Opinion Brief

Does having kids make adults miserable?

Children are a source of joy, reports Jennifer Senior in New York magazine, but they also making modern parents thoroughly unhappy

A new battle has broken out in the parenting wars, after New York magazine published a provocative article arguing that parents tend to hate their own lifes, even though they love their children. Writer Jennifer Senior says study after study shows that having babies does not lead to the happiness many new parents expect, but to "frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak" (though the long-term rewards eventually make the long-term sacrifices seem worth it). Does breeding really trigger unhappiness? (Watch Jennifer Senior take calls from parents on WNYC Radio)

Parenting is stressful, and stress equals unhappiness: There are plenty of reasons "parents are so unhappy," says Yolanda Sangweni in Essence. Kids can kill romance in any marriage, and Americans lack both the family support networks earlier generations enjoyed, and the government-subsidized programs you find in Europe. For working parents in the U.S., "the strain of shuttling between day cares and babysitters can cause insurmountable amount of stress and anxiety, financially and emotionally, which is draining."
"Do children make parents unhappy?"

Today's parents just need to grow up: Modern parents should not expect to find unrelieved joy "doing what people have dutifully done for millennia under sometimes astonishingly adverse conditions," says Judith Timson in Canada's Globe and Mail. Though raising children is "desperately hard," there are moments of transcendence and, as Jennifer Senior acknowledges, it's also "tremendously rewarding." Just don't count on your kids to make you happy — "you will muck up not only your own life but theirs, too."
"So you expected kids to make you happy? Get real"

Many people just don't know what they're getting into: With so many people having kids when they're older, says Lylah M. Alphonse in The Boston Globe, maybe parents are just more aware of the things they're giving up. The unhappiest ones are probably those who "were unwilling to believe that having kids is a major lifestyle change." The reality is that after diapers come the Terrible Twos, and then you "get to worry about their well-being for the rest of your life." Accept that it's a lifelong challenge, and you'll be OK — maybe even happy.
"Does having kids really make you unhappy?"

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