Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ah, Kids....

It's a fair observation,
Having kids does not make you happy. That’s the newsflash from All Joy And No Fun, an article in New York magazine that is creating a buzz. Author Jennifer Senior, interweaving anecdotes from harried and disappointed parents with multiple studies that conclude that raising a family, if anything, will make you less happy than your childless peers, has written a damning but thoughtful portrait of modern middle-class parenting. . . .

Despite its occasional whiff of baffled entitlement (wondering why, say, that parenting isn’t as much fun as going out to dinner with friends), that New York piece eventually comes to the same conclusion that most of us have: raising kids is always hard work and yet at times it’s tremendously rewarding.

But don’t look to it to make you happy. There are only, Ms. Senior writes, “moments of transcendence, not an overall improvement in well-being.”
But here's the thing: Nothing actually makes you happy, not even the geegaws and doodads that our consumer-oriented society says are supposed to make you happy, except the thoughts that are passing through your own head. The happiness you feel over a new car, new house, whatever? Fleeting. Your brain will adjust back to the status quo. (That's not altogether a bad thing as your brain also adjusts back to the status quo from losses and setbacks.)

You want to be happier at work? As a spouse? As a parent? Change the way you think about your situation. Sure, that can be hard to do, but the alternative is to have human nature, perhaps the entire world, change to accommodate you - and that's not going to happen.

(Note, there are things that can make you miserable - toxic people and situations - and it can be very healthy and appropriate to extricate yourself. Yes, you can grow accustomed to being mistreated but that's anything but a path to a healthy mental state, let alone happiness.)

1 comment:

  1. I knew I was right not to have kids!!!
    Just kidding :)
    I think a lot of people (and by "people", I mean "women", for the most part) buy into the Life Script that tells you that having children will fulfill you and you'll get to buy a big house, quit your job and make your husband work 90 hrs/week to support your dead ass. Oops. Sorry. That sounded a little bitter, but I know quite a few women who wanted exactly that. And it didn't quite turn out that way when they couldn't afford to stay home, the husband left, the kid wasn't quite all the Hallmark and Kodak moments.
    I hate to blame TV/movies/pop culture for everything, but I think they really did a disservice here by making people think that kids were going to be one long Hallmark commercial of hugs and cards and snuggles, as opposed to reality which includes those three things but also a whole lotta shit, piss, throw up.
    I really feel sorry for parents who have the kids and then realize that it isn't quite what they thought and they aren't so happy, but have nowhere to really vent. In today's "helicopter parent" society, if a parent even thinks that it isn't all it's cracked up to be, the Parenting Patrol comes out to beat their ass and tell them what awful parents they are.
    I do agree with you Aaron, re: attitude. I have a saying when it comes to work life--you can change your job, change the rules or change your attitude. Doesn't work so well with parenting, since you can't change the "job", but I think changing the attitude would do wonders.

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