Parenting is a tough gig. Anyone who’s ever had a child can attest to that. Kids are messy, whiny, grumpy when they don’t nap, picky about what they eat, and for at least the first two years of their lives they don’t even have the common courtesy to use the bathroom. But before I digress, I have to say that despite the frustration attached to being a mother, I do not hate parenting. In fact, being a parent has truly been one of the most rewarding aspects of my adult life.
That still doesn’t change the fact that parenting is hard.
In response to a New York Magazine article by Jennifer Senior called “Why Parents Hate Parenting,” in which Senior discusses the choice we make to subject ourselves to parental torment that often drives us to drink, I have to say I don’t exactly agree.
Senior even provided references to research that suggest the impact of being a parent does not necessarily make us unhappy, but it doesn’t make us happy either. In fact, according to Senior’s research, despite parents insisting they don’t want to believe parenting makes us unhappy, the statistics and studies continue to prove it to be true.
Among the intense stress that comes with setting and enforcing rules, the work that comes with parenting is often counted as unfulfilling. The alarming note in Senior’s article was that middle and upper-class parents saw their children as projects they needed to work on, which sort of made me feel a little queasy.
Another interesting note revolves around the notion that the purpose of having children has dramatically changed since the era of the nuclear family. Just thirty or forty years ago, couples had children because it was expected of them, but now having kids is a personal choice. So you’d think the studies would show that the choice to bring small people into the world and our care was more rewarding, but that doesn’t seem to be true.
So what’s making us so unhappy? Beyond the stress, responsibility and chores of raising children, many parents are faced with financial worries about not being able to provide enough, as well as frets about not spending enough time together as a family. Research conducted by a University of Pennsylvania sociology professor seemed to confirm that in countries where the social welfare system was more conducive to families, parents and children were both much happier.
I could go on and on about this for endless pages, throwing out research findings, statistics and studies, but I’m going to stop there and say I disagree with the notion that parenting makes me unhappy. Just me. I’m not speaking for anyone else.
Sure, my child has done things in her lifetime that definitely made me want to tear out my hair and scream at the top of my lungs, but in essence the positive moments far outweigh the negative, and that’s how life itself is. To quote a popular sitcom theme song: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have: the facts of life.” And until we stop trying to avoid conflict and make every moment of our life painless, we’ll continue to insist the things we have to work at make us unhappy.