Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how you really feel about being a parent. Is your life complete? Are you happier than you were before you had kids? Would you change anything?
A new study asked just that of parents and the conclusion is we’re lying to ourselves to feel better. We tell ourselves we’re happier with our kids – but we’re not.
When parents say their children are the true source of happiness and fulfillment in their lives, they may be enacting a psychological defence to justify all the time, money and energy they put into the job, finds a new Canadian study.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggests parents are idealizing their role to cope with the downsides of being mom and dad — namely, how expensive it is to raise a family.
“The well-being literature shows that during the years when most people are parenting, people tend to report lower life satisfaction and lower levels of happiness,” said study co-author Steven Mock, an assistant professor in the health studies and gerontology department at the University of Waterloo.
He and colleague Richard Eibach, an assistant professor in the university’s psychology department, set out to “explain the disconnect” between quality of life reports that consistently show low points in middle age and the common assertion that parenting brings all the joy one could ever ask for.
“It’s this cultural idealization,” Dr. Mock said, pointing to previous studies that have found the idea that parenthood is a trove of emotional joys is a myth.
I’ve not been shy about admitting that while I love my kids, it takes me a while to actually like them. For Zacharie, it took until we spent a weekend together without my wife when he was 15 months old for me to really appreciate what he was about and enjoy time with him.
Reading it on the screen, it sounds hard, but I’m not going to sugar coat it – my life has drastically changed with children in my life. Making the transition from selfish to selfless hasn’t always been easy for me.
To ask if I’m “happier” with children in my life isn’t a fair question, because I am happy, but it’s a different feeling. There’s a reason I call it babysitting instead of parenting when my wife escapes for an afternoon or evening leaving me alone with the boys.
Now comes the part of the study where I soften my comment to jive with perception that children are wonderful – I wouldnt change a thing. I love my kids. I appreciate the magic and wonder and enthusiasm they bring to life. The adventure of playing with boys is awesome. The sense of pride that fills my life when they crack a joke or conquer a life accomplishment is irreplaceable.