A recent paper called “The Origin of Happiness” has declared that having children does not make us happy in the long term. The researchers say that this is because “the positive glow of parenthood only lasts 12 months and after that there was no improvement in the subjective well-being in those with young children”.
Well I would beg to differ and I have found a significant fault in their study. So far, they have only focused on the first four years of parenting and we all know that the first four years is inordinately hard work. As parents we are in it for the long run and there are many, many hurdles on the way. For the first few years you are tired and emotional and the payback is not frankly that great. Yes of course their first smile, tooth, steps, words can make you happy, but these are juxtapositioned by their first tears, fall, injury, illness, tantrum, fight and so on. So OF COURSE CHILDREN DON’T MAKE YOU HAPPY during their first four years of life. They make you exhausted and sick with worry at all times. Your heart lives permanently inside out, whilst you spend most of your time being ridiculously concerned about their safety, their friends, their happiness, their choices, their lifestyle, their haircuts, their clothes, their skin, their minds, their whole entire lives…then, as they grow, so does the size of the problems and we swiftly move from little problems on to bigger problems such as parties, alcohol, drugs, exams, clubbing, dangerous sports, partners, sex and so the list goes on and on and on. There is nothing as a parent that we don’t worry about. It is a constant nightmare.
The researchers of this study have at least noted that “further research might find benefits later down the line” and let me reassure you that this is indeed the case. Further down the line, if you’re very lucky you get to be able to call your children your best friends. You get to be proud of them and you get to like and admire them as individual people. You get to laugh with them, eat and drink with them and even party with them. You get to go on holiday with them. Spend time discussing their views and marvelling at their outlook and intelligence and most of all you get the privilege of being able to love them unconditionally.
If the sort of happiness they are referring to comes from within, being in charge of young children makes it hard to quantify because you don’t have the luxury of time to take care of your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs. You are not able to focus on optimism and hope because you are merely in charge of a sinking ship full of water that you are constantly bailing out in order to try and stay afloat. You don’t have time to give yourself daily treats, because you are too busy ensuring that your children get them. You might have time to do childish things with your children, such as run around, play on the swings, do a jigsaw puzzle, paint a picture, but you are too busy making sure they are happy doing those things and cleaning up behind them.
So there is most certainly light at the end of the tunnel. Especially if you’re a single parent, because you get to spend so much more time with them. Of course it’s bloody hard work and the saying “you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child” is very true, but it is all so so worth it in the end.