There are fewer windows for getaways or late nights with the girls (or the fellas), and your social life is shrunken “to the size of a teacup.” Here’s something to consider: Raising children takes hard work, leaves you feeling isolated and doesn’t necessarily make you happier, but the rewards are greater. That is the premise of the latest New York Magazine cover story with the headline: “I Love My Children, I Hate My Life.” The author, Jennifer Senior, looks to study after study that show that children rarely provide the happiness parents expected, but the rewards are greater than those experienced by their single counterparts. Asked to rate how they feel about daily activities on several studies, parents often chose parenting as the least enjoyable. For obvious reasons, as noted by Senior and many others, children may also decrease romance between parents. So what are the reasons parents are so unhappy? Senior (and the referenced studies) argue that our generation views parenting differently than our parents. We spend more time with our children, we dote on them and listen to their “feelings” more than our parents ever did. We also don’t have the support systems enjoyed by our parents. Or parents in Denmark for that matter. In that country parents are given up to a year for maternity leave and child care and education are subsidized by the government from birth until college. For working parents in the United States , for example, the strain of shuttling between day cares and babysitters can cause insurmountable amount of stress and anxiety, financially and emotionally which is draining. Senior concludes that even though day-to-day stress doesn’t help make parents happier the long-tern rewards are worth it. “The very things that in the moment dampen our moods can later be sources of intense gratification, nostalgia, delight,” writes Senior. But Globe and Mail columnist Judith Timson isn’t falling for it. She thinks today’s parents are expecting too much. She writes:
“Parents today need to get over expecting to be intrinsically happy or rewarded doing what people have dutifully done for millennia under sometimes astonishingly adverse conditions: create and raise the next generation…Furthermore, if you count on your kids to make you happy, you will muck up not only your own life but theirs, too.”
There is the issue of class. Is the whole act of contemplating (or complaining, as some see it) parenting an exercise for those who are privileged wonders writer Monica Potts. “On the scale of difficult child moments, I can think of many that rank higher, like being unable to get your hungry child food, for example; or watching your child die as the victim of violence,” she writes. Where do you stand? Are parents today expecting too much from parenting or are they justified in feeling unhappy?
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