Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All Joy and No Fun

All Joy and No Fun

Super interesting article in NYMag about happiness and parenting. Here are my highlights...

Not only did they find that couples’ overall marital satisfaction went down if they had kids; they found that every successive generation was more put out by having them than the last—our current one most of all. Even more surprisingly, they found that parents’ dissatisfaction only grew the more money they had, even though they had the purchasing power to buy more child care. “And my hypothesis about why this is, in both cases, is the same,” says Twenge. “They become parents later in life. There’s a loss of freedom, a loss of autonomy. It’s totally different from going from your parents’ house to immediately having a baby. Now you know what you’re giving up.”

One hates to invoke Scandinavia in stories about child-rearing, but it can’t be an accident that the one superbly designed study that said, unambiguously, that having kids makes you happier was done with Danish subjects. The researcher, Hans-Peter Kohler, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says he originally studied this question because he was intrigued by the declining fertility rates in Europe. One of the things he noticed is that countries with stronger welfare systems produce more children—and happier parents.
Of course, this should not be a surprise. If you are no longer fretting about spending too little time with your children after they’re born (because you have a year of paid maternity leave), if you’re no longer anxious about finding affordable child care once you go back to work (because the state subsidizes it), if you’re no longer wondering how to pay for your children’s education and health care (because they’re free)—well, it stands to reason that your own mental health would improve. When Kahneman and his colleagues did another version of his survey of working women, this time comparing those in Columbus, Ohio, to those in Rennes, France, the French sample enjoyed child care a good deal more than its American counterpart. “We’ve put all this energy into being perfect parents,” says Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, “instead of political change that would make family life better.”

Amen! I am going to look into Warner's book, she sounds like a voice of reason to me. Why are we the biggest and best industrialized nation in the world, yet the most unhealthy and most miserable?? Come ON health care!

This article really hit home with me as I found DH and myself last night on a crash course from "having a baby" into full-on "PARENTING", all centered around Smooshie's inability to clap. Yes, he is only 9.5 months and he is progressing quite wonderfully, but I have tried and tried to teach him to clap and he isn't having it. I told DH that most of the other babies can clap (Have I really become that person? Did that really come out of my mouth?) and so he decided to teach him. Well, Mr.Man wasn't having it at ALL. This is sounding even crazier as I write it, but it really brought up a lot of issues on how we want to deal with discipline, and how we want to relate to this little person. We decided to let the clapping go and just focus on his strengths ;-) but I can see we are at the beginning of a lonng and winding road.

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