The Myth of Joyful Parenthood

Raising children is hard, and any parent who says differently is lying. Parenting is emotionally and intellectually draining, and it often requires professional sacrifice and serious financial hardship. Kids are needy and demanding from the moment of their birth to… well, forever.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my children dearly, and can’t imagine my life without them. But let’s face the facts: Study after study has shown that parents, compared to adults without kids, experience lower emotional well-being — fewer positive feelings and more negative ones — and have unhappier marriages and suffer more from depression. Yet many of these same parents continue to insist that their children are an essential source of happiness — indeed that a life without children is a life unfulfilled.

How do we square this jarring contradiction? Two psychological scientists at the University of Waterloo think they have the answer. They suspect that the belief in parental happiness is a psychological defense — a fiction we imagine to make all the hard stuff acceptable. In other words, we parents have collectively created the myth of parental joy because otherwise we would have a hard time justifying the huge investment that kids require.

In the jargon of the field, this is called “cognitive dissonance” — the psychological mechanism we all use to justify our choices and beliefs and preserve our self-esteem. Richard Eibach and Steven Mock decided to explore the role that such self-justification plays in parental beliefs about their irreversible choice to have and raise children. They focused on economic hardship, and here’s how they studied the costs of parenthood in the lab:

They recruited 80 fathers and mothers, each parent with at least one child under age 18. The parents were about 37 years old on average, and the kids were about eight. Half the parents were primed to focus on the financial costs of parenting. They read a government document estimating that the costs of raising a child to age 18 exceed $190,000. The other parents got this information as well, but they also read about the financial benefits of parenting — that is, the fact that adult children often provide financial and practical support to aging parents. The idea was that some of the parents would be mentally calculating the out-of-pocket costs of having kids, while others would be left thinking of children as a mixed blessing, at least financially.

Then the scientists gave the parents a psychological test designed to measure how much they idealized parenting: Did they agree strongly (or not) that there is nothing more rewarding than raising a child? Do adults without kids experience emptiness in their lives? And so forth.

Finally, they measured the parents’ feelings of mental and emotional dissonance: Do you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, bothered?

Eibach and Mock were testing a couple ideas. First, they suspected that parents who were focused on the costs of parenthood would be more likely to experience feelings of conflict and discomfort — because they would be torn between the reality they have chosen and the costs of that choice. But second, they also expected that these negative feelings would motivate them to idealize parenthood in order to trump the negative feelings.

And that’s what they found, with a slight twist. If they measured the parents’ feelings of emotional discomfort immediately after priming their thoughts about cost, they felt much worse than did the parents with a more mixed view of parenting. They were conflicted. But if the scientists first gave them the opportunity to idealize parenting and family life, and then measured their conflicted feelings, those negative feelings were gone. In short, thinking about the high costs of children created significant emotional discomfort, which motivated the parents to focus on the joys of parenting, which in turn dissipated the uneasiness over choosing such a difficult path.

As a parent, I find this remarkable and discomfiting. How else might I be fooling myself in order to justify the high costs of my decision to be a parent? The scientists were curious about this, too, and designed a different version of the experiment to find out. In this study, parents were again primed to think about their pricey life choice or both costs and benefits of parenting. But this time, the researchers asked the parents about their intrinsic enjoyment of various life activities: One was spending time with their children, and others were spending time with a romantic partner, or engaging in their favorite personal activity. They also asked them how much leisure time they hoped to spend doing something with their child on their next day off from work.

The results were clear. As reported on-line in the journal Psychological Science, the parents who had the high costs of children in mind were much more likely to say that they enjoyed spending time with their children, and they also anticipated spending more leisure time with their kids. In other words, being aware of parenthood’s price tag made them idealize the time they spent with their kids, and this idealized image of family life led them to foresee more shared time in the future.

All this makes sense from a historical perspective, the scientists point out: In an earlier time, kids actually had economic value; they worked on farms or brought home paychecks, and they didn’t cost that much. Not coincidentally, emotional relationships between parents and children were less affectionate back then — and childhood was much less sentimentalized. Paradoxically, as the value of children has diminished, and the costs have escalated, the belief that parenthood is emotionally rewarding has gained currency. In that sense, the myth of parental joy is a modern psychological phenomenon.

This doesn’t strike me as a bad thing entirely. We may be uneasy thinking of our families as all dollars and cents, but bank accounts don’t lie. If knowing the bottom line makes us want to spend more time on kids instead of, say, TV or golf or work, that sounds like a healthy bargain for all involved.

Comments

Give me a break! Yes, we parents lie to ourselves, but so do non-parents! Where is the study that examines how non-parents rationalize the lack of children in their life and whether they are not delusional in their reports of being happier? There is no such thing as an objective reality – we all make choices and we’ve got to live with them.

Non-parents lije me don’t lie about being happier without children, nor is there any compelling reason to “rationalize” my decision not to have any. My happiness is hardly “delusional,” but an obvious fact. Any grandparent will likely confirm it. Most parents don’t give any thought at all to the consequences of having children.

I think parents lie because if they told the truth then people would call DCFS on them, assuming that they were child abusers because only child abusers don’t looooove being parents.

When talking with trusted childless friends, however, I do try to convey to them that parenting is a job and they shouldn’t do it unless that’s the job they want to do, similar to being a nurse, or a firefighter, or any other job.

I never wanted my own kids, but thought I’d be ok with someone else’s kids if they were well disciplined and a little older. I had to raise my younger siblings and know what a job it is. I never felt like I was missing something, rather I felt annoyed that most people think something is wrong with me because I don’t want and don’t prefer the company of kids. Now I have a step-son who is a teenager and is well disciplined. He’s been in my life for six years. I do love him, but I’m counting down the days until he grows up and praying that he makes it to adulthood without screwing up his life. I’m sure all parents feel that way, but what I cannnot do is convince myself that I love being a parent. I hate it so much. Its such a drag. Our whole life revolves around his schedule, and I hate punishing himand arguing about punishments. I make good money, so the financial issues aren’t that big of a deal. Its the emotional roller coaster and sacrifice of my own time, interests and desires that frustrate me. I want my life back! But I suppose that is also what marriage is about too – and that has plenty of benefits to get me through.

Wow. That poor teenage boy senses your resentment. He probably feels responsible. He didnt choose you. You chose his father, who you knew had a son. The best thing you can do is leave them. Be single, or with someone who has no children. What you expressed it selfish and has such an impact on that teenage boys life

Thank you for keeping it real.

Jenny I hear you… totally agree with you..
I have a son.. he is 3 weeks old.. I would never give him away but the anxiety and emotional burden on what is waiting for me for the next 15-20 years makes my heart stop.. I hope he does not screw his life up, cause I am giving my away for his…
I have no life what so ever, i hope to god this changes sometime in future!

Oh my. Ma’am, You are going to persuade someone into a miserable life of pain & regret. ‘KEEPIN IT REAL’ Is something most parents just don’t do when talking about raising kids. A number of people told me that I should have at least one or two… Biggest mistake of my life hands down! To ALL those who considering having kids… DON’T DO IT

If I could do it all again I would never have my son. He’s a nice kid, but I think that unless your kid ends up curing cancer or the next Michael Jordan, forget it. My son is home finishing his last semester of a crappy college career that I paid $100,000 plus for (I should have let him graduate with debt). He’s messy, he games, he doesn’t look for a job as hard as I think he should, he has a low paying part time job and, of course, needs my financial support. I want him out. He’s nice and average in regards to being responsible, but I realize he adds nothing of value to my life and is just a drain. I think if your kid is very self reliant (job at 16), smart or talented enough to get college paid for and responsible and organized enough to get a job right out of college (or just wildly successful) that keeps them from coming back home, it might be worth it. I look at my son and realize it’s not enough to have a sweet kid with a good heart. In my opinion, the average kid takes too much from your life. Hopefully my son gets a job and gets the heck out of my house. But even if that happens, I will look at him at his regular job, just another cog in the wheel of society, and will think “22 years of financial and life sacrifice so I could raise a middle manager at company X”. Whoopee!! Not worth it.

Wow! Perhaps his ability accomplish so much might have a lot to do with how you raised him.. I guess you’ve never thought of that did you ?!

Ikwo: yes, it is enough to have a sweet kid with a good soul. If you’ve been craving for more, like him being super smart and a whizkid doing Ivy League — it is your own lack of love speaking.
Any parent who feels like going back in time and NOT having their kid: what they really neglected was honest introspection _before_ becoming parents. The lack of this created at least 2 potentially unhappy persons: themselves and their child.

I love you and your honesty! I can’t imagine that feeling.

I’m childless but so so good to see people be real on this forum

And that’s the exact reason why I’m one and done. I love my daughter, buuuuutttt she’s a lot of work.

Taking care of kids is not that hard – anyone who says otherwise is psychologically ill.

The most important things to keep in mind are:
1) Kids don’t really need that much, so don’t indulge them.
2) It can’t be done alone. Throughout history, parents have had help raising kids from extended families; the atomized lifestyle that many modern first world people live makes that very difficult.

A simplified life is the cure, here.

OK,so if you have no help or family around you ,how do you do it?

What about people who don’t have any help from family or anyone? People who have jobs with long hours, traveling, or weekends and late hours? Who will watch the kids? What about kids with costly medical conditions? What about the people who don’t have any help and have a special needs child?

Raising kids is not easy for countless of reasons. So, please don’t say it is simple, because nothing has been simple for me and my kids. However, the best things in life take a lot of energy and struggles.

Kids are sacrifice and work. It is 85% work and 15% fun and joy. To raise a successful,balanced,educated and confident human being it takes alot of work, so don’t think otherwise. My Uncle who had no kids stated to me once “To do it right, its tough, most people just do it, not easy to build good people, yep, lotta work there.” I have worked at it, hung in there during stages of growth, sacrificed etc, they are getting ready to graduate and it has paid off.They are both good well rounded young people. I did give up the prime of my life for these children and still have to get them through college, and yes some days i do get tired of parenting, it is a long haul.

Good to see a Psychological perspective on parenting. Agree with a lot of it.

This article and comments are so strange to me. I really tried to take a step back and figure out where I fit in those results stemming from the study. And the truth is…. My daughter gives me so much joy. So much absolute utter joy. I can’t go on a vacation without her and When I do, I cant wait to get back to her. I adore every single thing she says and does and am amazed at how I can shape this tiny little person and who she becomes and how she thinks. Yes, sometimes I need a break from her for a few hours. So we are not attached by the hip. But my overall love for her is endless. so the feeling of dissonance about my child is just very foreign to me.

I’m in the same boat my daughter is fantastic cant imagine life without her. These people are freaking crazy. Wtf. I’m guessing they had kids way too early or something but I just can’t relate to most of these comments.

I agree Pam I can’t relate to most of these comments. My kids are extremely draining and yes I have sacrificed a lot for them emotionally and financially, but it was my choice. I own that choice no matter the drama that resonates from it. I’m a Christian first in life so I tend to compare my suffering to Jesus’s suffering which is trivial in comparison. I’m also a Marine so I can deal with a lot of super sucky circumstances. I am just more resilient than most people. I tend to think that these sort of moments in our life make us more empathetic and better people. I remember being that shitty young adult on the plane upset over the crying baby for five hours straight. Asking out loud “why won’t they shut that kid up?” Now I am that Mother who will jump in to help and try my best to ease that new Mom’s anxiety. In fact I miss those baby moments so much I offer the trade for my older kid in jest. Kids are a part of our journey, if we so chose to have them, and they are a huge reflection of our personality, mercy and grace. Nurture trumps nature. I should know because I am adopted from some screwed up stock. When you raise kids as if they are a burden then expect that they are likely to have significant psychological / emotional / failure to launch type issues later in life. Yes, most days of my life I feel like a huge struggle to maintain sanity, but I’d rather have my kids than the dual income no kids life I use to have. We went to Bora Bora, St. Lucia, Hawaii, etc. Easy life…I guess I see no real learning or progress in that. Only self centeredness that made me feel super empty. And self centered people typically die alone. I can think of two old ladies specifically that were much like this and their children abandoned them in their elderly age. How sad it was to watch their lives play out. They never learned a dang thing about life to their last dying breath in their 80 and 90s, but they died rich.

I’m with you!

That’s a lovely thing to add to the conversation here and to feel. It’s reassuring to know there are people who feel as you do too and to get your perspective on this. Having kids has to be a selfless thing I think as they can’t consent to being born to begin with so the lives of their parents should be superceded by their needs and wants as a condition of having them.

I once were duped into believing that I was a father, for 6 months, plus the duration of pregnancy.

And as far as I can tell from experience, my best guess is that there’s also a biochemical explanation for this.

My life was undeniable miserable back then, but I realised it AFTER leaving that woman and her bastard,

I was working extra hours, but somehow ended with barely enough for bus fare, my social life practically ended, I had less and less time and energy to do the things I liked, life became a dull routine.

But still, watching that baby’s smile, it made it all worth it, somehow I was no longer tired, frustrated or angry, life was good.

Or so I thought, when I snapped out of it I noticed how underslept, malnourished and in bad shape I was, I was in my 20s and I already had a tuft of white hairs, all of which sprouted on the months after the pregnancy was confirmed.

I’m married again, no kids yet, and 3 years until we decide on the matter, I’m strongly opposed to have kids, I’m 37 now, and I never felt happier, I really love my life just as it is, any change just would hurt my level of happiness.

My only possible motivation would be to have someone take care of my old self someday, but there’s no guarantee, also fear is not a valid reason to have children.

So I better keep on excercising and eating healthy, I want to spend the whole time I have left on earth being able to wipe my own ass, because there will be no one else doing it for me when I’m old.

I have 3 kids and 2 step children. Hands down the hardest, most emotionally draining job ever. They said “it’s the hardest job you will ever do”. I just thought they were trying to make stay at home moms feel better in an almost condescending way. I was wrong. Not very much ROI or even ROEI. Oh, to have known for real.

Why is everything so complicated? Being a parent is just another relationship in your life. Just like you are a son / daughter/ spouse / sibling to someone, you are a parent to someone too. It requires effort and time to build a healthy relationship with anyone, including your child. There are some joyful times, some hard times, and mostly just “normal” times. In the past we had a village to help us raise our kids. Living around our moms, aunts, grandparents, and other family and friends, so it was not such a big deal. Kids just grew up watching, playing with and being “entertained” by their siblings, cousins, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. Now you have just one person (usually mom) who has to stay home with the kid all day, with ZERO social interaction, … that’s enough to drive anyone up the wall! Ever noticed how it is easier to have a playdate with other parents, your kids are more entertained and you are in a better mood? Imagine that all the time. That’s what a village did. Even now, I immensely enjoy the times with my son when my extended family comes over to stay with for a few weeks. Everything becomes SO EASY, when you have a few more helping hands and family members who love to play with the kids and care for them. When we started moving away from our villages, started living in these nuclear family, and started valuing independence over interdependence, parenting became so much harder.

Life is not about being happy. It is about reproducing strong offspring that can continue your biological existence.

If you can be happy then that is great. But being happy is not the aim of life. What other species spends its time trying to be happy instead of trying to ensure its biological survival as a species?

From an evolutionary or biological standpoint a man who has 10 kids but is unhappy is more sucessful than a man who has no kids but is always happy.

The latter has committed biological suicide and his entire life was pointless – his particular combination of genes amounted to nill and he may as well have not existed in the first place. Nothing to be happy about!

So yes, having kids won’t make you happy. But then again, probably nothing will make you happy. You either are happy, or you are not happy. It has nothing to do with external factors and does not really matter. People place too much emphasis on being happy. What are we, clowns?

Ah Dave, you just made my day mate. Spot on and your parting comment made me laugh by myself for the first time in too long.

That all depends on the quality of the potential parent involved and his/her offspring;we are the highest evolved species on this planet therefore we have more than just survival and biological needs,kids do give purpose to your life but I would have never thought in a million years that it would be so hard,in my case bcoz it’s been 97% on my plate,having no family or help makes it an agonizing chore just to keep the basic things going(feeding,school ,homework,bathing,brushing hair and so on).Can’t imagine life without them but knowing this ,I could have potentially chosen a different path.Besides,all legacies left in the world are left from what an individual has done ,not how many kids has had..

I enjoyed reading your position. The problem i have is that it seems reasonable to believe with enough time elasped, exstintion of the human race is a certainty. So really none of our genes amounted to nil, like none of us even ever existed or served a purpose. The point being is we each make our own subjective meaning and definitions of value.

Oh Dave, Dave. Life is everything about being happy. You got yourself some cognitive dissonance going there, pal.
The idea of raising kids who might possibly love you back when you’re old and decrepit is quite a gamble. I am so glad that woman said No to me when i asked her to marry me back when. She must have really loved me to set me free. Free to travel, meet new people, enjoy the occasional relationship .. and you’d want me to swap that for me trying to ensure the biological survival of my species. Surely there are enough bewildered children on the planet as it is for me to worry too much about survival of the species.
I am sorry for your situation, Dave. Chin up though – those kids just might love you back

I don’t have kids and I love it. I love my freedom. All my friends with kids have boring, stressful lives and making boring conversations. Honestly, why after giving birth a woman’s brain turns to mash? Like the child sucks the life, fun and brain out of its parents. I am 40 and do what I want. I raised my sisters when I was a teen and saw how miserable my parents were. They hated having us. But didn’t have any choise. I have. And i love my life. There are plenty of people in the world and i believe if people knew really how hard it is and ungrateful job it is to be a parent they will never have kids. Also, i believe that not having kids is a intelligent and informed decision. Else is medieval instincs and beliefs.

I find that the parents who are the happiest are the ones who have ample amount of domestic help whether they are wealthy with paid domestic help or have lots of family to help with the children to allow themselves time to regroup psychologically.

But then again that raises the controversial by his philosophy that the more financially stable you are the more fit you are to be parents.

Not true. Rich people can be just as miserable as poor people. Look at the royal family. They have all the help they need and they still get divorced and unhappy in their marriages like anyone else. There is no direct correlation between money and TRUE HAPPINESS. Children of these parents with nannies often grow up feeling emotionally detached from their parents. Prince William himself said he did not like having nannies. A nanny is a stranger she can never replace you. She just gives you anothet set of things to worry about. Nobody life is perfect. In life you just have to keep positive and keep going. Knowing that u never gave up is what makes u somewhat happy.

Money makes a huge difference.
Especially with less village style living.

I am a 36 year old who now has a 2 year old boy and 4 month old daughter. My nose would be longer than pinochio’s if I said everything has just been fine and dandy. In my 34 years (before childeren) I studied, travelled the world, partied, played professional rugby, set up my own business, bought and sold property, I’d defnitely had a crack at most things. This weird feeling of emptiness still resided inside me though. I can honestly say I was meant to be the father of this cheeky fun little boy and beautiful wee princess of a girl. There have without doubt been some 0 out 10 times but there has also been some 12 out of 10 times, and I’m pretty sure the rollercoaster is going to continue. My son gave me a hug on Christmas morning 2 days ago without any initiation, my eyes welled up and my heart melted! I truly believe each and every one of us has a different purpose for their existence on this planet. I believe there will be an inner desire in each of us directing us towards becoming a parent or not. Do the math, get yourself and your partner into a good head space, make the call and go full noise! One of the most selfless acts you will ever do is become a “GOOD” parent. What is more important than populating this planet with good, kind, loving human beings wanting to make a positive difference. Feel free to rip the piss out of this opinion but my wife and family don’t really give a shit.

I agree with the comment above about a village vs just 1 person.

Circumstances mean I’m a single mum of twins. I have no partner and no family support. I can’t get a job without childcare – I can’t get childcare without a job. Abd do I am stuck in a never ending cycle just holding out until they go to school,

When people tell me to treasure moments and the joy of parenting – I was to strangle that inconsiderate adult.

Parenting is hard work. I have worked 24/7 without respite for 4 years. I have no sense of self, no life, no friends, financially I’m on the edge every week.

I love my kids but there are moments I wonder if I made the right choice.

As a single childless male at age 35 I can tell you that those who choose to not have kids don’t understand those that do. Kids are terrible. they’re annoying, needy, loud, incapable of interesting conversation. If you believe that we feel we are missing out you are are right – we feel we are missing out in the same way we feel we are missing out on the experience of being paralyzed from the neck down – and wee are quite happy about it.

I’ve just had a child 6 weeks ago at the ripe old age of 41 and although I knew it would be hard, nothing prepared me for the sleep deprivation and frustration at getting nothing done on my ever long to-do list! For me it’s the physical exhaustion, and I do believe that family support is key to being able to stay sane and actually enjoy parenting. Otherwise I just feel like a formula-making machine…it is true that I forget all when she smiles at me or I stroke her face and she coos in pleasure. I don’t miss my old life as such as still do stuff I enjoy with partner’s help…but I just wasn’t prepared for the change in dynamic between my partner and I, with the constant bickering due to sleep deprivation. I know it’s early days for me yet but I can sense my anxiety and worry for my daughter will continue on a daily basis for probably her whole life! I feel happier than before in some ways, like I’ve achieved something great, but in other ways I feel incredibly out of control and declining in health which I don’t like as I’ve always been a bit of a health freak. Now I munch on croissants to give me a quick boost. If I had a nanny to help more with the mundane tasks of nappy change, cleaning etc then I feel I could focus more on the enjoyable nurturing aspects of parenting. I do love her immensely though and I look forward to seeing her grow up and change.

I am a single female about to turn 60. I have never had nor wanted kids, and don’t like being around them. I was ostracized by my family and have had no contact with any of them in over 40 years.acording to them there was something “wrong with me” since I didn’t play with dolls or acted female enough for their satisfaction. I do have a great life, friends, enjoy travel and a healthy bank account. No, I am not gay, I just never wanted to be tied down, I wanted my own life. Freedom is everything.

I never understood the drive to have children. An honest question – what is the point? I know it comes off brash, but I truly am curious to understand. Children are huge financial, time, and emotional investments. The amount of time they take from your schedule and goals leaves me dumbfounded. I have yet to meet an adult who can honestly admit to enjoying sacrificing most of their freedom to spend it with a person 20+ years their junior. I’ve seen the heard superficial arguments of not wanting to go to bed, the homework (that is now yours too), and the bitterness it causes in relationships when all parents crave is freedom and energy for intimacy. No. Thank. You.

So again, before convincing yourself that parenting is fun, think it through. The nights out are few and far in between. I mean, it’s a sad day when you get excited about being able to do something for yourself for a few hours in the day.

To each his own… Some love to travel and adventure while others love to stay home and lie on a couch. Some love to eat meat and drink coffee while others vegetables and tea only. Live and let live. Judge not.

Just one thing though for one and all to ponder about: Do you believe you have a Creator and He has a written manual for you? His plan is specific to you & you alone – as unique as your fingerprint that none other has now or ever.

If so, shouldn’t you be most eager to find that one and only plan (whether to marry and whether to have kids are all in it) for YOU and live it instead of looking to the right or left – wandering and wondering about others?

I would be lying if I said I was fulfilled and so super happy all the time. I am the father of 2, 5 yr old girl and 3 yr old boy. There is nothing like being a parent. It is so emotional, physical and mentally draining yet so satisfying. I have a stressful job and and sometimes the home life compounds the stress even more. There are so many times where I want to get in my car and drive away forever and then that sweet little kid will tell u they love u and ask for a hug it melts your heart and is the most amazing positive feeling one can have. It is the hardest yet most rewarding thing u will do in your life. If u want a challenge have children. The Gen x,y and millennial generations are extremely selfish and I think that the majority of us have been spoiled into narcissism. Having children teaches u about caring for others and giving. It isn’t for everyone but u may have a hole in that heart later in life!

I love how people are arguing about this like it’s a serious professional viewpoint. “Two psychological scientists from Waterloo suspect”
Well, hold the phones and stop the presses – Two researchers from Canada have a suspicion! Having kids is highly personal and subjective. Beauty, as well as value, is in the eye of the beholder. What a nonsensical endeavor

I have 3 girls yes they r very expensive,demand 99% of my time and110% of my energy but life can’t make any sense without them,I had a first child that died due to the mother having asthma now I have my 3girls they are my energy, what’s life when you are only living to please your self? What if your parents felt like not having you? We all owe it to the world to reproduce and find it an honor to have such a priceless responsibility entrusted to you..having a job can’t be compared your trusted to aid in the construction of a human’s destiny what a history making opportunity! Let’s enjoy every day with our selves the kids aren’t strangers they are you and I getting a restart. Make the best if it,there are people spending fortunes to just have a child of their own smile back at them,cherish your freely given treasures..

My wife and I traveled the world in our 20’s and early 30’s. We both have decent jobs. I’m an X’er and agnostic. I had a mix of a terrible father and a wonderful mother. Now at 40 I have 3 kiddos and my wife and I juggle our work schedules (medical) to avoid paying daycare. There is no busier schedule than managing a business, tending to 3 acres of orchard and hobby farm, restoring a farmhouse, and teaching 3 human beings to be more than fun-seeking hamsters on a wheel. The days are long…18 hrs, 24 hrs, days at a time. Nothing worth anything is easy. When my son finds a box turtle out back it might as well be the holy grail. When I get bombarded with life’s big questions (“will I die, why do I have a penis, what is space”) I use all my wits to answer best for the day at hand. My early hard life forged in me a desire to eat and drink deeply of this life. When I feel like my balance is lost in diaper changes and stupid “new-math” I pour a Macallan scotch and fire up a top shelf cigar, and pull out stoic philosphy (Marcus Aur’s Meditations). I look forward to a vacation, say a prayer to a God I hope exists, and look into 3 sets of blue eyes and know I am rich beyond shiny rocks, tropical seas and colorful foods and wines. I get bored easily, and living just for me and my gratifications was hollow and numbing. My kids are faster, more energetic, and likely smarter than me…how can anyone run away from that kind of challenge. I am an unapologetic hard ass who grew up around the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions where having 7 kids was normal.
These articles and the media in general are nonsense for objective categorization of groups of peoples. Millenials, boomers, “the lost generation” after WW1 all have been boxed and bowed for easy digestion. People have or don’t have kids for simple and complex reasons. Universally and historically I just think people will always want the same things: a mixture of baubles, what your neighbor has, pleasure, leisure and worth, and for some a challenge to achieve greatness. To me, my kids are all of those things.

You nailed it Drew and with flourish and passion. As the mother of three sons and a daughter, all grown and gone, I can tell you that it is the toughest job you will ever love. Trying to imagine what raising your own family would be like from a position of pure logic is impossible. Yes it is impossibly hard. Yes there are times it will bring you to your knees. But even in the most devastating moments I have never felt so truly connected to otherworldly beauty, the bond of unconditional love that takes you to heaven and can drag you through hell. It is instinctual and primal. It is not logical or quantifiable by cultural values. It is not for everyone, and that is okay. Not everyone is cut out for it and thank goodness they know it. It is fortunate that there is a choice.

Drew! This is awesome. Thanks for sharing.

How about the guilt society puts on parents who dare admit that having children is more difficult than they anticipated, or God forbid a mother say they wish they had never had them. Maybe if women (especially) were more honest about this to other younger women planning to have kids before emotionally or financially ready, we would stop perpetuating this stupid idealization trap.

I have 3 children that are now 21,18 and 16 years old. I wish I can say that I had enough time to enjoy them , but it was, (and still is), 99% hard work and 1% enjoyment. Not to mention the cost of raising them that is still ongoing, with no light at the end of the tunnel. I also didn’t think at the time, that my marriage wouldn’t last and that I will stay single mother at the end. I love my children , there is no question about that…..but, how fair it is, that I had to sacrifice just about everything, my freedom, my career, my mental well being, my finances,and every other aspect of my life that you can imagine, so that they can live…. I never expected anything back , and naively thought I will be enjoying motherhood, but that day has yet to come. There was way too many things that needed to be taken care of, and only too pair of hands. With the benefit of the hindsight, I would have made very different decision if I could go back in time….

I’m 35 and my partner wants kids so I research all point of view on the topic, because I’m not sure if I want any. I find it weird though how people who explain how hard it is have 2 or 3 children. Like, couldn’t you figure it out the first time around and maybe not have more?

I’m a father of a 10-year-old son. I agree with one point: we made a choice to do this job, that’s it, we do it with both joy and unhappiness at times. Admittedly, I was not prepared to do this job right at the first moment, and my son learned some bad behaviors but he is also a lovely boy at times. I also see some people were really good at parenting, some were average and some were bad.

Maybe happiness isn’t the point. You could always for meaning and love instead.

My pregnancy’s were neither planned nor prevented.& my kids drive me so insane but I wouldn’t ha e it any other way. There’s just so much love. And seeing them sleep after a long day with them is just priceless.hearing that I love you mama, is the most precious amazing thing in the whole world. Sure kids are a handful and expensive, but your kids will change your life,your kids will change you as a person.kids are not a mistake. They are life. They are what make the world go round.

I raised two boys by myself. I’m done, they are grown up. You know what I learned? I gave up 33% of my life for 2 people that couldn’t care less if I’m around or not. I would not do it again for anything. I loved them with all of my being, worked multiple jobs, provided as much as I could. In the end…I see now that I have to walk on eggshells to stay a part of their life. It’s normal to go months and months with no contact. It’s normal to not have texts or calls returned. This is my life now. Would I do it again? Nope.

My respect to the fathers and mothers working diligently at their parental responsibility. Also, have as much sex with your spouse or partner as possible when the kids are asleep.

I was deeply ambivalent about having children and caved to family, societal, and spousal pressures, believing that I was on a “normal” path to adulthood. I had my only son in my early 40s. After a long bout with severe postpartum depression (and being fired when my condition made it impossible for me to return to work at the end of maternity leave), I struggled to adjust to my new role as mother and homemaker. My career had always been important to me; now I was a stay-at-home mom. After many moves and an eventual return to work, I continued to struggle with the sacrifices required of parenthood. I love my kid, but I don’t love parenting. There are so many other extenuating circumstances that make this so…and I suspect that it is just as complicated for others who admit to not loving parenthood. I urge those thinking about becoming parents to ask why they want to do it and whether they are ready to change their lives so profoundly. Set aside your partner’s desires, your family’s beliefs, and societal pressures, and ask yourself what you really want. If you’re not sure, don’t do what can’t be undone.

In my 20s I had such nature call for become a mother, health circumstances made me sterile a very young age, so I went into a crusade for become a mother of a child at all cost, financially and emotionally. Every failed treatment was psychological wreaking. At some point,after 10 years of hurting my body with IVF treatments, I gave up, broken, depressed and with not life purpose, I was 28. After losing my husband of 12 years of marriage for my incapability of give children, Life got me prepared a surprise at 32 years old, I got married again, and my husband got custody of his 2 years old baby girl. I was delighted beyond words, my biological need of becoming a mother and finally having a child to love, care and nurture for gave me sense of life. It took me less than a year to regret all of it. I hate parenting, every needy, manipulative, demanding selfish min of my time with the child. And her father does too. We will give our life to keep her healthy, safe and cared for but we feel miserable. Our couple life is just gone. We both has gotten so extremely physically exhausted that as for now we both are sick. Having family help is not an option even tho we have close friends and family. There’s something that parent denying parenting is a hardship won’t get. We are build to reproduce biologically, nature force us to feel the need to reproduce. And our self conscious intelligence teach us is not the best choice going with the experiencing of parenting. That is a dual clash we all struggle with in our brain chemistry. So yes, my husband and I love the kid to death, but hate every min of parenting.

I think you will see a pattern that the parents of young kids love it (they can still train their kids to say “I love you”) and their kids depend on them for their every need and are so “cute” and “funny”-well not to anyone else but to their parents. The views of parents of teenagers and adults however are usually very different. Once they are teenagers it is more often “I hate you, you ruined my life” and they will have very little time for you anymore, they will be much more interested in their friends. So don’t listen to anyone with young kids, their joy will most likely be short lived and is not a good indication of parenthood overall.

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