Yet another study showing that parents are unhappier than people without kids. This doesn't surprise me at all, but what does surprise me is how shocking this is to people. Wow - you mean having kids is hard? It's isolating? It's depressing? Why does this surprise people? I have never had children, yet I am fully aware of these things by just observing everyone I know who has kids.
In this clip, Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, explains that the unhappiness caused by having a child can be worse than going through a divorce, losing a job or experiencing the death of a partner. She explains this by pointing out that new parents are not given the same support as someone going through a divorce, job loss or death of a partner because a new parent is assumed to be "happy" and therefore left alone.
Some random thoughts:
- Isn't it telling that having a child is being compared to three of the worst things that can happen to a person, when in our culture parenthood is unreasonably and relentlessly promoted as the most rewarding, fulfilling, happy role a person can assume?
- To me, it seems reasonable to expect that people will rally to support a person who lost her job, went through a divorce or experienced the death of her partner. Those are all terrible circumstances that befall a person and in most cases, are not circumstances a person happily chooses for herself. On the other hand, having a child is a choice that people make happily and willingly, for all the benefits they perceive they will get from this choice. It seems reasonable then, that the person who made this choice should handle the responsibilities she created without requiring a support network to prop her up. Look at it this way: If I happily choose to purchase a house, and am then unhappy about the financial sacrifice it entails, is it reasonable to expect a support system to rally around me to provide me with monetary contributions to help pay my mortgage? I would argue no. If I happily choose to go back to school, but am then unhappy with all of the time, money and effort I have to invest, is it reasonable to expect a network of people to rally around me and help me study for my tests, write my papers and pay my tuition? Again, I would argue no. On the other hand, if I lost my job, or my partner passed away, or I was going through a divorce, would it be reasonable to expect people to rally around me to support me and get me through a horrible time. Yes, this seems reasonable to me.
- Community is a wonderful thing, and having a network of people who love and support each other is far too scarce in the world we live in today where everyone is holed up in isolation with their faces plastered to a screen. I think all people - not just parents - would benefit from developing their social networks and doing more face-to-face interacting. What I disagree with, though, is the notion that parents - people who happily choose and adopt their roles - and whose lifestyle is promoted ad nauseum as a puppies-and-rainbow utopia - are somehow equivalent in circumstance to those who have suffered great, traumatic losses in their lives. If the argument is that parenthood is really a hell hole and these poor souls need to be propped up by an army of supporters just to get through the day, then the glorification of parenthood has to STOP right now.