Parenting! It Doesn't Suck.

Probably the number one misconception I had before becoming a parent was that it was going to be completely horrible.
Publish date:
May 8, 2012
parenting, happiness, science

Tired. Dirty. Touching a diaper. Happiest I've ever been.

Probably the number one misconception I had before becoming a parent was that it was going to be completely horrible. I mean, really rewarding, but like, awful.

I don't know where I'd gotten the idea -- this one scene from "The Backup Plan" comes to mind, bizarrely. Why did this stick with me?

In a lot of pop culture, mommies and daddies seem to be residing in a hellish horror land of screaming and jam hands, and since I believe everything the TV tells me, I expected to have an experience like when I did volunteer work in junior high. It was supposed to be rewarding to assist a disabled old woman once a week, but actually doing it -- trying to interpret her garbled speech, cleaning her food-encrusted kitchen -- was uncomfortable, and a little scary.

I guess it's not supposed to make you feel good, I thought. Because you're not doing it for you.

Add a bunch of scary stories with names like "Why Parents Hate Parenting" and research that seems to unanimously suggest that having kids both makes you miserable and destroys your relationship with your partner, if you have one, and motherhood starts to look like a real horror show.

My experience certainly isn't conclusive -- having multiple children, older children and being a single parent are just a few factors that make a difference in one's experience of parenthood -- but overall I am relieved to say that so far for me, parenting actually does not suck at all. Seriously, like, at all! In fact, I love it.

So I'm inclined to agree with this new study that points out flaws in earlier findings and suggests that being a parent doesn't actually make you want to saw at your wrists with a pair of safety scissors. It says:

"We find no evidence that parental well-being decreases after a child is born to levels preceding the children, but we find strong evidence that well-being is elevated when people are planning and waiting for the child, and in the year when the child is born."

So it's not that you are any less happy than you were before kids, just that you're slightly less happy than you were when you were flipping through baby name books and being showered with little sailor outfits.

And look, it's no secret that a lot of parenting is work, the same kind of domestic drudgery that I abhor when its sole purpose is keeping the house clean or feeding myself. But I somehow find it all a lot more satisfying when the result is keeping a little person fed, safe, and dry, rather than just being able to see myself in the faucets or whatever.

So I no longer buy into this pop culture scare fantasy of having kids as a poop-splattered nightmare in which you daily ask yourself why, why, you decided to ruin your life in this way. People have been doing this shit since the beginning of time, after all. If it wasn't at least a little bit fun, wouldn't humankind have died out a long time ago?