in their daily struggles.

avatar lets_be_honest January 14, 2014, 5:25 pm

Sharing your perspective DOES help. I wish your stories were around when Lil was little! I wouldn’t have felt as alone, or guilty, as I did.

avatar lemongrass January 14, 2014, 6:33 pm

They do help! They do, they do. I don’t feel like I struggle often and like you, I don’t feel that hard equals bad, but when I do struggle this is where I come. And it has helped lift my spirits on those days. Please don’t stop sharing.

avatar Portia January 14, 2014, 11:55 pm

Thanks for saying that it’s good for people to question parenthood, LBH. In my perspective (partnered, no kids, and don’t really want one), it all too often feels like parenthood is a drug being pushed on you by pretty much everyone you know. Even if these blogs are push-back on that overwhelming pressure, it’s still the societal norm to have kids. If I tell people I don’t want to have kids, they try to convince me that I’ll change my mind, that I should have them anyway, that I’m crazy for thinking that. Would anyone respond like that to someone who wanted kids? For each of those sites or whatever that complain about parenthood, there are a ton of others talking about how awesome it is to have kids. And Wendy, I’m so glad you share your experiences because it helps people to see the big picture of parenting, as opposed to all rewarding or all difficult.

ApresMoi ApresMoi January 14, 2014, 5:10 pm

yeah, kinda. Im 27 and some of my friends/family are starting to have and talk babies and all I can think of is NO WAY! I’m not saying never, but at this point in my life I guess I’m not ready to deal with the hassle of taking care of another human. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a few years, but the “horror stories” def give me pause for now.

avatar scattol January 14, 2014, 5:56 pm

Apres-moi le deluge?

First off, the law of averages says that you weren’t a picnic to raise either and your parents got through it. If they could do it, you certainly can. You certainly are more fragile or less capable than your parents aren’t you?

As it’s been pointed out before, the longer you wait, the harder raising kids gets since you are getting older. If you can avoid it, you don’t want to be a 50 year old with the beginning of arthritis trying to play catch with a 10 year old ball of energy. That kind of thing are easier to do if you are 40.

As the study points out, it’s easier to be happy without kids thanks to all the extra freedom and disposable income. But in the long run, that happiness might be a mirage. YMMV

ApresMoi ApresMoi January 14, 2014, 6:09 pm

haha yes you got the origin for my name ;)

Again, I’m not saying never. I don’t have any illusions about the kind of baby I was, nor do I have an all bleak perspective on parenthood. I’m saying at this point I’m just not ready for kids. My comment above was more about how people around me are starting to get the marriage/baby fever, and I just feel like I’m not there yet at all.

avatar scattol January 15, 2014, 12:14 am

As the article points out, the cold analysis should really make everyone question having a family. Afterall that’s not the way to have a happy marriage and we are here for the pursuit of happiness. That would be an evolutionary dead end though.

A family is far more an adventure than it is something to lust over like a car or a house. That’s how it should be looked at because odds are you never really going to feel truly ready to have a family.

avatar Shadowflash January 14, 2014, 5:18 pm

I think there are two types of parents that get a lot of attention:

1. The self-sacrificing martyrs (“I should be bronzed for all the things I do for those ungrateful brats! Why did I ever have kids?”)
2. The sickeningly happy/delusional ones (“Cleaning up vomit is heavenly! Parenthood is nothing but joyous roses!”)

Both are really obnoxious and both types drive me rant-inducingly crazy in their own unique and daunting ways. FWIW, I think that most average parents fall in the middle, Wendy-style: the highs are really high, the lows are really low, but it’s not a math problem you can sum up to an overall positive/negative value.

katie katie January 14, 2014, 5:32 pm

i second LBH that questioning parenthood is a very, very good thing.

and i also agree that it is either/or – either its horrifying terrible stories, or its wonderful butterfly rainbow stories, and nothing in between.

but, overall, parenting consumes our culture. i mean i dont have to tell you that, right? you know. its everywhere. people who dont want kids are still called nasty names. our culture is still at a place where it cant even accept that one wouldnt ever want any. people who dont have kids are even given a say/ are supposed to care about kids- voting on school boards, ect, and then for instance your supposed to curb swearing if your near kids, even if you dont know them. “kids are the future” and all that. so i get it. parenting is an all consuming thing, and i think especially for the US where having the 2.5 kids is part of the american dream.

avatar TechieRed January 14, 2014, 5:45 pm

Is it possible that since you’re so sensitive to it right now, that you’re just noticing it more? Or even that it just happens to be the case for the sites that you like to visit? Like, personally I notice tons of negative comments about women out on the web. So much so that it’s almost depressing. But could it be because I go to sites like Cracked.com where the comments section is mainly filled with immature teen males and MRAs? Probably. I hope so, because otherwise it’s pretty depressing out there for women.

theattack theattack January 14, 2014, 6:18 pm

I do agree that the hardships of parenting are talked about more than the joy of it. I actually asked my coworker/friend recently to describe good stuff about being a mom, because I feel like I rarely hear that stuff. It’s just that either as a culture, or maybe just what I’m around as an individual, there seems to be more warnings against parenthood than there are descriptions of the joys of it. And that’s not a comment on DW either. I think Wendy writes about it in a very balanced way,a nd I appreciate it a lot. That’s just not the norm it seems.

mylaray mylaray January 14, 2014, 6:26 pm

I do feel like it can be unbalanced in what you hear about parenting. I see a lot of overall complaints about parenthood and then an unrealistic and puffy clouds and rainbows attitude about raising kids. There are more balanced viewpoints out there, just not as common as the louder voices like the STFU parents. It’s actually Wendy’s writing about the very honest parts of parenthood (the good and the bad) that I really appreciate. It helped change my outlook on having kids (it went from a hell no to a probably someday).

theattack theattack January 14, 2014, 6:34 pm

Same here on Wendy’s balanced writing. She’s very honest, and she shares the good, the bad, and the neutral. I want more of that from more people so I can make a balanced, real assessment. What I hear a lot of is 1) People talking about how horrible it is to be a parent, and then 2) pressuring everyone else to be one with no supporting reasons. I wish everyone would just be honest, because Wendy seems like a lone voice of reason in an endless crowd of people who are either overly enthusiastic or miserable.

Wendy makes me feel like there is hope for happiness as a mother, and I’m so much more into the idea now. I woke up this morning pining away for a baby actually.

avatar lemongrass January 14, 2014, 7:51 pm

I like to think that I talk about it honestly. I think that the reason people talk about parenting in such extremes is because it often feels that way. When it’s good (for me about 90% of the time) it is unicorn kisses and rainbows. I’ve never felt such joy before and to share that with your partner creates an amazing bond. But when it is hard all you want to do is run away. It’s not the worst feeling ever, it’s more like when you really want to get off the rollercoaster but you have to wait for the ride to end. Except you don’t know when it’s going to end or if you can help it stop faster or if you are doing something wrong that makes the ride go on longer. This analogy sucks. I’m sure you catch my drift.

avatar something random January 14, 2014, 7:06 pm

I think it can seem that way from the outside. When people blog about marriage, friendships, co-workers etc, they tend to be describing the relationships and it usually involves their feelings about the other person and how they relate. I think when parents complain they are usually unloading about aspects of the “job” itself.

Imagine if you had a career you loved passionately. You were willing to work around the clock and limit your time with family and friends; imagine you were willing to give up a significant amount of down time, you were even willing to work weekends and holidays. While the work itself was non-stop it didn’t always feel that way because you loved you field and felt highly motivated and inspired. Now imagine part of your career you had to do jobs that were exhausting, boring, and even sometimes disgusting. You were not passionate about those jobs but they were a requirement to stay in your field. You might complain and share horror stories with co-workers as just a way to decompress and get through the lumps of the job. And you might comiserate about all the free time you had before your career. You might feel burnt out sometime. The lumps don’t speak to the feelings you have for your child and your role as their guardian, nor how meaningful and worthwhile the experience can be. Because really, other people who have a life career as a parent already understand that. And you’re not trying to recruit anybody because nobody should dedicate this much of their lives to something unless it truly is a passion. Okay gotta put kiddo’s to bed now! Husband is giving me a look :)

mylaray mylaray January 14, 2014, 5:38 pm

I remember seeing a study that showed the difference between the happiness levels of new parents of young kids and parents whose children have already left the nest. And the parents whose kids had left the nest were more satisfied, not necessarily happier, but because of the meaning attached with raising children and seeing their individualities develop, compared to the parents who were still in the thick of it. For me, that’s one of the scariest things about having kids…a delayed gratification, in a sense.

I also don’t think I’ll ever be able to decide to really have kids. My husband and I already decided we’re just letting things happen either way. I’m sure we could adapt to whatever changes life throws at us, but it’s a little scary to think about not being as spontaneous or carefree.

Fabelle Fabelle January 14, 2014, 6:42 pm

Wendy, I really liked this piece. I want to offer more, but like, UGH it’s after 6 & my brain power=0. And wine.

Fabelle Fabelle January 14, 2014, 7:38 pm

Okay, I thought of one more thing related to the happiness in a relationship thing— I don’t think that saying kids make a relationship less happy means that parenthood itself isn’t happy? if that makes sense? Parenthood can be rewarding, even if it does drain the “happy” out of your relationship a bit. And it depends on how you define happiness to begin with. I think people tend to have a different definition for “relationship happiness” than for, like, regular happiness?

avatar Julianna January 16, 2014, 8:26 am

Hi! Long-time lurker here. I haven’t read through the comments so I don’t know what others had to say about this, I just wanted to tell you that as the mother of a 2.5 year old i understand 100% what you we’re trying to say. I couldn’t agree more! I LOVE my kid to pieces and I don’t regret having kids at all….but I miss who I was before I was a mom like crazy. I miss who were as a couple, I miss all my “me” time, I miss not having to plan every day down to the last minute (naps, lunch, bath time….and it goes on)….I miss a whole lot of things. I don’t think missing who you were pre-kids means you’re not happy, AT ALL, it just means you’re human. I love my kid, I wouldn’t change being a mom for the world – but I need to stop feeling guilty (OH the GUILT) for missing my pre-kids days. Thanks for posting about this, it helps to know others feel this way too.
PD. The terrible two’s are something, huh? Sending a mommy hug your way. :-)

Dear Wendy Dear Wendy January 16, 2014, 9:08 am

Oh, yes, the terrible two’s are something indeed. Thanks for the empathy!

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