Trying to make sense of life and to learn living it happily.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Children and Happiness

The purpose of this blog to understand what true happiness is. To do that, we must first look closely at what we mean when we think about happiness now. Some of the concepts that make up the happiness idea are ingrained in us for a long time. We believe in them, we cherish them, and we feel reluctant to think they may not be exactly what we believe they are. One of such notions is parenting and children.
by syk4ng at http://syk4ng.deviantart.com/

Parenthood and children are sacred topics in the discussion of happiness.

Vast majority of us knows that children bring meaning and happiness in our lives. Kids are our continuation, our legacies, our pride and joy, the most important task of our lives.

As a mother, I have these feeling myself. But because we all are brought up with the notions that children are the meaning of our lives and bring us only joy, sometimes I feel guilty and inadequate when I do not feel this way. And having discussed parenthood with many parents, I know a lot of people feel the same way.

Kids make us happy, for sure. They give us purpose. They give us love and admiration. They make us feel fulfilled. They are some of the closest people to us. They brighten our days with their wonder, their smiles, their achievements.

But they also make us miserable, angry, and frustrated. It is a package deal.

New mothers may get postpartum blues or even a full blown depression right after child birth, and it is only the beginning of the full range of parenting emotions.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that as the kids grow up, they do not make us happy when they defy us, do not do as we say (even though it is always for their own benefit!), disrespect us, forget to call when they are older, never clean their rooms… the list goes on and on. Parents also feel stressed about their children’s’ future and wellbeing.

Some kids are more difficult than others; some have personality traits we do not like, some do not have personality traits that we would like, some have physical or mental disabilities that challenge their parents’ level of happiness.

Sometimes, we feel that we are happy (or have to be happy) despite all that, or maybe even because of all that trouble. We give our children so much time, attention, blood, sweat and tears. It would be strange to devote all of that to the rearing of our young if they didn't bring us some happiness, right?

Some research proofs that people with children live longer than their childless counterparts. Some research proofs the exact opposite, stating that all the worries that come with parenthood shorten our lifespan. Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, states that when couples have children, happiness levels plummet. Couples only recover their blissful existence once their offspring have left the nest. Psychologists have also found that couples with children are less satisfied with their marriage than those without.

As parents, we may feel resentful reading those research findings. From an evolutionary point of view we are programmed to procreate. From cultural point of view we are programmed that our lives are not complete if we do not have children. It does not make sense that having children makes us unhappy.

It is undisputable that parenthood causes lots emotions in all parents (both positive and negative). It seems that children have the power of making us happy, but they do not necessarily do. If people do not have children, their lives are not devoid of meaning and happiness (although it may feel this way to some). And the fact that someone has children does not automatically indicate that they are happy and their life is meaningful (although it may feel this way to some).

Ultimately, our true happiness does not depend on such important factor as children. It does not depend on any other outside phenomena, such as money, success, friends, pets, or anything else (some more major than others). True happiness depends on our attitude toward any outside phenomena. Nothing can make us happy (or miserable) except ourselves, not even our kids.


Marriage without children the key to bliss.  By Kate Devlin. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1941195/Marriage-without-children-the-key-to-bliss.html

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