Thank you to my reader Zarina, who forwarded me a link to an interesting article in Healthland (Time) entitled Kid Crazy: Why we Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood, by John Cloud. Cloud discusses new research published in the journal Psychological Science which found that parents - faced with the draining financial and emotional expense of raising children - convince/delude themselves that parenthood is rewarding. It's a coping mechanism designed to alleviate the cognitive dissonance they experience when their negative experience of child-raising butts up against the over-glorified myths of parental bliss that permeate our culture.
My readers know I have been making the same argument all along - that the Stepford Wives mantra of "parenthood is the most fulfilling role in life and the root of true happiness" is nothing more than parents trying to make themselves feel better because they know, deep inside, they are faced with a lifelong prison sentence for which there is no escape (see my posts The Bitch & Backpedal; Beneath the Surface: A Two-Pronged Theory and Having a Child is So Worth It! - which officially make me a broken record on the issue). And now scientific research is bearing me out. I love when that happens :)
Although it doesn't surprise me that parents continue to delude themselves this way - after all, they have to ease their psychological pain somehow - I continue to be fascinated by the fact that more people don't recognize the drudgery that is parenthood and avoid it at all costs. Why are people so ready and willing to buy into the parenthood myth when their own observations about the reality of parenthood should tell them to run for the hills? All of us were children at some point and from that vantage point, had a direct view of how happy (or unhappy) our parents were. And then as we mature and become adults, parents surround us everywhere - our friends and family members start having kids and our view of what parenthood is expanded even further. We can see very clearly that parenthood is 98% stress, strain and drudgery and yet 90% of the population chooses to believe the "parenthood is the root of ultimate fulfillment and happiness" myth instead of believing what they see before their very eyes.
Now THIS would be an interesting area for scientific research.