Opinion Brief

The joy of parenthood: Worth the price?

According to a new study, parental happiness is just a myth used to justify the high cost of having kids

Maybe kids aren't such bundles of joy after all. A new study from the University of Waterloo has found that parents exaggerate the joys of raising children to justify their economic cost. With the average kid costing nearly $200,000 by the age of 18, and most children no longer earning their keep by helping out on the family farm, the economic value of having kids has diminished. "In that sense, the myth of parental joy is a modern psychological phenomenon" used to justify the high cost. Can that really be true?

Yeah, "kids are a drag": The idea that kids don't make us happier is one of the "most strongly-resisted findings of happiness research," says Will Wilkinson at Forbes, but it makes total sense. "A species easily persuaded of the misery of parenting" would balk at reproducing and "strike a self-inflicted blow against biodiversity." So, from an evolutionary standpoint, we should be hardwired to think that having children makes life more meaningful, even if, in reality, "kids are a drag."
"Why you don't believe that kids don't make you happier"

We lie to ourselves about a lot of things: The way we idealize parenthood is an example of a phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance," says Laura Carroll at Technorati. It's defined as "a psychological defense we create to justify our choices and beliefs," and it's not just used to rationalize having kids. We also do this when we idealize the cars we buy, and explain away why we stick with lousy boyfriends. It's just that with parenting, there's no going back.
"Mind games that make for happy parents"

Come on, being a parent is totally worth it: "If we're all exaggerating the joys of parenting, we aren't aware of it," says Monica Bielanko at Babble. A 2008 study found that nearly 90 percent of new mothers listed "joy" as their reason for having kids. And, while "parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done," it's "the coolest thing I've ever done too, even if it costs a million bucks and my children don't take care of me when I'm old."
"Are you lying to yourself about the joys of parenting?"

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