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Do Children Make Us Happy?

Most parents believe that their "bundle of joy" makes their life happy (I certainly do) but is it true that having kids make you happy?

According to the latest research, those parents may actually be - gasp - wrong:

The most recent comprehensive study on the emotional state of those with kids shows us that the term "bundle of joy" may not be the most accurate way to describe our offspring. "Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers," says Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. "In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It's such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they're not."

Here's an interesting article by Lorraine Ali for NEWSWEEK: Link


Nobody "makes" you happy. People are pretty much going to be as happy as they want to be, whatever their circumstances (with the exception of some extremely sad situations).
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Mr. Evilbeagle and I have chosen not to have children for a whole myriad of reasons. My sister on the other hand, is on her third in three years and forever asking when we'll change our minds. I love my sister and her kids, but when I compare her responsibilities to mine, it just makes me all the more happy to have dogs instead. This article isn't saying anything new, it's just admitting what people have been afraid to say for fear of being deemed horrible parents. I'm sure that there's a lot to be happy about when you have kids, but the trade off was never worth it to me.
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I'm a nanny and I have the best job in the world because I can have fun with the kids and then go home to my quiet house and great dogs. "My" kids make me happy because I'm helping Mom and Dad but ,of course, they are the main caregivers. Tip: Don't have more kids in your house than adults. So...for most people that would probably be 1 or 2. Don't get outnumbered!!
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When my son was born I quickly became depressed. Was it because of the baby? Not in a million years. It was because of my husband, the slacker and womanizer. Luckily, he soon ran off with a 17 year old girl and divorced me. It was the best thing that ever happened for me and my baby. My son grew up to be a sane, caring, and successful member of society.
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Anyone without kids could tell you that. :)

Seriously, though, it's understandable. It probably has less to do with the children themselves and more to do with whether you actually enjoy raising kids. Kids can be cute and cuddly... but if you're someone who's made miserable by the thoughts of diapers, tantrums, and rebellion, you might find that the experience of raising those kids doesn't make you happy at all.
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Parenting is like having a second job, far tougher than your salaried job. The joy and pride that comes with it are much stronger than anything I've felt at any other time in my life.

The issue is how much a parent wanted to have children and what his expectations are once he has them. If it was an auto-pilot decision -- get job, buy house, get married, have kids -- because that's the societal blueprint, then yeah, you're going to be unhappy. The worst situations are when parents try to keep living the lives they had before they became parents -- the kids always lose.

It's an either/or proposition. Either you are excited by parenting and dive in prepared for both emotional extremes (it's a roller coaster), or you're generally going to have a lot of unhappiness in your life.
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I live with my girlfriend and our son and whenever he isn't there i.e. he's at school/visiting friends/grandparents I'm myself: happy, care free driven; as soon as he arrives home my character switches completely and I become impatient, moody lose motivation and become slightly depressed, I dislike being a parent intensely. 5 years in it hasn't got much better.
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Just for context, my husband and I do not have children...but we've only been married 6 months. We're both pretty sure children are in the cards for us, in a few years.

I've heard this stat before, that people with children are overall less happy than people without children. HOWEVER, when people with kids think of their children, their level of happiness goes up. The thing is, you don't spend ALL DAY thinking about your children (or at least I assume you don't).

The stress of a life involving children, I would believe, would make you less happy, but the actual child does not make you less happy.

I would be afraid that I would get to the end of my life and regret not being a parent, especially when I believe that my husband and I would produce a valuable member of society.
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My guess is that this is because having kids is the status quo -- anyone who decides to not have kids is making a very conscious decision to do so, and is more likely to be happy in that decision. Some portion of those that have kids do so because it's just the accepted thing to do, regardless of whether they truly want kids or not.
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When I was a girl I told my parents I didn't like babies and was never going to have kids. My mom told me I'd change my mind. When I started my career in my twenties. associates would ask when I was having kids. They'd boggle when I'd say "I'm not".
I'm 32 now. people insist that my biological clock will start ticking anytime now. My mom still whines for grandkids. They can't make me feel bad or guilty... this is my choice. Its not going to happen.

I am productive and contribute to society. I am not a "wasted" life. I do not feel that i was put on this earth to spurt out offspring and die. hakuna matata. People pity me, say I'm missing the miracles of life or some crap... Lies. I have never been happier. For me, life has been freakin awesome. How many parents can say that with a toddler throwing a tantrum right next to them?

All my money is mine. No little brats to whine for xboxes or trampolines in the back yard. No proms to pay for. No college funds or dental bills. When I want something, I have the money to buy it. The cost of raising a kid is huge. Thats $411,214 (according to babycenter.com's calculator) that goes straight into my pocket and buys me that awesome new house, trips round the world, a luxury sail boat, etc.

Wait... I'm missing what again? oh yeah, the miracle of life. lol You can keep the miracle. I have the money and time to go to Tibet and meditate at the top of Mount Everest if I need to be one with the universe. The worlds my oyster, and you're stuck with the kids. Muahhaha

Just think... I'm doing my part to save the planet. Every time a person goes vegan to stem the tide of deforestation for cattle grazing, or when people try and do their part to recycle and save plastic bottles, they can't compare to what I'm doing . I am doing far far more than they ever would be capable of, by simply NOT having kids.
All the accumulated trash of a life, just doesn't happen. No landfill diapers. No wasted trees. No car pollutants from 1 lifetimes worth of car driving. Less water bottles in landfills. Less soda cans tossed out. a whole lifetime of NO trash. thats 70 years... of nothing. Greenies and recyclers, You're welcome.

Need Someone to take care of you when you're old? What the hell people, thats a selfish reason. Buy a caretaker.

Need to feel complete? Thats a weird reason. I guess you would have to feel incomplete to begin with. Which I don't.

Life is beautiful. You don't need kids to confirm that. This article doesn't say anything I didn't already know. You guys can go forth and multiply, I'll be enjoying the real wonders of the world
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Whether kids make us happier or not is missing the point. I think they're more about making us feel relevant.

I'm single, most of my relationships have been ugly trainwrecks, but I have an excellent job w/ decent pay and I have saved enough money to start thinking about becoming a home owner. Yet it all feels so shallow and depressive when I compare my bachelor lifestyle with the one my sister has, which is a steady family of 2 kids and a long-term boyfriend.

Today I woke up late, had a great breakfest/lunch in a nice restaurant, watch some Office episodes I had not seen and I'm looking forward to playing some videogames for tonight. If I had kids, doing any of that would be way more complicated, if not impossible. So why do I find myself wishing I had some ?
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this message goes to S_Silence...you are a crappy father and you will get what is coming to you. Eventually your son will not love you either. Who knows, maybe he will punch you like my husband did to his father. God knows you have it coming. Well, enjoy that nursing home in your old age.
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I don't know about the study, happiness is what you make out of life no matter your circumstances. Some people are better at it than others.

As for me and my husband, our two children are a constant source of joy in our lives. One heartfelt hug and "I love you!" from your child can really make up for a lot of awful things in your day. Yes, having children can be stressful and sometimes you feel like an inmate at an insane asylum. But let me tell you, those times can be all but forgotten when you get the chance to experience life anew through your children.

That being said, I firmly believe that not everyone needs to go out and have children. Some people are built to be parents and other people are built to do things that parents cannot. You need both types for a good society.
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Second "monogamie"'s opinion. Never wanted a relationship or kids due to esteem issues and fear of intimacy. Now am in my mid-forties with no one to come home to and it's depressing. Never once used to think this way and was fairly happy-go-lucky, but now relationships and people are precious. And kids outlive you so you're not alone unless you're a crappy parent or you raised narcissists for children.
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I could never go through the process of socialising a child into consensus reality, but then the child would never fit in and would be punished by society through its mechanism of power, "governmentality". This would be sad to watch. No kids for me.

Many other species do not breed if the environment is wrong. I'd never bring a kid into this world given it's present state.
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i can't believe it, there are actually people in this world who think the way i do!! i even tried to get my tubes tied once and the doctor refused because i 'might have children' in the future and she didn't want to undo it. i was so mad. then there are people like my neighbor who have kids because they think it will improve their marriage and the marriage just becomes more hateful and the poor kid who didn't ask for any of it is dragged into their misery
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<---Vasectomized and proud of it. I borrow the joy children bring from my babymaking relatives, and have never changed a diaper, had to deal with a supermarket tantrum, or been told by a small human that they hate me. And to think of the energy/money I've saved, I'm proud of my decision. I'd just rather adopt than make a Johnny Cat 2.0
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I am not sure how much I believe that statistic. Perhaps there is some other differences in people that have kid and those who don't.

How could you possibly isolate all the variables in that?

I will say that kids are a huge responsibility. People have the wrong impression on raising children, so perhaps they are disappointed and depressed to see the reality.

I can say that I know many people with children who are extremely happy. The key is to have a bit of a sense of humor about it all.

I can't speak from experience but I'm been told that several times.

Also no matter how many statistics I see like this, it doesn't make me not want kids anymore, it just makes me want to post pone it as long as possible :P
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I agree to what Misscellania said above: NOBODY makes you happy. Not a new boyfriend nor money nor kids. Happiness is in your mind not in the things/people around you.
Happiness and having children are as much linked to one another (conceptually)as, say happiness and marriage or happiness and owning a car.
If you marry or buy a car or have kids because you think they "will make" you happy, you will be divorced, disappointed, unhappy soon.
Now, the one thing that children do to your life (if you want it or not) is, that they provide your existence with meaning.
They give you the feeling, that for ONCE you have done one thing right.
I am totally convinced, that people should be free to decide what to do with their lives and if they should have kids or not.
But if you decide not to have kids you really miss something. The experience of unconditional deep love.
Take it or leave it :-)
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Kids are great! But, I'm with MissC. If yer a grump, having kids won't change you. There are phases, first born and early years rock hard. Then comes the "kid knows it all" phase where you could sell em for food.
Then teen phase, a constant reminder of what a prick you were at that age. And then they move out, if your lucky, and you can spark that old romance up like it was when you got the first kid started. No place in the house is safe from a quicky.
Then the grands come along and you can be the exact opposite you were when you raised yours, drives yours up the wall.
Feed em full of sugar and send em home.

Grand parenting rocks!
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"Fun" is the word to describe parenting. People will tell you it gets harder the older your kids get, but it gets better, more fun, and more enriching as your labor pays off with the formation of a great human being.

There are negative feelings too, but it comes back to what type of personality you have. A parent should be able to look at a child who is screaming over the silliest thing and giggle inside. These "negative" moments are about handling one's responsibility, not getting emotionally caught up in the moment like a child.

Fifty years from now I'll wish I could travel back in time to enjoy something as simple as my kid crying over my cutting his peanut butter and jelly sandwich the wrong way. People who know how to brush off stress should be parents.
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Oh, and I'm with you, Kerozene!..

Some people think me selfish for wanting to spend my time on earth with my friends and lovers, but I say there's more than enough people around allready and they who think they 'need' to have kids to 'be complete' are the selfish ones.
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I think it's also how individuals measure happiness in their own life.
When our son was born - our lives got definitely more stressful, more worries, more arguments, shouting, etc. But I tell you, when I cuddle with my little boy, and he is sitting playing with me - even if it's for just two minutes of quiet and loving time - it's bliss like I never felt before.
Personally, I would keep all the negative sides of being a parent for those fleeting moments of pure joy because nothing else in this life is worth it.
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Having been childless, and now being "childfull", I can honestly say this article is a vast, sweeping generalization. I have the same percentage of good times versus not-so-good times, they're just based around the kids now. Perhaps others have the same experience.
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Phew--and I was starting to think that life was not all about being happy 24-7.

Heh. "Ah got no kids! Ah do what ah want! Ah buy what ah want!" Self-interest can be good. Self-gratification is not quite the same.
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So, according to some, childless people live meaningless lives.

I guess it might look like that if your biggest ambition in life is to pop out a few kids.

But look at some of the greatest minds in history. Do we remember people like Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein for their kids (or lack of them)? Of course not.

Remember... to each his/her own. Maybe a life without kids would be meaningless to you. But that is not the case for others. There are plenty of ways for us to create meaning in our lives; having kids is just one of them.
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Thankyou neatoramawontsendmeapassword, a good point made.

After reading these comments it's seems that it should just be to each their own but some people still can't wrap their heads around why someone would make a different decision to them. I don't want children myself. This doesn't mean a meaningless life. It also doesn't make me selfish!
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I resent the hell out of anyone that has the gall to tell me my life is meaningless because I am not interested in having kids. If anything, I am more responsible than the idiots who have them for all the wrong reasons and come to regret it and become the cause for that kid's therapy as an adult. I'm happy without them, thank you very much. I'm not selfish. I'm not a child hater. I am perfectly fulfilled, and the only thing that would make me even more fulfilled will be getting my tubes tied when time allows.

No, life is not happy 24/7 whether you have kids or not. That's a very narrow and judgemental comment there, Colt. But, for some of us, it's a whole lot happier without children to raise. If kids are for you, flippin' wonderful, have as many as you can afford, but please, don't pretend that being a parent makes a person somehow more noble or superior to those that don't want them.
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This discussion brings to mind Harvard prof Daniel Gilbert's humorous & anecdotal book "Stumbling on Happiness". Among the happiness studies he references in the book, he mentions one of married couples' and their happiness level with children (i.e. high happiness as newlyweds, dip when first child is born, low during "terrible two's", ALL-TIME low during teen years, and all-time high - higher than when first married - when child leaves the nest). And YET, the parents pointed to their children as the one thing that's made them happiest most in their lives. Here's a funny interview of Professor Gilbert with Stephen Colbert (2:50 touches on the kids thing):
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:) Oops - missing link - http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/videos.jhtml?videoId=89235. BTW, hubby & I don't have kids (our paternal/maternal instincts just aren't very strong). But just from the way our folks show express their love and appreciation for us (; ingrates that we are), I can see first-hand how kids can be a source of pride & joy in the long-term for parents.
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Happy is not the word for what I feel about my kids. It is more of a deep joy. And there is the whole sense of wonder watching them grow up, enjoying them as they change and develop into their own person.

Maybe I would have been happier without them, but I don't think so. I think most parents probably feel about the same, if they have put much time and effort into their child's development.

To each their own, but they have helped make me who I am today as well, and I'm very grateful for having them.
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my best friend got married at 19 and popped out her first kid at 21, and she just had her second kid a week ago (she's 22). every time i talk to her she says "you need to get married and have babies so our kids can play together" and every time i say "no no.. i'm good." and then go on to explain that i'm more than happy WITHOUT children right now. she's also in severe debt because of these children... definitely not something i want at the age of 22. not that i don't think children wouldn't enrich my life at some point, i just have too many personal goals i want to accomplish before i tie myself down to the harbor.

miss c had it COMPLETELY right. nothing in life MAKES you happy (or sad or anxious or nervous or mad). YOU are the ONLY PERSON that MAKES you feel/do/say anything, and it is up to you to interpret it as good/bad. raising children doesn't MAKE you unhappy.. you make yourself unhappy because things aren't going as you expected. but it's ignorant to expect ANYTHING when raising children because every child is different and you can't expect to push them out, raise them, and shove them out the door without some complications.

i'm waiting to have children. i want to adopt one day, and maybe even avoid the whole mutilated vagina thing that comes with child-bearing. my boyfriend and i always promise each other we're never having kids, but we both know we have a soft spot and would make terrific parents. we're just enjoying the ability to come and go as we please, and drink and carry-on through all hours of the night. i'm sure the novelty will wear off and we'll need to set a new pace, but it won't be for another decade. plus, i want to wait until after 2012 for a couple different reasons..
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I'm now 42 and have never wanted children and decided long ago not to have any. I've not regretted my decision, and have a fabulous life of which my friends with children are very jealous. I have enough money to travel once a year, time to read a book all day if I so desire, a loving partner with whom I can spend quality time, a quiet, clean home that I love, numerous hobbies and interests, I get regular exercise and can do whatever I want, when I want. Am I happy without kids? You bet your ass I am!
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