The New York Times published an article on Sunday about the decline in women’s happiness over the decades, in spite of gains in workplace and household equality.
“Across the happiness data, the one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children,” said Betsey Stevenson, an assistant professor at Wharton who co-wrote a paper called ‘The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.’ “It’s true whether you’re wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids early. Yet I know very few people who would tell me they wish they hadn’t had kids or who would tell me they feel their kids were the destroyer of their happiness.’”
It is an interesting conundrum; one I pondered before the decision to have children, and one I’ve pondered since. On the one hand, I really wanted children; enough to spend the money and time needed to go through the fertility process; enough to withstand the discomforts of pregnancy and the unbelievable pain of childbirth (for all you moms who say the pain is forgotten once birth is over, I answer in return: I WILL NEVER FORGET.)
Anyway. The truth is that parenting is hard. And that life as a not-parent is easier. I used to sleep in on Sundays and read the New York Times for hours (now I get the highlights online). I used to go out for long dinners with friends and not excitedly call it “Date Night!” I used to plan week-long guilt-free vacations (now I plan the week-long, guilty vacations). It was a different kind of life.
Do I regret my decision? Of course not. Does any mom? Of course not. There are several reasons: one, if you’ve made a wrong decision, it’s way too late to say “my bad,” so most people wanting happy ending to their stories, choose to write their parenting adventure as one of happiness and contentment; and two, you desperately, crazily love your kid. It’s unlike any love there is – and God or Darwin made it such so that when you give up late movies and long mornings in bed, you don’t go crazy with regret.
Instead, you rub your eyes at 4:30am, stumble down the hall to pick up a crying bundle. You spend time on the porch watching him discover the magic of leaves while you make sure he doesn’t bump his head. You find a new kind of happiness that isn’t effortless or light, but warm and heavy, tiring and lovely.