Parenting and happiness

5 11 2014

Does parenting lead to happiness? Can’t give a simple straight answer to this. The relationship between parenting and happiness seems nuanced. Research suggests the following:

  • If purposeful, then parents are happy
  • If parents share the responsibility, both are happier. But if only one takes care of the child, he/she feels stressful and unhappy
  •  Happiness of parents also depends on the temperament of the child
  • When the children are young, parents undergo lot of stress and put in lot of effort leading to being unhappy – less happy than their original set point. But when the children are older, parents report more happiness than non-parents.
  • Older parents are generally happier than young parents (may be having better financial status and maturity enable them to handle and enjoy parenting better)

Different people have different perspectives about “parenting”. Some even think that it is overrated.  In my opinion, getting married and having children are natural courses of life – both evolutionarily and socially. I find it very hard to understand how and when they have become debatable. People are commitment phobic and don’t want to get married. They want to try out all other possible arrangements instead. But I believe nothing proves to be as sustainable as marriage. It is an institution that survived so long. There must be something right about it. Likewise, some people are apprehensive about being parents. Parenting is a huge responsibility. It involves lot of effort, resources, and energy.  But whatever the costs of being in a marriage or  being parents, the benefits far outweigh them. No pain, no gain.

One of the popular tendencies I have noticed lately is that often people want the benefits, without paying the cost. Because the highly individualistic and materialistic western culture, which seems to be gaining popularity all over the world, professes that it’s one’s right to get what one wants and one is entitled to happiness. It defines happiness as pleasure. That’s the reason people want companionship and other benefits of marriage but do not want to deal with the duties and responsibilities it demands of the couple – both towards each other and to the others (family and society in general). People like the laughter of kids but are wary of the difficult process of raising them. Focusing on immediate comfort and short-term goals, people fail to perceive the big picture and envision the long-term gains. The need to understand that happiness is “having a meaningful and purposeful life, rather than just pleasure-seeking” is paramount.

I don’t deny that getting married and/or becoming a parent ultimately comes down to one’s personal choice. There is nothing wrong in choosing not to. But, if you want to be happy in your life, give “marriage” and “parenting” a chance. The results of many scientific studies make a strong case for them.

Please note that I don’t mean to generalize the notions I put forth here. Nevertheless, my opinions are based on some of my observations.

Part 6 of Science of Happiness series.

Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4     Part 5

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6 responses

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