Has anyone been reading about how unhappy we parents are lately? Newsweek just had a piece called “True or False: Having Kids Makes You Happy” and parenting.com had an article on “How to be a Happier Mom”. Taken together, the second article helps provide some answers to the first, which mainly points out that we parents are reportedly less happy than our childless counterparts.
Apparently there are two factors at work here. The first is that it’s easy to quantify your average daily unhappiness, which is one of the statistics they point to. As a social scientist, I can see it now. Harried mothers and fathers – especially of the under-3 year olds – volunteering to rank once an hour or several times a day how “happy” they are. Never mind that your 4 year old has just vomited all over their car seat when you remember that you have to write down how happy you are. Or that your formerly sweet 18-month old girl has just hit you in the face for no apparent reason. (All of this occurred yesterday). I’d rank my happiness that afternoon as about a 1, but I’m not sure that it captures my happiness level very well.
The second factor, which the parenting.com piece notes, is that our children bring us joy in surprising and often overwhelming bursts, which are hard to quantify. For me, and I suspect others, these little and big moments sustain us when we reflect on our lives. Even though I was sick yesterday with the stomach flu (definitely would give that day a “1”, Mr. Social Scientist!), I also had a moment of pure parenting joy. Lying in bed feeling ill, I heard the footsteps of my 18-month old girl approaching. She had found an envelope lying on the floor, picked it up and brought it to me in bed while saying (in her croaking frog little voice), “Happy, Mama”. It was so delightful and stood out as something unique to her and me that I still feel happy thinking about it. In a day that was definitely a "1", how do you add in those moments of "11", and make sense of it all?